Master of Orion 3

aka: MOO 3, Master of Orion 3: The Fifth X
Moby ID: 8464
Windows Specs

Description official descriptions

The long-awaited follow up to the "spaceploitation" strategy classics Master of Orion and Master of Orion 2, MOO 3 attempts to combine unprecedented depth with user-friendliness in one ultimate "4X" gaming eXperience. The basic game formula is the same, though: start out with one planet, eXplore the galaxy, eXpand by founding new colonies and bases, eXploit resources, and then eXterminate your opponents--or at least show them who is boss!

Many years in the MOO timeline have passed since the last installment of the series. The Antarans have triumphed and imposed their rule on the Orion sector, even dubbing themselves the "New Orions" in their pretentiousness. Most of the old alien species have been defeated and nearly exterminated by the New Orions, but a few remnants of their civilizations still remain as non-playable races, so you will occasionally come across the odd colony of the Darlok, Bulrathi, Alkari, Mrrshan, Elerian, or Gnolam variety. The 16 playable races that have survived the wrath of the Antarans include the insectoid Klackons and Tachidi; the reptilian Raas, Sakkra, and Grendarl; the fishlike Trilarian and Nommo; the robotic Cynoid and Meklar; the humanoid Human, Evon, and Psilon; the crystalline Silicoids; the ethereal Imsaeis and Eoladi; and the genetically-engineered harvesters, the Ithkul.

Management is handled primarily at the imperial level through general plans and policy decrees, with a system of AI viceroys assigned to doing most of the grunt work in managing the various regions of your colonized planets. Up to four great leaders at a time may come forward and join your empire, adding bonuses (and perhaps also penalties) to your base racial abilities. Research is divided into six schools: economics, energy, biological sciences, social sciences, physical sciences, and mathematics; some 380 technological advances are available overall, and not all will be available to your chosen race.

Ship and ground combat have both changed from previous MOO games. Naval battles are played out in real time, with orders being given to ships assigned to the various task forces you organize before any battles take place. The player now has more tactical options in commanding ground forces in planetary assaults. Espionage is still available for implementing a variety of dirty tricks on opposing empires, and diplomacy is expanded so that you can now negotiate not only on an inter-empire basis, but also through the Orion Senate. With enough votes, laws can be passed by the Senate which have galaxy-wide effects, thus making it possible for the clever diplomat to change the rules of the game to his own advantage.

Victory is yours if you can accomplish one of three things: eliminate all opponents and become Sole Survivor, garner enough votes through diplomacy to become President of the Senate, or recover the five mysterious alien artifacts--the "Antaran Xs"--scattered across the galaxy. Just be prepared for a tough fight, because powerful Guardians will once again stand between you and total mastery of Orion.


  • Master of Orion 3: Престол Галактики - Russian spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

137 People (115 developers, 22 thanks) · View all

Senior Producer
Executive Producer
Director of Technology
V.P. of Product Development
Director of Marketing
Director of Creative Services
Director of Editorial & Documentation Servicess
Graphic Designers
Documentation Specialist
Additional Game Design
Special Thanks
[ full credits ]



Average score: 64% (based on 33 ratings)


Average score: 2.4 out of 5 (based on 44 ratings with 6 reviews)

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.

Windows · by James Kirk (150) · 2006

Disappointing as a MoO game, but unique and arguably good if taken on its own

The Good
This game is an amazingly complex simulation of a star-spanning empire, with details down to the planetary region level in all sorts of things. This is not a game about micromanaging a shallow simulation, but one about managing a complex one.

One particularly interesting change is the introduction of task forces into naval operations. Although you can still design your own ships, that is done with regard to their designed role in a TF; it is the TF that must be carefully crafted for a specific mission. Although the combat module is generally less interactive than in previous games, the effects of TF composition and layout can be very substantial.

The Bad
Sadly, most of the simulation is simply invisible to the player, and even some of what is visible can't be influenced directly.

