First off, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to play and review a new Master of Orion game. From my youth, MOO1 is still one of my favorite games and frankly stands the test of time just fine vs other 4X. Props to NGD for taking this project on and putting the resources and time into this game that so many people love. The shoes they are trying to fill are vast and were filled with space piss from MOO3.
So, I’ve got over 30 hours into the new MOO and I figure it’s about time for a review. I just finished a medium sized game and I’ll use that as a backbone to discuss various systems in the game and how they work. I have a lot to say, but I’m going to keep this at near exactly 2000 words! This is PRE-ANTARAN update, which changes the game in a few ways (and crashed on me too much this weekend to update this review).
If you don’t want to read further, I like the game and I cannot see going back to MOO2 ever again. MOO1: I would play that again for kicks, but there’s a lot of jagging around getting it to work right in DOSBOX with the himem sys and shit like that. The new MOO is an easy game to play, it’s not extremely complex and it plays fairly fast, but it’s a slow game compared to MOO1. You will finish a medium size game in about a week of playing a couple hours a day. This is in keeping with what MOO1 was– a lighter (and awesome) 4X game. It has elements of MOO2, but not overwhelmingly so.
This is not a review of multiplayer. Haven’t gotten a game of that yet. Maybe soon.
First off, I like playing Humans. I’ve always felt that the AI attacks the player-controlled races more than the others, and Humans have some abilities that stave that off so you can better choose when to go to war. They are fairly average in everything except shield tech, diplomacy and trading but really what do you need the most? Money. So this is with the Humans. Think they are boring? Fine. I also dig on the Meklars for just out producing everyone (even the Klackons).
The other choices are pretty standard because originally, they SET the standard! Most of the alien races, in MOO style, equate to some sort of animal. Dogs, Cats, Birds, Ants, Lizards are all represented and the designers didn’t hold back in the redux trying to make them NOT be directly anthropomorphic. A few of the aliens don’t fit the animal mode, and generally these are the stronger races in the game. Psilons, Darlocks, Meklars and Silicoids are all stranger aliens.
I lean towards the Total War style of ‘base’ management as in, I don’t want to do all that much of it, nor do I want to deal with a bunch of CIV style tricks that are required for optimal play. I just want it to be enough planet management to feel like I’m making interesting choices, and not too fuckn detailed.
I miss the sliders, but planet management in the new MOO is fairly easy. You pop open your planet and move your little guys around from farming to science to production (sorta sliders) and queue up what you want to build. Planets, based on their size and environment, dictate the capacity of the little guys you move around. Switch your environment for the better or pollute the shit out of your planet until it’s envirofucked (like our planet earth), and your amount of little guys goes up and down.
Buildings are pretty much what we had in MOO2. Hydroponic farms, Automated factories, research facilities, planetary shields, missile bases. What MOO does well is not having the same building being rebuilt in an incremental upgrade, like the lazy design of having Missile Base v2, Planetary Shields V, etc. When you get a tech level that allows a new type of planetary defense, it’s usually something very unique and non-mutually exclusive from what you’ve already built. The old building doesn’t go out of style to build, because it’s usually cheap!
Pollution is an important, but not too annoying concern. Production planets where you constantly build stuff get polluted and you need to dedicate time to clean them up. Leave pollution to hit a certain threshold and the planet will turn to shit, population will die, less production in the future. Simple and also a useful mechanic for disasters and invasions/bombardments. There has been an update since I started this review where you cannot explicitly ‘work off’ pollution like you used to could– so I’m not sure how that effects the game, yet.
Moving out from the planetary level is the system level that can hold multiple planets. Systems are just like the ‘points’ in MOO1, except they have specific points within them where they connect to other systems. Your ships can only move from systems along these ‘tunnels.’
You will need a colony ship to inhabit the other planets in your first system, you can’t just jump people over there with transports. This means it’s as costly to colonize in-system planets as out of systems.
At each tunnel entrance, you have the ability to build military installations or ‘listening posts.’ Military installations block any non-allied aliens from moving past into the system. While easily destroyed, they are a good idea to build all over the place to stave off nasty surprises. Anything built at the entry-points of systems will stave off the enemy for a turn as they will typically destroy whatever’s there instead of hitting the planets right away.
Overall, system management is more complex than MOO1 because there are multiple planets within each system. However, fleets fight it out within systems and not just at ‘points’ in space, increasing the ability for tactical play. Sometimes you will share systems with other races in harmony. Most times not.
Outwards from the systems is the galaxy map. This is where most of the action takes place from a strategic level. There are various configurations of galaxies, some of which start with a mosh, and some are turtle-esque. What to watch out for is if your race is bounded by RED warp lines as these can only be traversed by your ships much later in the game. I’ve been cornered off from most of the galaxy instead of thrown into the plague pit from the start and it’s a different game.
