Master Of Orion
One of the most innovative games in strategy history is rebooted for a new generation, does it stand above all and rule the galaxy or is Master Of Orion a blackhole of its former gaming glory?
The year 1993 was a first for many things in the world of entertainment. Jurassic Park premieres in theaters, Radioheads single Creep makes its way across the airwaves of alternative rock radio and on September 6th of that year, a video game company, MicroProse, founded by "Wild Bill" Stealey and Sid Meier, released what eventually became a classic title in video gaming history, Master of Orion. The innovative strategy game play, which would soon be coined 4x (meaning "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) not only had the makings of an instant classic with gamers worldwide, but also would be a standard-bearer for years to come. After two sequels and the unfortunate dissolving of the studio, many were left wondering if the title would see any further releases, or the light of day at all. Enter WG Labs, who along with NGD Studios, who procured the license a few years ago and developed a reboot to the franchise, as well as adding a subtitle (Conquer The Stars) to give it a fresh spin.
When it comes to play, MOO harkens back to a time before the real time strategy titles. Its 4x-style game play still surprisingly holds up in this modern gaming era, however don't expect a quantum leap in gaming style, as it does hold to a more straight and narrow approach to its game play. Players have the option to choose from the original nine races of the previous titles, from the standard human to the more exotic, such as the bird-like Alkari and robotic Meklar, each with their own traits and strengths. Players have the options to play not only a traditional game vs numerous AI adversaries, but quick match and online multiplayer is also available to gamers. Where MOO:CTS shines is in the details. From the strategy aspects to its massive tech tree that allows the player to develop and innovate along numerous paths, it makes for a challenging experience for not only newcomers to the genre, but more experienced players as well.
While the game play has its high marks, graphics did leave some to be desired. While this reboot of MOO does have its moments, especially with ship to ship-based combat and animations of the various advisers for your character race, its primary map is, at its heart, old school strategy with a updated coat of modern paint. I would have like to seen an ability to zoom into a solar system-level view and more animations with ships, here is hoping that is included in the eventual sequel. However, one thing that grabbed my attention was the high quality design of its audio, especially in voice work. A cast that will be familiar to most sci-fi fans and gamers populates the title. Actors such as Jon de Lancie, Michael Dorn Mark Hamill and Robert Englund frequent the titles various scenarios in narration and adviser moments. From moments of levity or more serious situations, the cast was top notch and showed their gravitas in their work. Music itself was on par with most sci-fi and strategy titles, it did its work and performed that function well beyond expectation with a fully orchestrated score.
Master Of Orion is a sum of its parts. Game play hearkens back to the glory days of PC strategy titles, yet holds up surprisingly well in the 21st century. While graphics are a mixed bag, the audio design and voice work was solid and on point, which will only help to broaden the appeal of the game to both older and newer players alike. Be aware, however, this is a title that will challenge you both in solo and online play and will more than likely make the hours dissapear in the process. The decisions you make just might affect the galaxy itself...