Review by Zhaneel

"Not MOO2.5, but a good game nonetheless"

At the point of the review I have played the game for about ten hours. No, its not a lot and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the game or beaten it. But from what I have seen on the boards, most people give the game this much time or less before making a decision about keeping it or returning it. So, this may be a good time to review it for those of you out there looking for some more information.

In general, I like it. There are some problems. There seems to be a bug or two, but I haven't managed to confirm that yet. There are some arguments I have with the AI that ''helps'' you. But, I like it.

For those of you looking for “MOO2: The expansion”, this is not it. This is a completely new game. It does follow in the MOO tradition, but there are a lot changes. Not only the superficial ones (interface) but also the general feel of the game. One of the main complaints I've read (after trolling the official board, the board and another random board) is that it doesn't have the homely feel of MOO2. In MOO2, you're scientists told you when you got a new technology completed. Your spies informed you about which ones they stole. There were the GNN reports, which commented on random events and overall state of the game. Your populations were represented as icons that helped indicate their job and their happiness. When you got a new technology, you got a lot of statistic information. In short, you knew everything and it was kinda comfy. MOO3 lacks a lot of this, for a good reason. You are the ''behind the scenes controller of a galactic empire.'' The emperor wouldn’t understand all the science disciplines so he would only receive a short summary report on what it did. So, yes, you have to makes decision and some of them will be based on a poor interpretation of the report. It is a learning experience. And there is a lot of abstraction. Your populations are numbers, graphs and bars. But it helps to understand what is going on, once you get used to it.

And that last sentence is the main problem/thrust of MOO3. ''Once you get used to it.'' There are a lot of things to get used to. And not a lot of carry-over from the previous MOOs or the Civ stuff or Alpha Centari. And yet, once you learn the interface, learn the new things, you can find your old knowledge going to good use. So, not only is it a good idea to research a lot and have money/time allotted to that, you want to make sure you are researching down the right paths. Now, unlike Civ2 and MOO2, you don't pick a specific one path for your next couple of turns. There are 6 disciplines, and you allot a percentage of your points to each type. Your scientists will research and gain general knowledge. From this, they will discover certain technologies, and then you will get a run down of which technologies are coming up with an approximate turn countdown. But just like in MOO2 you can run over, due to protests, accidents and spies. But, unlike with MOO2, if you run over, there is a chance that you will gain positive back-technology. Meaning that if you didn't manage to get a technology before at a previous tech level, there is a chance you'll get it later. Which is pretty cool.

The UI is a major stumbling block. One of my friends complained that there are fifty million tabs/screens. And he's close. And each is different. You can only do some things from one screen, but some things you can do from 3. And there are some things I would think to connect (hyperlink/short description of the tech you are trading from the diplomacy rather than closing out the diplomacy, opening technology, searching among the six disciplines for the techs of interest, closing tech and reopening diplomacy) that aren't connected. There are also some tabs/options that are unclear until the 15th viewing of the same screen so you were missing out on how to do the thing you wanted.

Documentation sucks. The manual was printed MONTHS before the release, and is full of errata and misinformation. The Master's Notes (the only thing close to a Tutorial) are confusing and dense, but don't give you all the information you need. The in-game encyclopedia is okay, but the search function will only search the titles so if you don't phrase it their way you don't get anything back. The README.TXT file is a must read, for once, and contains the QA team's notes that didn't make it into the game. I've found that I've had to go online and question other, more experienced players to understand something sometimes. And I'm not the only one. This is a bad thing for any game. Especially bad for a TBS game.

I think everyone wants to kill the Viceroy AI. It is just plain stupid sometimes. But it is useful once you've setup all the Development Plans and have 30-100 planets. That way you only pay attention to the important (new) ones and have him deal with the day-to-day. Which he can't mess up. Much.

But there are good things. There is a lot of information, which can be a good thing. I like having that much information. I like the unpredictability of the science. I like taking control away from Viceroy early on and restoring when I need it. I like that I don't have to pay attention to all those planets and I can concentrate on empire things, like diplomacy and wars. I like the diplomacy. I like the use of task forces (though I still don't have them completely figured out yet). And I like that each person can have different likes and have them all accessible. Want to plan out every little detail for every planet? Go ahead. Want to not do any of it and only fix the problems? You can do that. Want to explore all over the place and win by finding the missing Antares X technologies? Great. Want to pound everyone else, including those uppity New Orions, into the ground? Go ahead. Want to win because everyone likes you more than the New Orions? You can do that.

I think this game is worth getting. Perhaps not at $50 because of all the early frustrations. I do hope they put out a patch for the viceroy AI and the spying, but overall I like it. I hope it doesn't die, but I suspect it will. Many users are returning it, many are recommending waiting until the price drops (or suggesting getting an illegal ISO). There was a lot of call for it, and a long wait, and the end product isn't what people expected/wanted. Even though it is a good game, because its not MOO2.5, people are upset. But I think it is well worth a try. And after I get used to it, maybe I’ll put up a FAQ.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

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

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