While most ship movement is forced along the warp lines, you can build jump gates that connect two different systems in a straight line. Your ships still have to move at their rate between them, so it’s not instant.
I can’t find a way to AUTOMOVE built ships from my factory systems to the war front. Need to look into that.
Overall I dig the look of the galaxy map.
The diplomacy in MOO1 was built to piss you off so you attacked all the aliens relentless. They would talk shit, make stupid requests and be generally annoying when you were trying to deal with them in any meaningful manner. In newMOO, I found the AI not annoying, more logical but more silly. They still have stuff they say that will pysse you off, but not at the same level as the old MOO games. You can make much better and more robust deals with them, and other than most strategy games I’ve played, they actually sometimes accept these deals instead of never accepting anything. The “What would make this work” button helps a lot to speed up diplomatic actions and guesswork, which I appreciate. Playing the Humans, I use diplomacy a lot, and have no complaints here.
MOO1 had two types of useful ships. Big ones with the massive weapons that would destroy whole stacks, and small planetary bombers that you could build thousands of and clear out whole areas of space of aliens by bombing their planets, and leaving their fleets to rot.
The new MOO has almost an Ascendancy level of customization, where you add on modules and hope for micronization tech so you can fit more shit on a ship. I really don’t care about this part of the game very much, so did little customization, feeling that if I built enough of the stock ships, it would be fine. You do not have many ship slots, so if you build a custom ship type, it better fucking work well or you will be deleting it before you get many of them into space.
I think a key part of making custom ships is that you run them in real time combat. Otherwise, just build and upgrade the base models and build enough shit to overwhelm everyone!
This is where MOO1 has it over MOO2 (and MOO3). The way the turn-based system worked in MOO1 was excellent, where you could make a couple moves, then let the AI take over to finish off the battle with out dealing with the tiresome grinding and moving when you know you’ve won. You could still see what’s going on with your weapons’ effectiveness, but you controlled what you wanted and then stopped when your control didn’t matter much.
In the new MOO, the designers chose to go the Total War route: real time battles. I think this was a good move as certainly I have a shitload of mileage in TW games and really enjoy that part of the games the most. Like Gratuitous Space Battles, it’s all about those key battles with massive fleets that take up the whole screen. While the combat is certainly better than say, Endless Space, MOO2 and Birth of The Federation, I have some issues with it being sorta fuckin boring.
Coming to new MOO as a Total War fan, I expected the real time battles to have benefits to some tactics and maneuver. In TW, you can win battles or cost the enemy dearly if you use the correct tactics for the situation at hand. For example if you are a non-horse archer empire in TW (I pity you!) you’re going to be hunkering down in your castles a lot. If you use your army to attack and destroy a horse archer opponent’s infantry (of which he won’t have much), he will have a very, very difficult time in later sieges against you, allowing you to whittle down the rest of the horse archers at you leisure. So far as I can see, there’s nothing like that in the real time battles in MOO except kite around and shoot missles, which I’m not a fan of doing, it bores the shit out of me. You can target specific ships and try to take them out, but I found in the games I’ve played that it just didn’t matter that much. You throw your ships across the void and just watch the explosions. Making a couple choices here and there. Overall I just run most combats without going into the tactical view. I hope they improve this (just fucking copy Dominions 4).
It’s there, you put dudes on planets and try to do stuff. As you succeed, your spy starts to unlock more bad stuff he can do. I didn’t do very much with spying in my games, but it seemed fine. I’d have to play as the Darlocks to really get in on this as a ‘catch up’ mechanism. I like all the different spy portraits for each race– there are tons of them and they are beautiful.
Space monsters look stupid with the exception of the Guardian. The alien portraits and animations, voice, all that stuff that gives the aliens character: it’s grown on me. When I first saw the cat lady there was an OH JEEZ, yet MOO1 was campy and they’ve followed through with that. There’s not much you can do when more than half the alien races are anthropods right out of the gate! There are races I hated in MOO1, that I would always destroy immediately (Silicoids, Sakkra, Klackons) that I feel differently about in MOO1 based on their graphics and presentations. They’ve captured the feel of the aliens, but if there’s one thing that MOO3 did well (and only one thing) it’s the alien design/animations. It was great.
Ship designs are descent, but not really inspired. We just don’t see the level of art here that Endless Legends has. All ship levels have two types of chassis so at least you can tell your carriers from your warships, bombers from frigates, etc.
Overall, it’s functional, looks fairly good and most importantly, isn’t annoying.
