Master of Orion Early Access
First impressions: Master of Orion Early Access:
I love space games but I’ve not played the Master of Orion series before so I was excited to see what it was like. I’ve played Sins of a Solar Empire, most of the Star Wars (don’t really count as space games), X-Rebirth, X3-Albion Prelude and Elite: Dangerous. However, I have a lot of experience with strategy games including Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, all the Total Wars after Rome, Age of Empires, LoTR BfME and Civilisation 4 & 5. I’m going to give you a preview of Master of Orion and tell you what I thought.
Master of Orion Collectors Edition is now available for £29.99/$49.99 on Steam.
There’s four more races that are coming soon, the Darlok, Klackon, Meklar, and Silicoid. It looks like you’ll be able to make a custom race too. I’m going to choose the Psilon. I like the idea of having 50% extra research from my population. I know from EU4 and Civ that research in strategy games is usually pretty important.
The User Interface:
A general overview of your empire. You can set your tax rate, see how many credits you are earning overall, see how much food (F), credits (C), research (R) , and production (P) you have for each colony. The colony focuses are food, production, research, balanced and manual. The same applies for empire focus. You can set your tax rate between 0 and 5. The production menu (+) allows you to select structures, projects and ships to build. Each costs a certain amount of production points and ships use up commands points (the purple 3/15 in the top left of the screen).
Research management is pretty clear. You research points available are in the top left corner in blue. Each technology tells you how much time they will take – in my case, 4 turns or 22 turns. When you unlock a technology, it tells you you’ve made a breakthrough in that set technology.
Ship design for me is one of the more exciting ones. You can choose your weapons – for now I can choose nuclear bomb, laser cannon or nuclear missile. You can also customise your armour and drive. The only special I can choose at the beginning is augmented engines so looking forward to seeing what else there is.
The Diplomacy is very similar to Civilisation V. The first thing you need to do is unlock the Xeno Diplomacy technology. Then you can establish an embassy and begin your negotiations.
5 different types of victory: Excellence, Conquest, Technological, Economic and Diplomatic. So far I can only see the victory conditions of Excellence, Conquest and Diplomatic. To win Excellence, you need top score when the last turn ends. To win Conquest, you need to defeat all enemy races. To win Diplomatic, you need to be elected as Supreme Chancellor in the Galactic Council (hmm.. I feel like Naboo might be an important player in this one…)
Tells you all the info you need to know about each planet you’ve discovered.
Each of the little aliens can be relocated to boost different options. If you manage structures you can see what different structures do and scrap them if you want.
Time to play:
The first thing my advisor told me to do is scout out the galaxy. I discovered a life form (a space worm) and an anomaly. I used my colony ship (which was building in the picture above) to colonise a new planet. It’s a volcanic planet but has good production (+4). However, it only has a maximum population of 4.
I decided to invest in building a research laboratory. With my race’s research bonus, I felt like I should give my research rate a good boost. After all, better tech means better units. So I went on to check out the anomaly my advisor told me I’d discovered. It unlocked a new tech for me: Biology:
When you unlock a new technology, you unlock building and upgrades. For Biology, I have Hydroponic Farm or Biosphere. Hydroponic Farm, when built, gives me +2 food; Biosphere gives me +1 food, +1 research.
A few turns later and the first real threat to my galaxy appears: pirate raiders. My main fleet (it’s small, only 2 scouts and a frigate- light fighter style ship) is travelling to another system. They’ll arrive in 1 turn. Enough time to turn around and get back home – the pirates will take 5 turns. Depending on how far each system is from each other, it takes different amount of time to ‘warp’. This is Master of Orion’s version of hyper jumps and hyper space. Meanwhile, I made a breakthrough in Physics. This unlocked Automated Factory – when build increases production by +2 – and Neutron Blaster – new weapon that takes up 12 space in your ship layout. After completing my research, an option came up saying I could upgrade my ships. Unfortunately, having university in the morning, I had to settle down for my evening cryrostasis. I’m less than an hour into Masters of Orion and I’m loving it so far. Can’t wait to progress.
So, I’m 13 turns in now. It’s time to fight the pirate raiders. My fleet has 2 scouts and a frigate. They have 3 pirate raiders. My scouts don’t seem to count as fighting ships. But either way, I’m predicted to have an easy fight:
So I finished them off with my nuclear missiles really easily. I liked the game mechanics. Looking forward to playing some bigger battles.
Playing around with taxes is fun. Much like other grand strategy games, higher taxes means your people are more upset. At 3 credits per turn, my people are all happy, but if I raise it to 4 credits per turn, one of my workers start to protest, leading to lower productivity. I then discovered a new pirate fleet incoming. The problem is, although I had two fleets, they were both out exploring. My small fleet crossed paths with the pirate ship while warping, but you can’t engage while in a warp. Plus, you can’t turn your ships around mid warp. So it looked like I’d have to rush the production of some ships and remember for next time to keep one fleet nearby (or build some defences). Meanwhile, one of my fleets came across a new race:
Part of me felt like attacking. But I couldn’t. The pirates were 2 turns away and it would take me 6 to return to my colony. I hoped I could get back before they did any damage. The pirates blockaded me but it didn’t last long. A second easy victory destroyed there fleet and allowed my exploring fleet to travel one step closer to where I thought the pirate base must be.
