Back in October, James K pointed out to me that they were remaking Master of Orion. My immediate response was one of trepidation. I knew, deep in my heart, that the first thing that they would do is screw everything up.
The original Master of Orion was downright perfect. Different races with different skills, randomly generated universe with randomly generated planets, and, somewhere in there, Orion itself. The foundational world with some of the best technology, some of the best advancements, and some of the best defenses in the game protecting it.
Explore the universe, do research, explore more of it. Engage in diplomacy. Trade. Get stabbed in the back. Get elected Leader of the universe, maybe. Maybe even find Orion and maybe become its master.
The main selling point, for me anyway, was the aforementioned different races with different skills. The Psilons were magnificent at research, couldn’t do a dang thing when it came to spying. The Darlok were spies extraordinaire, yet, for some reason, no one else in the universe trusted them. Silicoids were immune to environmental problems such as “lack of oxygen, lack of water” and even problems like “industrial pollution” but they bred so very slowly. Klakon had the best manufacturing capability in the game… but couldn’t research worth a darn. Terrans, of course, were pretty good at diplomacy, and average at everything else.
And on and on and on. I found that the boring races were the ones who were best at flying in space combat, the ones best in shooting in space combat, and the ones that excelled at ground combat. My playing style, you see, was “expand, research, and get elected”. (When playing humans, for example, it was possible to win the game in the first 20 turns. The galactic council holds a meeting, two races are nominated to run for office… the humans and one of the gross races… and the humans win in a landslide! Yay! I won! Dang. I wanted to play some more…) But! And here’s the point! If you wished to play a different playing style, it was more than possible to find a race that excelled at what you wanted to do. Want to expand quickly? Play this race. Want to dominate tech? Play this one. Want to make a swarm of ships and take over the universe that way? It’s an option.
It was an absolute blast to play. I remember it fondly even now. It had a sequel, Master of Orion II that… well, opinions differ. Some people think that it was even better than the first, others think it was a bit of a disappointment. It had better graphics, certainly… but there were a handful of tweaks and changes and I remember saying something to the effect of “why didn’t they just keep everything the same but just update the graphics?” Others, of course, call it the best game from that era *EVER*. I suppose there is no arguing over matters of taste.
Master of Orion III was a magnificent disappointment. Absolutely depressing. They got rid of so very many of the things that made the first two games special, dumbed down so very many things, and the bugs… oh goodness, the bugs. The only thing worse than an awful game is an awful game that crashes before you can quit in disgust.
Reading the reviews of Master of Orion (and some of the discussion on Steam) has me feeling a bit of trepidation. People are complaining about the dumb AI in space battles (specifically how your own ships have no problem with flying into asteroids if you leave them to their own devices), people are complaining about how spying hasn’t been implemented yet (eh, development takes time), and, here’s the one that has my inner Robby the Robot yelling “DANGER! DANGER!”, there was an announcement about how the game is going to be released in 3 months time.
If the game had problems and it was going to be released in a year? Yeah, sure. This is what early access is for, after all. Wait, 3 months? They’ll barely have time to write down everything they need to fix on the whiteboard!
Which brings me to my conclusion: Gog.com is selling Master of Orion 1+2 in a bundle for $5.99.
This will be one of my Easter Sunday purchases.
I will play it and daydream about what would be possible if someone decided to put out a remake of this game that stayed true to the originals but had a handful of stuff like graphics upgrades.
(And, next week, I’ll talk about a board game that does a better job of capturing Master of Orion than III did.)
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is “Untitled” by our very own Will Truman. Used with permission.)