As a remade version of one of the most well-loved series of strategy games, Master of Orion was destined to fight an uphill battle. Here are our thoughts about the early access of the game that is now available on Steam and GOG.
New game, old gameplay
Classified as a space “4X” series, Master of Orion games allow you to “exploit, exterminate, expand, and explore.” You begin on one planet, then increase your domain with the goal of dominating the universe. It’s similar to Civilization, but in space. The empires of Master of Orion are full of goofy sci-fi goodness adapted from other parts of the series: there are humans, Meklar robots, catlike Mrrshan, genius Psilons, and the Bulrathi, smart but militaristic space bears.
Wargaming.net, presently in early access on GOG and Steam, have rebooted the series to include these races and aims to fully adapt the essence of the most well-received of the original series, Master of Orion 2. Everything will look familiar to old fans, from the details of the tech tree to the relaxing sci-fi soundtrack.
Attracting new players
What may be more important, however, is that the newest Master of Orion attempts to engage new fans of space strategy. The game purposefully remains accessible and welcoming to newcomers. This is especially important for a genre that typically tries to incorporate everything and favors complexities.
The downfall of that simplicity is that it’s easy to exploit. Master of Orion wants matters to be uncomplicated. This means you can advance planets by cranking out food to max out the population, and take over the galaxy easily since there’s a lack of complex unmanageable consequences for having maximum population.
This holds true for most of the early access version of Master of Orion: for each aspect it handles skillfully, there is another that needs to improve.
A drawback of many grand strategy space games is that they don’t have a physical map in space. However, Master of Orioin solves that issue by including a solid map showing the wormholes that connect to systems, establishing certain routes and promising places for strategic checkpoints. The downside of this is that it causes movement to be extremely slow. It often will take dozens of turns to travel across an empire that is relatively small.
All the issues that Master of Orion faces make the game feel too slow. On a regular basis, you may go through dozens or sometimes several hundred turns without having to face any major pressure or make an essential strategic decision. For the final release, Master of Orion needs to add more content and find something that will motivate players to play through the entire game.