I found the pirate base on some asteroids but needed a bomber style ship to attack it. I was at the time building a destroyer on my home planet so just needed to wait for it to be ready. On turn 36, I build my first space factory, a ship which can build defences and scanner around space. This was helpful for building defences on warp points to defend my systems.
I soon encountered a second race, who proceeded to make a relevant comment “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”:
On the same turn, I also made a breakthrough in Xeno Diplomacy, allowing me to make treaties with other races. It was time to try it out. I decided to have an audience with our Persian-looking Empress (there’s a pun lying somewhere in Prrsha, I think). I established an embassy with no problem. The beginning of a friendly and fruitful relationship.
I established an embassy and procured a trade treaty. She wouldn’t go any further than that, demanded a lot of gold for a non-aggression pact. I liked the layout of the diplomacy. Very similar to Civilisation V – simple and easy to use. I made a trade treaty with the Alkari but they also felt too aggressive to make a non-aggression pact. Meanwhile, I got myself into a bit of a pickle:
I can pretty confidently say: I did not last long. I’ll be avoiding that part of the galaxy for a bit. The thing is, the planet he was guarding was fully rated on everything. I liked Gaia biome (using the ancient Greek poetic word and goddess for earth):
I see it’s called Orion Prime – to be honest, I’ll just ignore it. Probably not important at all to the game….
Turn 56, and two other races have just declared war on each other, GNN reports:
Now the Mrrshan were at war, it seemed like a good idea to Prrsha to seek non-aggression pact. I wasn’t sure what to do: accept the treaty and play conservatively or attack when I knew they were busy. The better, diplomatic side of me coerced me to accept. There was to be peace in our time.
While war raged in the galaxy, my empire solidified its control on our existing systems, destroying the pirate enclave. I gained 40 credits from its annihilation. Then I came across my third discovered race. They were rude, so I marked them out to be an enemy in my mind and forbade them to build colonies near mine:
Then I met the Sakkra. They were at war with Prrsha, so I kept a wary eye on their movements. I was right to be wary. 10 turns later, the Sakkra asked me not to be so friendly with Prrsha. Trouble was brewing:
Not long after, the Sakkra were at war with all the races I’d discovered. Maybe it was time for me to join the war. So I declared war on the Sakkra. Now it was about building the biggest baddest fleets I could fund and sending them to attack the Sakkra.
Whenever any big news happens, a GNN broadcast pops up to tell you about it. Don’t worry, you can skip it if you want. I think it’s a nice little addition. I feel like maybe people will find the voices annoying – but we’ll see:
So we’ve hit turn 119. I am currently rated bottom of all the races. My mistake was not increasing my command points but building too many ships. This is what made the two plateaus:
My first fleet has arrived at the Sakkra system. I am hopelessly outmatched. But I can’t turn back. It’s time to try my hardest to win:
So that was hopeless. I need a much bigger fleet if I’m going to succeed here. At least now I know. That was my first real battle. I’m going to bring all my existing fleets together and attack.
Finally met the Humans. They are a friendly lot, which is weird, because I swear Humans usually are hell-bent on Universal domination. But then again, Humans are sneaky buggers. Definitely going to keep my eye on them. In turn 153, there was the first Galactic Council. The vote was undecided as to who would be Supreme Chancellor:
It’s turn 176. I’ve gathered my fleets together. I attacked the Sakkra space defences but it’s no longer as fortified as it was earlier. It’s an easy battle. I moved my ships onwards to attack their colony:
Next, it would be time to invade. My troop transport was built and loaded up with marines It was time to begin. Bombing reduced the enemy marines to 1. My 4 marines cruised in and captured the base. It’s slightly disappointing you can’t fight the land battle. Either way, time for universal domination.
Finally I destroyed the rude lizard. Everyone joined together to defeat him and I conquered and captured his last planet.
I’ve played 250 turns now and think I have a pretty good grasp on what the game is about and how to play it. So here is what I think:
Summary: My first impressions
Master of Orion is a fun, easy to learn game. The user interface is accessible and easy to understand. Each of the characters have the classic ‘Civilisation-style’ personalities which I like. The music score is quite good and not too repetitive. This game feels like Civilisation has come together to meet Sins of a Solar Empire. Maybe the battles could be a little more complex, but they aren’t as bad as some people have made out. The research has received stick for being too simple. I think it is quite simple but there are choices as you go along which allows you to specialise. I’m extremely excited to see the other features that are coming out over the next few weeks. If you are interested in buying it, check out its Steam Page. The Collectors Edition is available now for £29.99/$49.99.