Master of Orion is a title that holds a special place in my heart. I used to love building up the technology, colonizing planets, and ruling over the galaxy with an iron fist, so when Wargaming announced they would be making a new MOO game, I was skeptical. Here is a company best known for the free-to-play game World of Tanks. What would they do to the beloved franchise? Would it become free-to-play? These were the questions that were circling around my head as I went into my meeting at E3.
Sitting down for the game demo, I was brought up-to-speed on the story behind Wargaming acquiring the Master of Orion franchise. It was a tale of how CEO Victor Kislyi used to love Master of Orion, and how, when the chance came to purchase it arose, he jumped on it. Wargaming also went into great detail about how they started out making RTS style Strategy games before they found success with World of Tanks. All these facts painted a picture of a company and staff that wanted to do right by the MOO franchise, and who had a deep respect for the source material. The only question was if they as a studio could recapture what made the previous games so great.
Jumping into the gameplay, I was pleased to be greeted by the familiar looking interface. The game looked much like you would hope an updated version of Master of Orion would look. The choices of races were all there; all ten that were playable in the previous games were present. Even the race animations have been spiced up by employing the 3D-rendered visual style seen in games such as Civilization, and characters demonstrate their unique attributes along with the overall relationship to you in a clear and visible way. They even managed to get top-level talent to voice everything. Although they are not yet disclosing who they have enlisted, if the E3 demo is anything to go on, there is no reason to worry.
As mentioned above, the first thing you will notice is how familiar the interface feels. Overall, it is reminiscent of Master of Orion II, but with the sheen and polish that only modern computers and budgets can provide. Already in the works for over a year, this is clearly a labour of love, and Wargaming have managed to not only recapture the elements seen in the previous games, but add the visual flair you would expect from a game launching for modern systems.
Beyond that, the core gameplay appears to be very similar to what you would expect; you take your ships and slowly expand out from your home planet, trying to match planets with your race’s unique needs. With every race being different, it’s up to you, the player, to maximise these attributes to fit your playstyle.
Now, as in previous MOO titles, you have numerous victory conditions, each outlined clearly on the overview screen. You have the standard method of conquest, where you lay waste to anyone who opposes you. There is the tech style victory, where you maximise your technology to ensure you are the most advanced race among all the stars. And, as always, there is the diplomatic victory, where you ensure that your faction is the most peaceful race that everyone wants to rally alongside. As with any 4X game, it is all about how you want to play. Will you crush your enemies, or be the bringer of peace? It’s up to you.
It feels as though the team behind the development are taking what was great about previous instalments and ensuring it all feels accessible. All of the complexity of previous MOO titles is still present, though much of it has been streamlined to keep from feeling overwhelming. All aspects, from resource management, to exploration, to technology, seem very intuitive by design. The team is using years of advancements in user-friendliness to ensure that the new Master of Orion is accessible and fun for new players, while remaining faithful for long-standing fans of the franchise.
The feeling of humour, I am happy to say, is also still present. The GNN (Galactic News Network) informs the player of random events, relations between races, along with other events taking place in the galaxy in a fun and interesting way. It feels as if the team behind the game are ensuring the player feels engaged in the overall world and does not feel dragged down by the complexity of the gameplay.
Entering E3 2015, I was unsure what to expect from the reboot of MOO, but I am happy to say that if what Wargaming showed off at E3 was any indication, Master of Orion is in good hands. The visuals all look stunning and the gameplay seems intuitive and fluid. I am also happy to see it will be following a traditional release with no free-to-play elements that may detract from the overall experience. Launching on PC, this is a game that any fan of the series would be happy to play. We will have a full review of the final game upon release, until then, we will just have to wait patiently for a chance to dive head-first into Master of Orion once again