Genre: Strategy / tactics
Gameplay: 4X, Managerial / business simulation, Turn-based strategy
Setting: Sci-fi / futuristic
Published by: MicroProse Software
Developed by: SimTex
In the role of the permanent ruler, you must lead your race to dominate the galaxy. The strongest survives.
To begin with, you have to choose one of ten races, each of which has its own advantages and, accordingly, disadvantages.
You start out with just one planet. Is it a lot or a little? In Civilization this goal (owning the entire planet) you tried to achieve the entire game. But in the world of Master of Orion, this is only the beginning of a long journey. There are many unknown stars of various colors around you, indicating the age of the star. The older the star, the less resources it has, but the better the climate on it. In order to find out if a star (equivalent to a planet) is suitable for colonists, you should send any ship from your fleet. If it is suitable, then feel free to send a ship with colonists and call your first colony a sonorous name. Several tens of millions of colonists live on each planet.
With five "rubber" charts, which will later be applied to Master of Magic as well, you regulate the allocation of resources to different industries. As much as you increase one graph, decrease the rest. Charts are responsible for shipbuilding, planetary defense, industrial system, ecology, and scientific research. It's nice that all the values are relative, so that when the population grows, you don't have to change the values of the graphs. Say, at first, to increase population growth, it is recommended to take care of the environment. Gradually, the population of the planet reaches its maximum, and then the computer automatically redistributes part of the resources for the construction of factories, thus freeing from many unnecessary actions and equipping the planet to achieve maximum performance.
The planets also differ in ecological conditions, of which there are thirteen species, ranging from completely terrestrial to radioactive and toxic deserts. Initially, you can only settle on planets with conditions close to earthly ones, but thanks to scientific developments, any planet can be made suitable for life. The only exceptions are stone-like Silicoids, which are able to live in any climate. Also, the planet has a level of mineral saturation, which greatly helps the industry, and the possibility of finding foreign artifacts on it, giving new ideas for research.
All planets are randomly generated, but one of them never changes - Orion. According to the plot, it was there that the center of the Galactic Empire was once located. But the Empire fell. So now it is just a huge, fertile planet rich in minerals and artifacts. It has only one drawback. She has her own "Guard" - a huge spaceship equipped with extremely powerful weapons. Only by defeating him can you take possession of the planet.
An important and very interesting part of the game is the diplomatic system. There are several ways to interact with computer competitors. You can exchange technologies and establish trade routes between different races, you can sign a non-aggression pact or even an alliance. But it is worth remembering that computer opponents do not forget anything. Even if you are in a state of peace with your neighbors, but accumulate forces at their borders, they will not miss the chance to point out this to you and ask you to withdraw the troops in order to avoid various "misunderstandings". Having a certain superiority, you can both donate technology, strengthening your allies and relations with them, and threaten your rivals. For example, it is possible to ask a race to break alliance with its ally and in return offer it some useful technological invention. All these diplomatic tricks are actively used by the computer, which makes it a difficult opponent. The attitudes of other races towards you are shown using an intuitive color-coded graph. So you will not offer an alliance to your blood enemy.
Espionage is also part of the diplomatic system. With the help of all the same graphs, you assign the level of the desired intelligence and counterintelligence. In the case of your spies, you can assign them both for simple theft of valuable technologies, and for sabotage or even incitement to rebellion on a planetary scale ... unenviable position.
The combat system is divided into ground and space. A space fleet should be sent to capture the planet. If the planet is orbiting ships of its race, or if it has orbital protection, then a battle will inevitably start.
The entire field is divided into squares, and the battle takes place step by step. There is some leeway for tactical thought, but technological superiority is the key to success. The ships have four standard sizes and many external shapes that do not affect the technical characteristics in any way. You have to install engines, guidance systems for onboard guns, guns, various protective fields and many more exotic devices. So you have the right to create a unique fleet, where no one ship is like another, but they are all equally deadly.
When the planet's orbit is captured, you are presented with two options to choose from. You can either burn out the planet with orbital bombardments, or send an assault squad there in the hope of capturing part of the population and technology. It is impossible to control a ground battle, its outcome is decided by summing up the characteristics of the races, their weapons and the number of soldiers on each side, and you are only confronted with the fact of victory or defeat.
Science in the Master of Orion is assigned no less, and perhaps even a more important role than diplomacy. As with planetary governance, you can distribute your scientific resources across six areas: computers, construction, force fields, planetary science, propulsion systems, and weapons. It's almost impossible to win without technological superiority. This is especially pronounced in space battles. One "high-tech" spacecraft is capable of destroying hundreds of "primitive" ones. But how you get these technologies - by research, espionage, exchange or capture - is entirely a matter of play style.
The interface is very user-friendly and intuitive, and in general it shows concern for the player. For example, when you develop a new planetary atmosphere improvement, you will be automatically prompted to apply it to all your planets. There are not so many of the same menus, and they try to be as informative as possible.
There are many ways to complete the game, but there are only two animated endings. You can destroy all your rivals and thus become the ruler of the entire galaxy. Or, if more than two races participate in the game, from time to time there will be elections for the post of Head of the Council, and you can win them. The leader of each race has a number of votes in proportion to the population of his race and has the right to give them to one of the two main candidates. When one of the candidates gains more than two thirds of all votes, he is automatically elected as the Head of the Council. If the choice fell not on you, then there is always the opportunity to express disagreement and declare a galactic war ...
This is an amazing game, the best representative of the genre, surpassed only by its "descendant" - Master of Orion 2.