Master of Orion 3
It's often been described as Civilization in space but it is fair to say that the Master of Orion series is a legendary series in it's own right. With the release of the sequel, Master of Orion 2, the masses were won over and everyone was overjoyed when they learned the news that a a third game was on the way. Of course with so much expectation for Master of Orion 3, it was a big disappointment when the game was delayed and didn't meet it's initial end of 2001 release date. The game was rescheduled for early summer in 2002 and again it didn't arrive. The official reason was that it was too complicated and that certain processes needed to be simplified. When I read this it seemed like a reasonable excuse for delaying the game. In February 2003 the game finally hit the shelves. Was it worth the wait? Let's take a look.
Those of you looking forward to a similar experience as Master of Orion 2 are going to be in for a shock ... no you'd better make that a hell of a shock. In the introduction we said that the game had been delayed to simplify certain aspects. Well whatever was done, it wasn't simplification of any kind. What is really needed is an in depth tutorial, however there isn't one and tips (called Master's notes) are offered instead. These are all well and good but they don't really help to learn you how the game plays. This is perhaps the most difficult game I've had to learn.
Let's take a look at the positive aspects of the game. The game includes 16 playable races. Just as before you can colonise distant worlds, have diplomatic relations with the alien races, design your own ships, research to improve your economy or military forces and of course you can wage war when the mood suits you. In fact when you dig through all the complexity surrounding the game you'll be pleasantly surprised because Master of Orion 3 is a good game. There is something about being able to build your own empire in space that still appeals after all this time and despite being overly complicated you can still feel that there is a good game just trying to get out.
Visually the game is perhaps as unappealing as it could be. The style and feel of the game gives you the impression that you're using an application such as Access or Excel rather than playing a game. The game makes no attempt to look inviting and the game screen can often become cluttered with information which initially, just seems overwhelming. The game is fixed at the 800x600 resolution which also doesn't help matters. Most strategy games are using 1024x768 these days and it's a shame that MOO 3 doesn't at least offer this as an option. The battle scenes look poor and outdated. I appreciate an effort has been made to make the game playable on a low end PC but even so this is quite poor.
Master of Orion 3 is fine for deaf gamers, although it's a shame that the introduction and cutscenes are not subtitled. There is lots of text in the game and to be honest at times it feels like the game is almost completely text based as there's so much to read. The game comes with useful Master's notes to offer advice when you first visit a screen. The Master's notes are all in text. An all text encyclopaedia is also included in case you want to look up any aspect of the game. The game manual while it has 160 pages isn't really that helpful and is rather bloated by narrative rather than actual details of how to do things. I was pleased to see a card listing all the keyboard functions though.
If you're a fan of the series you'll have read other reviews of the game already, you may have even bought the title yourself. Either way we can safely say that whatever the developers did from mid 2002 to the beginning of this year it certainly wasn't simplifying anything. I've had a few weeks with the game and I'm still not comfortable with it. Don't get me wrong I've played hundreds of games over the years and got to grips with many complicated ones including Star Wars Supremacy (Rebellion if you're in the US), which certainly wasn't easy. Master of Orion 3 feels stubborn. The AI controlled Viceroys at times appear to run the game themselves. You know that there is the potential for a classic here but that potential is strangled by the games complexity and seemingly lack of control. Some of these issues could be resolved by a patch but some could not be. Master of Orion 3 is not for the feint hearted and should only be considered by seriously enthusiastic fans of the series (who may be able to forgive the problems with the game).
Game Rating: 6.0/10