Review by DreamWarden

"Not worthy of the name Master of Orion - Avoid at all costs"

I'm a veteran of Master of Orion (affectionately called ''MOO'') parts one and two. I enjoyed both immensely, and didn't think twice about snapping up ''MOO3'' despite the change in the development team. To be fair, Quicksilver tried to be daring. Too daring. They dispensed with much of what distinguished the Master of Orion franchise and ended up with a game that can only be described as mediocre.

Disclaimer - As a fan of the previous MOO games, I fully expected MOO3 to retain a strong similarity to those games. Yes, I am biased towards the gameplay of MOO2.

For the uninitiated, Master of Orion is a space colonization simulation. Civilization in space, if you're more familiar with that franchise. The object is to colonize the galaxy and wipe the floor with your opponents. The usual diplomatic and research elements are present, as is the combat.

Gameplay / System (Reviewer’s Rating: 2/10)

Interface

This being a space colonization simulation, gameplay is paramount. Sadly, this element is where MOO3 flops badly. Where do I begin? The interface is poor, and it is complicated. Ideally, the interface of a resource management game should be simple, helping the player manage more efficiently by having sticky controls and giving useful information quickly and cleanly. MOO3's interface is ugly and clunky. It has this cumbersome popup menu that is arranged in no sane way. There are help menus that obscure information displays. Information is missing or nonexistent at times. For example, in the combat phase of each turn, the game simply tells you that you have units entering combat. There is no information on where the units or, or even what they are. This puts the burden on the player to take note of game elements with pen and paper, a horrible crutch for a game in this day and age.

Combat

Combat in the game has been taken from its turn based roots and turned into a real time situation. Not only is this a very bad attempt to entice RTS player to buy the game, it ruins the tactical combat that made the previous MOOs a great deal of fun. No more can superior tactics and fleet organization win a smaller fleet a victory. You have a smaller fleet, 99% of the time you will lose. Going real time in combat is one of the worst decisions Quicksilver made.

AI

The game's AI is terrible, both in terms of the aid it gives the player in micromanaging his empire, but likewise in the behavior of the opposing races. This is most evident in the ships that the computer chooses to build, and the fleets that it puts together. It it quite common to find unescorted colony ships blundering into enemy territory. It is also quite common for your AI assistants to build ships that you have already classified as obsolete.

Research

Even the game's research element was tinkered with to the game's detriment. Instead of the MOO2's simple classifications - engines, weapons, biotechnology, materials and so on - MOO3 attempts to seem more intelligent by grouping technology into technobabble. Research is no longer targeted; instead you set your scientists up to look into an area, and pray they get the tech you want.

Diplomacy

Diplomacy seems to work fine, though I rarely use this option as a turn-based strat gamer and have not really looked into this too deeply.

Story (Reviewer’s Rating: Not Rated)

Turn-based strategy games are about conquest. No points here, though the story of MOO3 predictably takes place after MOO2.

Graphics and Sound (Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10)

One would think that in the seven years since MOO2 the graphics of MOO3 would be blow MOO2 away. They don't. Still, it's not so much of a crime, as one doesn't really look for graphics in a game like this. Ditto for sound. Still, the game looks pretty enough, even if it doesn't work properly.

Stability (Reviewer's Rating: 9/10)

MOO3 hasn't crashed on me at all after about 30 hours of play. There have been reports of a DirectX bug, but I have not personally experienced it.

Replay Value (Reviewer’s Rating: 1/10)

These are the kinds of games that a player is supposed to want to play over and over again. I have spent at hours upon hours playing Master of Orion and MOO2, its cousin Master of Magic, and Sid Meier's Civilization series and Alpha Centauri. Sadly, MOO3 is unable to hold my interest for more than what I've already invested - 30 hours - a pittance for a turn-based strategy game. I'm forced to label this game a failure - it is simply not fun, and at times it can be extremely aggravating with its clunky interface, idiotic AI and lack of information.

Subjective Tilt (Reviewer’s Rating: 1/10)

Sadly, I seriously dislike this game. It ranks close to the bottom of all the conquest-type turn-based strategic simulations I have played, and I have played some clunkers in my time (Call to Power, anyone?). It was folly to abandon almost all the key gameplay elements of what made the MOO franchise fun and addictive. The game simply feels wrong, especially to veterans of the older MOO games.

Final Recommendation: Very strong recommendation to AVOID.
(Reviewer’s Rating: 2/10 – not an average)


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 03/11/03, Updated 03/11/03


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