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Master of Orion 3 (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  James Kirk (159)
Written on  :  Aug 31, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Like a great monument. They put so much on it they caused it to fall apart.

The Good

The game certainly seems to offer fresh new ideas, and for the most part it does. A new economic system, more ship sizes, more slots for your designed ships, etc. The game is extremely complex, with a slew of governments, settings for security, espionage, funding etc. etc. Taken alone, each of these features seems to make the game much better.

I must also say that the story is top-notch.

The ground combat has been expanded upon (although some may say complicated) to the betterment of the game in my opinion. There are multiple ground unit types (Infantry, marines, mobile armor, psy-ops etc,) with defender and attacker strategies you can use depending on the situation. Overall the ground combat is more satisfying.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the game is enormously complex and plays extremely slowly. Everything has had multiple layers of complexity added to it, so much so that the game is almost unplayable unless you are either a.) A member of MENSA or b.) Have read the 150 page instruction manual.

After one of those two has been accomplished, you are now actually able to understand the basic workings of the game. Now it is time for you to begin your simulation. Simulation of what you ask? Why, a simulation of a high level bureaucrat!

For you see, the game has radically changed its focus. Away from combat and simple management, towards an advanced simulation of resource allocation and infrastructure designation.

No longer is the game at least fairly intuitive, now, it is like wandering through a deep, thick fog, almost impossible to understand without some type of aid.

A perfect example is the technologies. Before, you had a fairly good idea what you were researching. Advanced laser, ion drive, it was all clear. If you still didn't get it, a clear and concise report on what in-game the tech did would be provided for you. No longer.

Now, the descriptions of the techs are almost always terrible. They provide poor descriptions and most of the time they use words that vaguely sound "futuristic" that you will have no idea what they mean, or what they do. Choosing your techs is almost impossible for all intents and purposes without massive amounts of research and knowledge.

Space combat is also another lack-luster feature. Now, I am a fan of the previous Master of orion games, and I thought the turn-based combat was fine, but, unlike some others, when I heard the combat was going to be real time, I had an open mind about it.

Now I see it was a mistake. The space combat is a step backwards, big time. I intently followed the pre-release of MOO3 (in fact, anticipation for the game inspired me to buy the two prequels) and gobbled up any pre-release info I could find about it. The impression I got was that combat would be a real time strategic affair, a grand array of forces with a multitude of tactics and abilities. The Rome: Total War of tactical space combat if you will.

Instead, I find crappy graphics. Seriously, these graphics suck. Instead of well rendered 3d models with realistic damage and a multitude of control and strategies, I find what is perhaps the most bare-bones space combat ever conceived. You have your ships, move, attack, and that's it. For a game that came out so many years after MOO2, you'd think the space graphics would be good. Instead, MOO2 has vastly superior space graphics.

That wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact the ships are poorly rendered. So poorly rendered in fact you will have difficulty telling what they are, or knowing without a bit of study what type of ship is what. Not that it matters. The game has no space battle strategy at all. Short of ordering your ships not to attack the enemy you cannot effect your chances of winning. The forces you have sent there is 99 percent of your battle. There's nothing you can do to make the battle come out any better than just having the computer auto-resolve. It makes the space combat seem even more boring and ultimately pointless.

Worse yet, it makes the game more about technology and industrial production (oh joy!). There are no epic battles, no turning points, the battles are all decided before you begin.

The game is tedious in other ways also. Instead of allowing you to control how you group and move your ships as you like, it over complicates it by locking the ships into a :task force" system. Ditto for ground forces.

What does this mean? Quite simply it means this. When you build a ship, it doesn't appear at the planet you built it. Oh no, that's way too simple. Instead, it goes into your reserve pool. They then can be assembled at any system with a "staging area" into a task force.

This means that I can build ships on one side of the galaxy and then teleport them into a task force on the other side of the galaxy in a single turn. DId I mention that if you don't put your ships into task forces, they will just hang in limbo? You can't have them defend anywhere, they're just, gone.

And then you have the task forces themselves. Crap. Suppose you want. First of all, its just a pain not being able to move just one or two ships after you've combined them. They are stuck there until the Orions come home.

Second, you can't even combine them like you want. Suppose you want a task force of 50 carriers. Can't have it. You can only form them of certain sizes and they need "escorts" and "picket" ships, which means you ave to add other types of ships. You can't decide for yourself, they force you into it. The only other solution is the group them into tiny groups of 3 or 4 ships. Bad.

The diplomacy is also clunky and slow. The amount of deal options are sad (I can't figure out how to ask my ally to declare war on my enemy!) DIplomacy, rather than having a direct channel, instead its like E-Mail You offer something, two turns later he gets your message and sends a reply etc. It makes diplomacy long and drawn out. This wouldn't be so bad if diplomacy was anymore complex in here than in other similar games.

The AI is decent. After the patch, it has become aggressive and will actually attack you, but the "planet viceroy" (The ai that controls your planets) is still inadequate. They'll often make poor military ship choices and overall it keeps you busy changing their building que. Unless of course, you want dozens of out-dated useless ships in your "reserve".

The Bottom Line

Simply buy Master of Orion 2.