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Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares (Windows)

85
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  BinaryDragon (16)
Written on  :  Feb 24, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful

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Summary

If you don't own it already, you're mad.

The Good

This is probably one of my favorite games of all time, most enjoyable. It's nothing amazing to look at, the graphics are from way back when and the sound is almost 16 bit. But when I comes to retro PC oldies you can't beat Master of Orion 2.

For those of you who have never heard of MOO2, it is a game where you play the emperor of a space empire that starts small and you have to build it and defend your worlds, and become the greatest empire in the galaxy. However unlike some games, it's not needlessly complicated. It all starts with the race selection screen where you can choose to do what you like, pick a race based on your play style...or create your own race (a feature I much prefer).

Hidden under the visual facade of the 16 bit graphics is a really well built ecosystem/economic system. The AI battles with each other, sometimes your blamed for the actions of other races in a very under the table spies and cloak-and-dagger kind of way.

It's turn-based, each turn is about 10 years, allowing enough time for you to justify a planet being able to develop without it seeming a little daft.

The graphics are beautiful in their design, compared to today's standards they're rubbish, but really well drawn and your scientists move in a two frame animation, which I always find quite funny.

The thing that makes this game great is game play, for a space-strat-sim it's got something for everyone:

Science, a very deep research tree with benefits that actually have an impact when you get them. You can beat the game using science and your mind instead of brute force.

Terraforming, Genetic manipulation, Chemical weapons, Mass-destruction or BFGs that would make Doom pee itself.

The micromanaging of planets is fantastic, certain buildings will give you bonuses and certain races will have innate benefits you can take advantage of. You divvy out your possible working masses on each planet in to three piles:

1: Farmers
2: Workers
3 Scientists
A simple system that really makes it easy to get on with running the galaxy at large.

Building, buildings that benefit your people anything from theatres to hospitals can be built and most of them have upgrades; every little helps. You are able to customize ships, the way they look, what the fire power is even what kind of soldiers are onboard.

The ship builder is detailed, fun and easy to use, build the kind of ship you want, make 'Death Stars' that can destroy an entire planet, (but be warned destroying entire planets can really piss of those bug-eyed ETs) All ships have there place in the game, with the Deathstars (correctly equipped) being the be all and end all.

Fight, blow planets up (really cool animation for this), attack ships, take over planets and enslave the people, bombard planets and start afresh with your own people. Genocide is, at least in MOO2, kind of cool.

The fight system is based on a grid in a 2D plane, the space version is really fun to use, cool animations, little missile that takes a few turns to reach your target it's all about tactics and tactics are rewarded (which is always nice) . There is a 'calculate battle' button, which when your going through the universe taking over each system, ironically systematically, is really useful. The planetside version of this I will get to in a minute.

Peace is an option, you could always just make peace with everyone and become head of the council, thus winning. I really like that this was an option truly a open-minded game indeed. Really at odds with when it was made.

This game still has a great online community, even to this day. It's great fun if you have a home LAN network; even if you don't there is a hot seating mode. One computer can equal loads of fun.

The Bad

It is really hard to say what I DON'T like about MOO2 because I love it so much.

But, nothing is perfect (except maybe me). Most of the time your in for the long haul, and sometimes the AI creates a cascade of events which means that you are alone against an intergalactic superpower. Which as you can probably imagine is really annoying.

The planetside battles are really badly designed, it's nothing like the space combat and you have no control over the battles. It's all automated and often you watch your simple townsfolk in there own 16bit world, with there little poking sticks; getting beaten from afar by aliens in suits with big guns. This is really frustrating, especially when your spaceships are far out powering theirs. Who cares who can benchpress more, when you have a gun that can blow up a planet?

The diplomatic relations AI is a bit rubbish. And stupid. Ask it something enough and you'll find it'll do one of two things:

1. Do what you ask.
2. Declare War.

Now when all you've been asking is for sub-terrainian farm technology you start to ask yourself 'why?'. Which is almost unforgivable until your beating them to death with there own flux-capacitor and they are begging for peace and offering up there own mother to placate you.

This is however a really nice moment.

One thing that really really got on my nerves was the Antares, aliens from another dimension that would randomly attack random systems and decimate the planet and then fly back to their own home world (going to there dimension and killing them is a way of beating the game -not an easy feat I can tell you), if they happen to be attacking a system your just developing and it's not protected by your entire fleet you might as well give that planet up because it's back to the drawing board. This is a really annoying game mechanic that punishes those you don't get the fast engine tech early. Which is mean because I think that food is more important on developing worlds because rocket fuel doesn't feed babies. At least not yet.

The Bottom Line

Master of Orion 2 is at the end of it a game that has never left my hard drive, something which I've always thought as an achievement for a good game. MOO2 is a game I still play, I still enjoy and occasionally brings me something new that I never expected, something that is missing from the games of today.

This is a game for the ages, if you don't own it already; you're mad.