Master Of Orion 2 Battle At Antares (1996)(Microprose Software Inc) Game
Abandonware / DOS Games
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Game Description & Reviews:
[The following review and the screenshots below relate to the Macintosh version of Master of Orion II; however, since it is a port of the PC version, they pertain to both.]
'Forge an empire to span a universe. Colonize unknown planets and trade with other races for their knowledge. Conquer alien star systems by war or diplomacy to secure their resources. Only then can you guarantee your galactic supremacy. MASTER THE UNKNOWN BEFORE IT MASTERS YOU!'
T'was over a dozen years ago that I eagerly read these lines on the back of my newly purchased copy of Master of Orion II. Excitement turned to delight as I pored through the manual, discovering the many facets of one of the most extensive and enthralling strategy games ever made. All this was simply the prelude to hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of avid intellectual enjoyment, as I embarked on galactic domination again and again, ending one game only to commence another. Welcome to interstellar paradise.
Master of Orion II is a, (or rather, the) Turn-Based Strategy game set in space. The purpose is simple: as leader of one of the thirteen races in the game, explore the galaxy, expand your empire by colonizing a variety of planets, utilize your resources and research to become mightier, and ultimately, attain mastery by either exterminating your foes, defeating the Antarans, or winning an election. [The Antarans, incidentally, are an ill-tempered, vengeful ancient race that delight in destroying colonies of the other species.]
This alone would suffice to make Master of Orion II's gameplay enjoyable; nonetheless, there is much more. A tactical combat option enables the player to design his own spaceships, and then control them in turn-based battles. Anyone with even a minimal degree of affection for military strategy will rejoice in this fine feature which, in my opinion, is one of the very best aspects of the entire game. It is immensely gratifying to select the weapons, build the spacecraft and then lead a fleet to victory. As if this wasn't enough, one can also capture other ships and either use them in battle, or salvage them for money and technology.
Technology is at the heart of Master of Orion II, as one would expect in a science-fiction game. There are eight different fields, each with numerous levels of development, and up to three different technologies in each. It is a tribute to the game's designers that there are at least half a dozen methods of obtaining new technologies, ranging from research and diplomacy to planetary conquest and espionage. Detailed descriptions of all technologies are provided in the manual, as well as within the game itself.
The economic side of empire-building is not neglected either. The player effectively runs a futuristic planned economy, allocating workers to agriculture, industry or research, with morale adding an extra dimension to gameplay. Colony management is facilitated by the recruitment of mercenary leaders who provide bonuses to various activities, and can also gain levels; one can have a maximum of eight of these - four magistrates for the colonies, and four captains for the fleet. There is extensive scope for micro-management, but those who tire of it can avail of an auto-build function that will let the AI govern the planet.
Graphically, Master of Orion II was excellent for its time, and its visuals remain more than adequate to this day. One particularly pleasing detail are the varied planetary landscapes which aptly distinguish the various worlds one colonizes or conquers. The portraits of the numerous races, and of the countless mercenary leaders are also very well done. The animations - both inside and outside battle - are excellent, especially for their time. The in-game videos are not unsatisfactory, and constitute another nice touch to an already impressive game.
The audio is equally impressive. Every species has its special theme (that is played during diplomatic interaction) which reflects, to some extent, its character. The in-game music is enjoyable and suitable, and the same can be said for the battle tunes. The sound-effects are also appropriate and adequate.
If there is one area of the game that required improvement, it was diplomacy. Whilst there was no shortage of options and actions in the foreign policy sphere, the tendency of the AI to break treaties and declare war on the slightest occasion, is unhelpful, (and probably unrealistic as well). However the descriptions of other emperors (erratic, honourable, xenophobic and so on) does provide some guide regarding what to expect.
There are many other wonderful features of Master of Orion II which can only be mentioned in passing. These include: a race editor, an adorable galactic news service, a wide variety of random events, a multiplayer mode, comprehensive and excellent in-game help, the mysterious planet of Orion, etc... Taking these into consideration along with all that has been mentioned above, one has no hesitation in recommending this game to any man who dreams of conquering the cosmos.
All in all, Master of Orion II is the only space strategy game you will ever need.
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