It has been years since we’ve heard the name Master of Orion. For those of you not familiar with the title, it is considered one of the best strategy game of all time. It brought the genre of strategy to a whole new level, focusing deeply on micromanagement. A Complex tech tree, a deep inter-species diplomacy feature, a robust management on colonies and a number of other features separated Master of Orion from the rest of the games in the genre. Years later, on 2013, we find out that WarGaming acquired the rights to Master of Orion through Atari’s auctions due to Atari filing for bankruptcy. Our focus shifted to WarGaming since the company had roots in creating strategy games, and we were curious to see if they will be making a comeback to the genre.
We were invited to a private preview of Master of Orion during E3 2015 and what we saw simply had us speechless. Master of Orion is back, it looks good and it plays similarly to the previous installments of the game with some minor changes to make it appealing to an audience who never experienced the game.
The demo started with one of the designers talking about the history behind Master of Orion and what kind of game it was and it represented. It was nice to see that the people developing the game knew what made Master of Orion such a popular franchise. After the brief introduction, we were treated to the actual game.
From what we saw, the game looks promising. The 10 playable factions make a return in this reboot with a brand new polish to their look. After selecting one of the races, we were introduced to how the game will generally start off. A random map, with a finite a mount of resource and a colony to start off. From there, we were taken to the colony management screen where they introduced a brand new interface that lets you can allocate your manpower to one of three areas: research, production and food. Research determines how fast your faction discovers new technology, production speeds up unit building and structures, and finally food helps you grow a colony and gain more manpower. Allocating manpower to different areas is as simple as dragging one of the little icons and dragging them to your desired area.
Once we’ve established what we wanted for the colony, we took a peek of the technology tree. The developer explained that there are 75 main technologies to research and hundreds of sub-researches to explore. Speaking of exploration, right after the preview of the research tree, we were taken to the map. As expected, the galactic map is flat, and each solar system is connected with a defined line of travel. Fog of war is ever present and unexplored solar systems are shrouded with a cloud. After a couple of more turns, we sent a scout only to find an anomaly. We were brought to the diplomacy screen to be treated with a fully voiced and animated diplomacy window where ally decisions can lead to treaties, resource trading etc. We were astonished by the fully voice diplomacy feature which is a great departure from the old Master of Orion where all dialogues are written.
As diplomacy ended, we fast-forwarded towards a later period in a game where our faction is now developed and enemies stretch around the Galaxy. To give us a glimpse of how battles would take place, the developer attacked a neighboring enemy ship. Naturally, the ship created for the demo had very little struggle against the enemy ship. The battle concluded our demo of Master of Orion, and to be honest, we have high hopes for the franchise. Granted, there were still a lot elements we didn’t get to see in the game including features of micromanagement, but from what we saw, the game heavily emphasized key decisions made during a match, and it works great.