Back in the early 90s, Sid Meier gave a talk at a CGDC entitled "How I almost ruined Civilization". He discussed several key elements and decisions in the design of that classic in terms of analyzing "who was having all the fun". If the value of a given feature was something you could point proudly to in front of other game designers, but that a player would not notice, that was letting the designer have all the fun. If the simulation was extremely detailed and beyond the ken of the human player, that was letting the computer have all the fun.

Sadly, in the form that it finally shipped, MoO3 is a game where too often the computer has all the fun. During the first couple of years of development, the plan was to have a deep simulation that the player could see all the way down to the bottom in, but a limited pool of "Imperial Attention" points which were needed to actually manipulate things. If you wanted to micromanage the production on one planet you could, but it would reduce how much attention you could give to other things that turn. Unfortunately, in playtesting this idea didn't work out. The Imperial Attention points were dropped, and the UI was simplified to get rid of immense levels of detail that would bog down a player for days per turn. But on the whole, those detailed calculations were still there - you just couldn't see or manipulate them.

The result was that all too often your simulated planetary governors would make a decision based on priorities and information that you simply could not see, and it looked like they were just arbitrarily doing stupid things. Even worse, there were some bugs in the data, and some stupid decisions were effectively forced by the bad data entries.

After 3 patches, most of the cases where this happens are no longer visible, but there's still a frustration that you can't see the details behind some of the numbers.

The Bottom Line
On the whole, it doesn't come close to displacing MoO2 because it's really not the same sort of game at all. Taken on its own, it's an interesting game about empire management, but it's really going to appeal only to those gamers who like both military simulations like the (earlier) MoOs and serious management games like 1830.

Windows · by weregamer (155) · 2003

A great empire management game

The Good
I've played MOO3 some time ago, with only one opponent in a huge galaxy, just to learn the effects of my decisions, because it's really complicated stuff beneath the simple interface..and finally, after one night of efforts, I had over 400 planets, with tens of thousands of ships, most of them, if not all, of obsolete designs and a score of 13(?)millions (after finding all Xs).

This is not a game in which you are the big daddy controlling every aspect of life, like a pharaoh who has a dream and decides to build a great city in the, the civilization itself makes the right (or wrong) decisions about where to expand (even if you might prefer not -so- close to the enemy), what and where to build (hey,where's my piggy farm on that breadbasket planet?!) and what races they like or not. (Please, do not alienate my Sakkra allies!)

The only big decisions you make are in 4 fields:

  1. Diplomacy: You decide who gets what treaties, what are the technologies exchanges, if you want to be at war or not, who are your allies.

  2. Development plans! Yes,you heard right...the odd, ugly DEA interface where you can make HUGE differences about whatever your empires is discovering new tech, building infrastructure, address starvation problems, or worst...resource shortage.The Biggest plan you can make is on "All planets". My setting is usually: "primary:blank", "secondary:infrastructure" and "tertiary:research", then on crisis situations you can fill the Primary objective with mines or food or military(colonization vessels included!). It's quite pointless to be more specific, but you can try to be, for the fun and experience of being the Big Brother.

  3. Military design: Even if it's an automated feature which is highly recommended, I also recommend to delete your transport early in the game, as well as military bases, in order to allow the AI to concentrate on building colony ships (and set auto-colonization on, this will remove a headache of always knowing when your ships are ready and put them on active duty). It's a great idea to build smaller IF (missiles) ships, which get ready early on, when needed, then continue with larger carriers and finally, short and long range beams. In this game, missiles are your best friend for dealing with aliens, but in order to defeat the Antareans, you have to use exclusively carriers (about 20 armadas will do the trick). Always obsolete (but DO NOT scrap) designs in which you have too many ships, because the very poor AI tends to build less expensive models exclusively, almost.

  4. Tech: Early on,concentrate on getting mines better, after that, usually invest in Physics and Energy. That can make a huge leap over your competition.

So, you cannot decide what and where to build, where are your colonies going to be, you do not always understand fully the new technologies(as IT IS in normal life), if you are at war or peace..but the great satisfaction to be the "invisible hand" beneath your civilization (and not just a lousy dictator) is unequal to all the other games I've played since.

