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Master of Orion

Entry updated 31 December 2012. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1993). Simtex. Designed by Steve Barcia. Platforms: DOS (1993); Mac (1995).

Master of Orion is a turn-based 4X Game, played on a two-dimensional galactic map. Its gameplay is a development of that seen in such earlier games as Reach for the Stars (1983). The central conceit is that a number of species are simultaneously beginning to expand into interstellar space, where they will colonize alien worlds, negotiate and trade with each other, develop advanced sciences, and fight for dominance. The player selects a race and begins the game. Each species has its own unique strengths and, when not chosen by the player, its own strategy for success. Many races also have built in attitudes towards other species, making diplomacy more interesting. Master of Orion is a deep, cerebral game which offers the player a wide range of options, from espionage to planetary assault to designing ever more advanced spacecraft with which to win the inevitable arms race. The game ends when one race either defeats the others militarily or achieves political domination of the galaxy.

In the first game Orion is the original solar system of a vanished Forerunner race, possibly responsible for the Uplift of the younger species. A common route to victory is to gain control of Orion and make use of the ancient technologies found there. Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares (1996 Simtex, DOS, Win; 1997 Mac) designed by Steve Barcia presents a reimagining of this scenario. In this version the Antarans, a species defeated and imprisoned by the Orions in the distant past, have begun to escape from their confinement at the start of the game. The player must compete with both the other new races and the Antarans. Victory can be achieved either by conquest of all the younger races or by defeating the Antarans, thus awing the other species into submission. This game added a number of new features, including the ability to add player-designed races and the option of playing against other humans online.

Master of Orion III (2003 Quicksilver Software, Mac, Win) is a direct sequel to Master of Orion II, based on the premise that the Antarans conquered the galaxy. The game is set a thousand years later, after most of the Antarans have mysteriously disappeared and others have established themselves as the "New Orions", ruling the galaxy in the place of their former enemies. The player selects one of the subordinate races and attempts to take power from the Antarans. Master of Orion III's gameplay involved far more detailed management of the player's empire than previous games in the series. The interface included a high degree of automation in a not entirely successful attempt to make this enjoyable; the game was released to generally mixed reviews.

Related works: Star Lords (1992 Simtex, DOS) designed by Steve Barcia is the original prototype for Master of Orion, made available for free download in 2001. [NT]


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