Unlike MOO3, MOO is not a cascade of space piss into my open mouth, nor is it the greatest 4X game ever made (like MOO1 is). That said, MOO is a really good game and I’ve been playing since early release. There have been a lot of addons and changes to the game that has fleshed it out quite a bit, so I don’t think they are done with development (and the recent Antaran patch proves it). They have made some LARGE shifts in the gameplay based on player comments since early release, ripping out minor races and then putting them back in fixed up, which is pretty cool. Despite having to suffer people pissed off because new MOO is not a direct rip of MOO2, over– very vitriolic complaints as people on the internet are wont to do.
MOO does not grab me like Empire or Rome 2 Total War* did where I can’t stop playing for months, but I do not believe that was the ultimate aim of the developers; MOO is a lighter 4X. I can sit around on a Sunday, put a few hours in and get a good game going that I can finish up by early the next week with a few more hours of play. The game has enough depth to feel meaty, but it’s light enough for me to just want to jump in and not feel like I have to relearn the spreadsheet like Civ players do.
Lastly, the game crashes and hangs up fairly often late game, and sometimes games cannot be recovered. This is no different than MOO, MOO2 or Birth of the Federation, but I think we’d all love if this didn’t happen!
*my favorite thing in TW games is the real time battles within the campaign context. For example, to be fighting an enemy for a long time on the campaign map and finally catch their big army short or in a bad position where you can watch the slow, methodical slaughter of their entire force for 15-20 minutes or so is just my meat and potatoes. Especially when you trap a huge amount of them in city streets and slowly grind them down where they have no where to run. The battle was over in the first 5 minutes, the rest is just raw butchery.
Today is my birthday. I am old. I usually run 7 miles on my birthday but– man I gotta mow the lawn instead…
MOO is officially out today and I’m going to play a bit today despite the excellent weather. I recommend it. For CIV players it may be too simplistic, however.
We played THE CAPTAIN IS DEAD last night and it was fairly good. I do not like the cooperative games like Pandemic (especially Pandemic) where really it’s a SOLO game and the presence of all players but the most experienced is superfluous at best. However, coop games with hidden goals like Galactica and Dead of Winter are great games. The Captain is Dead falls into the Pandemic style, but it plays fast, has a TON of asymmetry with the characters you each play. I would actually play it again. What’s more, it doesn’t have any DVD or sound shit to go along with it, because that is fucking annoying.
Anyway, happy birthday to me. See some of you on SATURDAY for the drunken nerdery.
it’s now time to play and buy Master of Orion if you haven’t. Silicoids, Meklars, Darloks (and espionage) are now in the game. It’s fucking READY TO ROLL.
Given it wasn’t Spring and like the third nice day (without snow) here so far this year, given I didn’t have tons of crap to do, given I hadn’t had unprotected sex a few times awhile back, I’d be playing all weekend. All I was able to do last night was play until I passed out in front of the computer.
Master of Orion is in early access and I jumped on that fucking space pysse bandwagon right away, they couldn’t take my money fast enough really. Last weekend I spent most of Sunday powering through a game and I have thoughts and feelings. If you don’t want to read it all here is what I think: they’re not done, but the game is fun and is a solid base from which to build the new MOO. The economy part works and is not annoying at all, the space combat needs some work but is pretty fun to watch. You don’t make a lot of choices during it (like games such as Star Hammer or BFG), but it’s FAST which is the most important part. Multiplayer will be unbearable turn angst and will never be played by normal humans.
I started off this game missing the Meklars, who are my go to race in MOO. My secondary has always been Humans because they always have an extremely strong trade and diplomacy aspect. As long as you can keep your fleets sort of large, you’ll be in the game and be able to stay out of wars until you are ready to crush everyone.
So comparing the game to Master of Orion 1 and 2, they leaned heavier on MOO 2 than 1 for the galaxy design and management of systems. Each system is a dot on the galactic map connected to other dots via star lanes. You can only move from one system to the other via star lanes and not directly (at least at first). This is quite a change from MOO1 where you can just move your ships anywhere (even to the furthest star in the galaxy) if your ships have the range. I do not mind this.
Systems, like in MOO2, are solar systems with multiple planets and not just one dot like MOO1. Ships move around these systems, not freely, but from object to object. So they can move from a planet to an asteroid to another planet or to the star gate. Fights take place at these locations and not, again, freely within the star systems. This was good. While not as simple as MOO1, it works.
Colony managment does not use the sliders of MOO1, which is something I was hoping they’d keep in. However, they have these little people that you can move from FARMING, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE. These little people may be members of your race or other races after you conquer them. Some racial bonuses apply I think, so ‘collecting’ the other races to help you in science or manufacture is appealing. Think a Human empire with Meklar building stuff and Psilons in science! It’s clearly presented overall and works. You can easily see when people are pissed off and not working as the little guys sit down with a protest sign.
Colonies gain pollution, and while this is a somewhat annoying feature, it’s easily seen and dealt with. You can see planets with bad pollution from the galactic view so it’s clear when things have gone wrong without having to drill down into the system.