The Bad
The very, very poor AI gets you mad: it's a game of colonization, mostly (and that's fully automatic in my games), you never get attacked, the other races are very polite and do not declare war except when you are a hated race by their people (in this case, as in normal life, you cannot change much, so you cannot choose your allies and your enemies).

Combat screen is fun to watch, but the game is too unbalanced on the advantage of missiles and fighters over direct fire(like in real life, maybe). The key is to equip your ships with early missiles and small fighters, but lots of them!(On my Leviathan carriers I have 100 squads of plasma fighters.)

Sometimes,d espite your great efforts, your viceroys forget to build farms, starving the whole empire (and have to go at DEA screen, the most important in the game), otherwise you set up some projects, but they all get ..-1 turns to complete! Otherwise you'll have mines on farming planets, exclusively, 3 to 4 military DEAs on one planet or more than one gov DEA.

And there are others, countless bugs (like setting Military defense as primary on new conquered planets and see the AI building ..Mobilization Centers!!! instead of shields and guns).

The only unrealistic detail is the ability to warp your ships across the galaxy at the mobilization centers.

The Bottom Line
That's a must if you want to learn how to rule a country in modern times, it also gets you into the diplomatic problems, like being unable to choose your enemies and your allies, despite your personal agenda.

It's a game I like and played it a lot. Even if tends to be boring in the beginning, you'll be rewarded greatly later.

Windows · by lucian (36) · 2005

[ View all 6 player reviews ]


False demo version

The Australian magazine PC Powerplay claimed to be the first to get an exclusive "demo" of Master of Orion III when in reality what it got given was a pre-alpha release of the game from the publishing house, Infogrames. Here is the press release Quicksilver Software released after the incident:

As many of you know, the Australian magazine PC PowerPlay has recently released what they thought was a demo of Master of Orion III. Obviously this has caused a big stir around the Quicksilver offices since we've never made a MOOIII demo. Apparently what they got their hands on was a pre-alpha version of MOOIII that was delivered as one of our normal milestone deliveries to Infogrames and was never meant for public consumption. I spoke to our producer at Infogrames this morning and what I've been told is that one of the Infogrames employees at the Australian office gave the CD out without authority and that led to its release. At this point Infogrames is dealing the problem but obviously there's only a certain amount that can be done after the fact.

So, for those that have seen the version, please realize that what you have is NOT an official demo. It's a pre-alpha build that is buggy, incomplete and needs a lot of tuning/adjustment of screens. Moreover, while we'll be leaving any screenshots up on the forums that have been posted we will be removing any links to actual copies of the version since we don't feel it's representative of the game. Thanks for everyone's support.

It is to be hoped that gamers who get their hands on the alpha won't assume it's representative of the final game.


  • Computer Games Magazine
    • March 2004 – Worst Game of the Year 2003
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 04/2009 – One of the "10 Most Terrible Sequels" (The best parts of Master of Orion II are the logical game mechanics and the easy to learn menu structure. All that got improved for the worst by complicating everything and focusing on macro management. Also the exciting turn-based combat got replaced by ugly real-time battles.)

Information also contributed by PCGamer77.

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Related Sites +

  • Build Galactic Empires
    An Apple Games article (archived on the author's webpage) about the Macintosh version of <em>Master of Orion 3</em>, with commentary being provided by Quicksilver Software President Bill Fisher (January, 2003).
  • Master of Orion III - The Official Web Site
    The official home page for Master of Orion 3, created and maintained by its developer, Quicksilver.
  • NZMac
    A (largely) unscored review of the Macintosh version of the game by NZMac, a New Zealand Apple site. The review is ultimately positive, though with some qualifiers (Jul. 01, 2003).
  • The Master of Orion 3 Guardian
    Fan site offering various information on MOO 3, including modifications ("Mods") of the original game. Has sections for MOO 1 and 2, too.
  • The Orion Sector
    A site run by MOO fans devoted to the latest news, previews, reviews, info, downloads, and more for Master of Orion 3.

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by PCGamer77.

Macintosh added by Terok Nor.

Additional contributors: Rebound Boy, Rambutaan, Zeppin, Klaster_1, Patrick Bregger.

Game added February 25th, 2003. Last modified August 27th, 2023.