"A MOO of a whole different color"

A sequel to any game that sets a standard in its genre is always held to a tough standard, and this one is no exception. You may have seen several bad reviews (There are at least two here at GameFaqs), which may turn you off of this game, but I’d just like you to think a little harder about it.

Master of Orion 3 is not like any other Master of Orion, which seems to be the problem. For years we’ve been playing MOO 1 and 2 by controlling every little nuance of our empires. Controlling everything from the number of missiles each ship has to the number of buildings each colony has. These games have sucked up many an hour of my life with their micromanagement and grand empires. It looks like MOO 3 will suck away even more of my time because it builds even bigger empires and galaxies to control.

So here are the good and bad points to the game along with my reasoning behind them.

Manual: (Overall: BAD)

Probably one of my biggest disappointments with this game was the manual. While it is large by current manual sizes (probably as large as they can fit in these new small box designs) as you play the game you’ll find how many holes are within its covers. From a lack of listing what the different fertility types are and planetary specials, to how to find the task force screen, the manual is full of glaring omissions and half explained ideas. It does have one saving grace in the form of background storyline that is played out through several chapters spread throughout the manual. The storyline is very rich and interesting and ties together all three games.

Interface: (Overall: Poor)

The first thing one notices about a strategy game like this is the interface. The fact that the player will be staring at it for hours on end (hopefully) means it must be clear, precise, easy to use, and provide the user with all the information they want. Unfortunately for MOO 3 it doesn’t succeed at all of these points.

Clarity: While visually placing everything in easy to read locations with large tabs, it is often a question of hunting and pecking to figure out which screen you want to see. There are also many items that appear on the screen that aren’t explained anywhere.

Precision: Everything is sharp and well positioned within their windows. I haven’t noticed any overlapping of information or screens blocking one another when not in use.

Ease of Use: “Drilling down” to your planets can be easy, yet getting back out can be a pain. I spent the first five minutes trying to figure out how to get out of the planet screen! While the escape key will bring you out, a simple X would have been nice. It turns out you have to double click on the star. Many screens seem to be missing, until you figure out you have to have a planet highlighted before you can even get the option of open a screen. (The task force screen for instance.)

Informative: The only saving grace, yet even this section is flawed. You can find almost anything you want about your empire, from the population of each planet, to number of alien colonists you have, all the way to the number of infantry units you have. There is also a handy encyclopedia that lists many of the races histories, general gameplay information, and more. Unfortunately it is just like the manual and leaves out some very much needed information! (A player made patch gives you some MUCH needed information. Information on this patch can be found here: http://www.ina-community.com/forums/showthread.php?s=0d2b791999960e49ac6f27f9486523b7&threadid=269820)

Empire Building/Management: (Overall: Great!)

This is the heart of the game, and the one that gives most people difficulty. The main problem most people seem to have is that game seems to play itself. Thanks to the planetary viceroys (the AI) the planets take care of themselves based on your overall goals you set for them. It does take a major change in thinking to get away from MICROmanaging that we did in MOO 1 and 2 and the MACROmanaging we have to do in MOO 3.

The game was designed from the ground up to be different from MOO 1 and 2 by giving the player a much different role. Instead of making you control every little nuance of the empire, the player is supposed to focus on the grand scheme of things. This huge shift in perspective takes a long time to get used to, and the fact that the AI is taking care of the day-to-day business seems to be turning many people off of this otherwise great game. Learning to use the AI is the key to winning this game. The fact that most of the time you are just clicking turns away is a misconception. In MOO 2 we became used to our “auto-turn” feature that would burn away those turns of boredom, but because of MOO 3’s wider view and focus the auto-turn wouldn’t work well. There are just way too many things going on that can trip up the player if they had an “auto-turn.”

Diplomacy: (Overall: Good)

The diplomacy system is much better than in one and two. You have a lot more information on what other races think of you and what your people think of other races. The populace gets mad if you declare ware on a popular race, so public opinion is important.

There are more types of treaties and improvements thereof than before, along with different ways of proposing said treaties. They’ve added “emotions” to the responses and proposals such as Pleading, Angry, Cold, Polite, Persuasive, Reasonable, and Humble. Each race responds to different “emotions” different, based on their races views. If they’re a warlike race they may respond better to strong angry statements verses persuasive arguments.

Some down sides I’ve seen involve specific threats and warnings. There is no way you can yell at someone to stop spying, you can only give them a general threat. Also, the computer seems to go through some major “mood swings” as you go along, almost at whim. I have yet to see one just randomly break a treaty with me, but I’m not sure it’s beyond it.

Spying: (Overall: Good)

Ah cloak and dagger. Such a wonderful part of any powerful empire. Spying is much more powerful and focused than it used to be. In fact if the player ignores spying, they will lose. Spies come in a variety of flavors including: military, political, social, economic, scientific, and diplomatic. Each one targets a different part of an enemy’s society and each one is an individual.

The sheer number of spying tasks is boggling, and the problem is the player will most likely have each one done to them at some time. From leader assignations to ship destructions, to queue reordering, the spies enjoy their jobs.

My biggest complaint comes to counter-spying. It seems that even with the opressometer and spies staying at home there are spies that get through. While technology and a ridged fist of government can keep spies out, it doesn’t always catch the ones you’ve got inside your territory.

Combat: (Overall: Average)

I’ve not been too thrilled with the combat system. In fact I’ve been against it since they announced it would be real-time. Though I must admit it does work well once you figure it out. No longer having control of each ship can be annoying, until you realize that MOO 3 is not MOO 1 or 2.

Combat takes place between fleets of varying sizes, and each of these fleets is made up of task forces. When you design a task force it is set up based on a mission type, say for instance Long Range Direct Fire. Each task force is made up of three parts: the core ships, the picket ships, and the recon ships.

Unlike pervious versions where you only really needed the biggest and the best, MOO 3 forces you to create balanced fleet types or specialized task forces supported by other specialized task forces. My first couple of fleets got wasted because I had no point defense systems or scouts to spot and cancel out enemy jamming. As the game progresses your fleets get MUCH larger and more complex. Each task force does its assigned mission based on what it was built for. So if you design an “Indirect Fire” task force and put several long range direct fire guys in it, they’ll be sitting back defending the missile boats and nothing more. Figuring out the task force creation is both a good and bad thing.

Also, as the game goes along you’ll soon discover you can’t refit any of your ships! A long held tactic since MOO 2 was the ability to take your older ships back to base and refit them with the latest and greatest stuff. That can no longer be done and you’ll often find yourself scrapping whole fleets and replacing them with new ones, only to find those are now obsolete. (Especially as Psilons. We’re just too smart!) Luckily by the time you’ll really want to start refitting most of your planets should be able to turn out new ships like tissue paper. If nothing else I’ve found the “Obsolete Fleets” make good pirate stoppers and reserve fleets. (Or front line cannon fodder to soften up enemy positions.)

Overall Rating: 7

I give it a 7 because there is a lot missing from the documentation and the gameplay itself, especially since it will always be compared to MOO 1 and 2. On it’s own it is a great game that has issues, most of which can be cleared up with a few minutes cruising the MOO 3 forums for tips and downloads. (Such as the mod posted above) As long as you are willing to look at MOO 3 for what it is and what it offers, and not at what it isn’t and what’s different from the previous two, I think you’ll enjoy it quite well.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/02/03, Updated 03/02/03

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