Review by Dougal

"I wanted so much to like this, but found it impossible to get into"

Master of Orion 3, the long anticipated sequel to (insert drumroll) Master of Orion 2 is a very different kettle of fish. In fact, it's not a MOO game in anything but name and backstory. Micro management, turn based combat, and insanely aggressive and paranoid diplomatic AI have been replaced by macro management, real time combat and insanely aggressive and paranoid diplomatic AI(some things never change).

Interface 6/10
It varies between being extremely intuitive in some places, and being analagous to wiping your arse with 2 broken arms in others

Gameplay 5/10
As mentioned, the game has switched to macromanagement. Rather than planning individual buildings on planets, you now create (very poorly documented) dev plans. These are basically spreadsheets telling the AI what weighting to use for DEAs(I'll get to them in a minute). The problem is there are about 20 different planet classifications (of which any 1 planet can only use 3) but you can only make 12 dev plans(looking at the text files, the coding for some of the dev plans seems to be wrongly formatted as well). DEAs (dominant economic activities), of which a planet can only hold a limited number, are similar to zoning and replace population allocation. Rather than allocating people to be workers, for example, you build an industry DEA. Actual buildings enhance rather than replace the DEAs(again, this is poorly documented). However, as all construction is done by the AI (you can set build queues and manually place DEAs, but the AI tends to build over them), this left me with a complete sense of detachment from the game. While the player has the option of adjusting tax levels(of which there are 3, and would you guess they are poorly documented), research priorities and other things, the AI will override them. This reinforces the sense of detachment.
Combat(if you choose to control it, and you should, as the AI on your side makes Forrest Gump look like Sun Tzu) tends to boil down to choosing your task forces, ordering them to attack the enemy and watching as they continually move towards the shorter ranged enemy, occasionally breaking their attack run to fly in circles. Leaders are back from MOO2, and can be greatly beneficial until they are killed by one of the spies the AI floods you with. Diplomacy is the same as the other MOO games, with the computer pleading for peace then declaring war more times than George Bush on PCP. A new addition is the Orion Senate, which is similar to the Planetary Government in Alpha Centauri, only useless.
Victory conditions are either conquest, election to the leadership of the Senate(think AC again, only worse), or discovery of the 5 Antaran X's (a bit like the Human campaign in IG2)

Graphics 6/10
Nice still pictures, nice animations in the diplomatic screen, and battle sequences that look like the artistic masterpiece of a 6 year old with cataracts.

Sound 5/10
Eminently forgettable

Lastability 4/10 or 8/10
If you dislike this, take the first score. If you like it, you'll probably still be playing it when you're an incontinent OAP in nursing home

Overall 6/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 03/25/03, Updated 03/25/03

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