Indulging a Whim
Due to some strange glitch in my blog… I am apparently writing this blog post for the second time this morning. Unfortunately I am probably not going to be able to go into nearly as much depth as I did previously… because I am running out of time. Last night I indulged a whim and gave the Wargaming.net reboot of Master of Orion a spin. For years Master of Orion and Master of Orion II were those go to games when I wanted to spend an afternoon clicking the “next turn” button. They sit firmly in the 4X genre, so when I want to Xplore, Xpand, Xploit or Xterminate… they serve as a great way to destroy an entire day. I am not joking about that aspect because there are absolutely moments in the past where I have started playing Master of Orion II at around 1 pm… and then realized suddenly that it was apparently 1 am and I should really go to bed. I love this franchise… but previously I had to put an asterisk at the end of that statement. Master of Orion 3 was one of those games that I was looking forward to in 2003 more than pretty much anything else. The problem being when I finally got my hands on it… it was largely indistinguishable as a Master of Orion game. The aspects that existed… were buried beneath a horrible interface that made the game play itself a chore.
So imagine my glee last night when I booted up the Wargaming.net reboot and found that pretty much every single aspect of the game was instantly familiar to me. Those things that had changed were leaps of simple logic and not necessarily problems for me to figure out. Traditionally when I play Master of Orion I have always played the Silicoids, a race of rock creatures that have the interesting trait of being able to colonize quite literally any planet that is not a gas giant. This always allowed me to get an early lead on the total number of star systems… which would ultimately give me a lead in the ability to crank stuff out of my industrial complex. While I see the Silicoids on the website, they are apparently not yet available in game. So instead I went with the bugbear-like Bulrathi which started me with a significant military advantage… one which I tried to keep the entire game by denying the other races the technological increases they kept asking to buy from me.
When I play one of these games I tend to play it in the same pattern, and it absolutely worked here once again. I am an early expansionist, devoting most of my resources to generating colony ships and a skeletal fleet to protect them and defend planets. While not as useful as the Silicoids, the Bulrathi do have the ability to colonize heavy gravity worlds… which allowed me to snap up a bunch of planets that the other races could not. From there I focused on improving each of the planets and cranking out as many tech advances as I could. There were many points in the game where the other races were one to three weapon grades behind me, which meant when the tables turned… and I shifted into my other game mode… it was a blood bath. Generally speaking when I play a 4X game I play extremely peacefully. I stick to my own worlds and build up my engine… and then whichever race makes the mistake of picking on one of my worlds… I flip everything from producing infrastructure to producing war machines. Last night it was the Psilons that had the poor decision making skills to pick a fight with me, at which point I sent a fleet of Carriers… which ended up being my high powered Capital Ships to destroy them. As soon as I could churn out new troop transports I was moving the fleet on to the next planet and conquering it.
Towards the end of my march across their star systems, the Humans got in on the act of bombing their planets from orbit. This is when I saw what might be the first significant glitch in the AI. I had no formal alliance with the humans, and they simply decided to start attacking the Psilons on their own as well. There was a period of time where I had to wait on a troop transport, and they easily could have landed their own and took over the world. The problem is… they never did… they just continued to bomb the populace from air. I am not sure if they simply lacked the technology to create troop transports… or if the AI was confused by having a contested planet. Ultimately I landed my own troops, took over the planet and the humans left orbit considering the planet was now being guarded by one of my cruisers. It was around this point when I realized that it was 11:30 pm and I really should be logging for the night. Once again I had frittered away an evening playing this game, and enjoyed every moment of it.
But Early Access
If you have ever loved Master of Orion in your past… then I highly suggest you check this game out. It does a great job of washing the bad taste of MOO3 out of my mouth, and making me forget it actually exists. I will go so far as to say that from this point on… the Wargaming.net reboot of Master of Orion is probably replacing MOO2 as my go to game for scratching that 4X itch. It is an Early Access game, and I have no clue when it will be “finished”. The game already looks extremely polished and I am guessing that most of the remaining development time is adding additional races to the available list, and multiplayer balancing. I’ve only played single player at the moment, but I would absolutely try playing this multiplayer… but I just have to find a time when me and several friends have entire afternoons to blow away as we furiously click that “next turn” button. The only concerns I have is how Wargaming might try and monetize this later. I could see them selling races, or selling various bits for the game… but at this very moment it feels a very good single player gaming experience. Time will tell but for the time being I am happy I picked it up. As far as playing it on a regular basis… I will probably finish the game I started last night and see just how it ends up, and then neatly pack the game away until it launches. This seems to be my current method for playing those early release titles… test it out, kick the tires… and then leave it along until launch.