Building stuff is in your typical queues where you can line up ships and planetary upgrades, up to 5 items at a time. Building is slow in the new MOO so far and I really think they will change this going forward. It takes a long time to get a bunch of ships made for example, and in that time I usually have 2-3 science upgrades.
Science. It’s a tree we’ve seen over and over, and not much different there. They do an interesting thing with some of the techs in that when you discover it, you choose between two applied technologies rather than getting both. This is a trade opportunity with the other aliens who may have the other applied science. You tech up FAST in the game compared to production. They will likely balance this out. I got up to TITAN ships before I mercifully ended the game for the Mrshaan, so not all the way up the tree.
Ship building is easily done, but I did not see a way to point ships to another ‘gathering’ system as they are built, they have to be moved manually. Like the other games, ships are organized into fleets which move together at the slowest ship’s movement rate. I don’t know how fleets are auto merged, but what I think is that it happens most of the time when ships are at an object together, which is sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Ship upgrades and modding is extensive, but frankly in the first play through I didn’t do much here. I made some bombers and some large fighter carriers. Otherwise I just did stock upgrades (which are nearly automagic) when I got tech advances. Sub-optimal? Yes.
Combat. This is the one thing that the designers brought from MOO3– real time battles and they did it far better in the new MOO. You can choose to auto-battle and for many fights, just like in Total War games, will be handled this way. The important battles though, you can fight out in real time. While moving ships around is possible, I just pretty much ‘went straight at them’ 90% of the time. There are asteroids and other objects in space, and you can hide behind them to dodge shots, but really there’s so much stuff flying around that getting in close and just blasting everything is the way to go. It’s pretty satisfying to see your ships blow the crap out of everything so I’m liking it. As a Total War fan, I prefer the real time option to anything else. This ruins multiplayer though, so I will say right now that just like MOO2 and 3, multiplayer will NEVER be actually played, and was a waste of time for them to add. The only way to do multiplayer is the way Illwinter did it for the Dominions games. You give your armies orders and in between turns ALL battles are resolved which you can watch, but not control. This makes Dominions games PLAYABLE in multiplayer for people not sitting intheir dorm rooms for a full week, instead of not.
Planetary invasions don’t look finished, but it’s exactly like MOO1. Your guys land, they fight and whoever wins, wins. My only issue here is that marine transports can be tough to build, and even if 99% of your marines survive the attack, you don’t have those transports anymore and the marines sort of disappear into the aether.
Not all the races are in the game yet, but you’ve got your ‘humans with animal heads’ races represented already (Alkari, Mrshaans, Bulrathi, Psilons, Sakkra). They are cartoony and silly and that’s just fine. The Mrshaans are just ridiculous. What I liked is that the race’s ambassador shows the emotion that they have for you with their body language– whether pissed or afraid or happy. Very Civ 4 like and Good stuff. Some people may be put off by the space kitties and doggies, but that’s MOO. Space kitties suck in a game like Twilight Imperium or REX which are otherwise DEAD SERIOUS, but since MOO is campy all around, it works.
The only thing good about MOO 3 was the 3d art for the races. I think the races are OK in newMOO compared to that, but they could use some tweaks.
Mid and End game management
My biggest complaint about MOO1 and 2 is that the galaxies were too small. Espeically in MOO2– it felt fucking tiny even in the huge galaxies. While I played only a medium sized game last weekend, it felt pretty big and meaty. I want the shorter games like that to play for a couple of days, but I mostly want the MASSIVE galaxies that take months to conquer.
Management of big empires can be a bitch but I think it will work well in MOO and I certainly was not annoyed while playing the first game. There is a queue of work items that need your attention before the turn can be run. This helps direct you to where you need to make decisions and after that you can do your other stuff. You will never forget to change your tech or deal with a REALLY polluted planet for instance the way it’s set up.
Of course, near the end of the game you are basically running and adding fodder too a few big fleets and that’s what you want to focus on, I think that the new MOO caters to this by allowing you to just do what’s absolutely needed, and forgetting the rest. Autobuild is there, so you don’t need to work too hard on colony management if you don’t want. Like Total War games, I want to get to the fucking fighting and not dick around with my colonies, especially when I have a massive empire. I want the money and fleets pumping out, and let me get to the dropping of bombs on the Silicoids and destroying the fleets of the Psilons.
I like the game, looking forward to playing again (will be waiting until the next big patch) and one of the things I like is that these guys are not saying they want to make the best game ever, they want to make the best version of MOO ever, and here’s to that. There is competition these days to MOO, but it’s Sins of a Solar Empire, Galactic Civilization and Endless Space and those are all complete trash none of which I would play over MOO 1 or MOO 2.
I’m also looking forward to Maurice!Bastard playing and reviewing the game.