Review by akfeka

"Not for everyone"

Master of Orion 3 is a turn-based strategy published by developed by Quicksilver Interactive and published by Infogrames. If you are reading this though, you probably already know that.

Graphics - These definitely take some getting used to. The game runs at a pretty low resolution, 640x480, I believe, and thusly is a true test of your claims that you care about game play more than graphics. Overall, the interface comes together fairly well, given the detail.

The combat graphics are VERY sub-par, and a lot of people will hate them. It took me a total of probably 15 battles to get to the point that it didn’t bother me so much anymore.

On the other hand, the movies are excellent. I’ve seen better-looking movies, but the attention to detail is awesome.

Music - The sound isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. The main theme isn’t something I’d go out of my way to listen to, but its understated, almost tense style fits the general feel of the game. On the other hand, in a few weeks, I could definitely see myself muting the music and listening to my own stuff.

Sound - The sound effects are similar to the music. Nothing stellar, but nothing that really feels out of place. There is also an option to change the volume/mute them if I’m sick of hearing them.

User Interface - I won’t lie, there are some quirks that need to be overcome, but it is pretty easy to get to the information when you want to look at it or change it. For the most part, everything is filed where you’d expect, but I still find myself clicking on the empire tab when I mean to click on the finance tab. Also, its possible to go through the planets menu in such a way that you have to go back 2 screens before you can move to the planet you want to. (Ten or fifteen times of that, and I learned to not do that…)

Occasionally, when I’m adjusting linked sliders (they total 100%), I wish I could lock one so that it wouldn’t go down when I adjust another one up. Also, when clicking on the incremental arrow, it is too easy to accidentally click on the bar and adjust something that was supposed to be at 30 up to full, completely messing up the delicate balance I was in the middle of adjusting with my other bars.

The ship creation system could use some reworking – I’d like to edit my weapons after I place them on a ship, instead of having to create a whole new set and deleting the old ones because I accidentally forgot to add a mod. On the other hand, there is an auto design button that generally gets the job done right, and at the very least, only requires minor modification to adjust it to what I want to do.

Despite these problems, it’s pretty easy to get where I want to go, and adjust what I want to adjust.

Game Play - Aah, the part of the game that will make or break it for you. I spent probably the first 45 minutes I had the game just looking at all the levels of control I had. And then probably another 6 hours trying to get a grasp on what I was controlling. The tech tree is HUGE in my last game, I was probably averaging an advance every turn or so, and even at turn 300 I didn’t have them all discovered – and its impossible to get a full try by yourself, you either have to steal or trade for the rest. The number of things you can do for a planet is enormous. There are different regions, each with room for 2 “dominant economic areas.” (Think of these as production types, you can have bio harvesting, mining, military, government, manufacture, etc.) Then there are different buildings you can drop… Then there are a massive number of planets to colonize… Basically, trying to get a grasp on the game initially is like drinking from a fire hose, and if it weren’t for the ability to let an artificial intelligence handle some of this, it would be almost impossible to learn, much less micromanage past turn 50 or so.

It takes some time to figure out how to control the AI, and even then, it sometimes decides to go off and do its own thing (my planetary rulers have an absolutely grim fascination with building troop transports. Honestly, I don’t need for 1/3 of my fleet to be transports.) You can set up three foci (primary, secondary, tertiary) for planets with different classifications, like military, infrastructure, trade, etc. Each planet has two classifications that are assigned to it automatically based on economic standing and the primary attribute of the planet (mineral rich, mineral poor, high biodiversity, etc.) and one of these can also be changed to a user-defined classification, if you want a few specific planets to follow your own set of rules.

The diplomatic AI also takes some getting used to. Supposedly once you understand it, it makes sense. All I can say is that sometimes it becomes absolutely impossible to avoid war, and in over 20 hours of play I have exchanged tech with someone once. In that same amount of time, I have stolen probably over 100 technologies.

Something else important – the game documentation is absolutely atrocious. The manual, while providing a lot of background story line, does a very poor job of explaining things, and does not include an index. The in-game encyclopedia does not have the specific information I want to look up. (I see that piracy is generating unrest, how do I fix this? I see that there are a bunch of “specials” on this planet, but how exactly does volcanic activity affect my colony.) There is nowhere to find a full tech tree – you can see what you have discovered, and what you will discover in the next 10 tech levels or so, but there is no where to see beyond that, and what you missed. Thankfully, some of these answers can be taken care of by a readme in the moo3 folder – this readme includes more information than any of the other documentation of the game.

Overall - If you want the game to control specific aspects of your empire, you can let it. This is a major turn off for a lot of people. Micro managing is very difficult to do, as the goal of the game was to get away from that.

Learning the game takes lots and lots of patience. Enjoying the game takes an open mind. If you let the little things get to you, this isn’t your game. In some ways this is like Sim City in space. You have a lot of control, but there are places where the game acts on its own.

Overall, I think this game is wonderful. It has amazing depth, and the complexity is wonderful. The AI that handles things occasionally makes me angry, but it is overall one of the best I have seen in any game. I have a friend that has been looking forward to the game as much as I have, but not following it as much, and he said he absolutely hated the first hour – mostly because it wasn’t what he expected. If you have a friend with the game see if you can borrow it. $50 is a bit much to pay for a game you don’t like, but if you give the game a chance it will grow on you. And take over your life.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/01/03, Updated 03/01/03


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