MOO! Master Of Orion Reboot Enters Early Access

Initial surprise at a Master of Orion reboot coming from World of Tanks has mellowed into a warm hope that they’ll do Simtex’s classic 4X strategy series justice (them and NGDC Studios, the team actually making it). If you’re feeling bold, you can now see how work is coming along as the Master of Orion reboot [official site] has launched into early access. It’s scheduled to float around that spacedock for at least three months, being expanded and improved, before launching properly.

Master of Orion’s your usual 4X deal: alien factions try to spread across the stars by researching technologies, dabbling in diplomacy, and probably roughing each other up a bit. Almost definitely roughing each other up. It’s very much a reboot and not a remake, Wargaming told us, so don’t go in expecting a prettier MOO 2. I skipped MOO back in the day, so maybe friendly commenters can tell everyone what they dug about it?

Adam will be having a gander at Master of Orion and telling us all about it at some point, but for now, hey, Steam player reviews look pretty positive.

Right now, the new Master of Orion is only available in a £29.99 Collector’s Edition which also includes the first three MOO games. If you’re interested, it’s on on Steam Early Access and GOG through their own new early access scheme, ‘Games in Development’. A Standard Edition will follow later. As ever, it’s important to remember that early access is buying an unfinished game, but Wargaming are probably at least rich enough to not fold and stop development.

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  1. Kabukiman74 says:

    Yay – about time MOO finally got it’s 3rd part. (There never was MOO3 – it doesn’t exist, like Star Wars Ep. 1-3…;) )

    • Cinek says:

      Or 7 for that matter.

      • trashmyego says:

        It exists. It’s in theaters still. You should get your head checked.

        • Neutrino says:

          I think something just went over the top of yours.

          • seab4ss says:

            I think it may have went over yours, trashmyego was being sarcastic towards the obvious troll – Cinek.

  2. jezcentral says:

    MOO3 is now available to buy? Well, hush my mouth.

  3. froz says:

    Real-time battles? Are they mad?

    • cptgone says:

      MoO and MoO II are my favourite games. I want to be able to see how my ship designs perform, in all detail, check if they fit their niches, if they can perform the tactics I had in mind while designing them – instead of participating in just another frantic click-fest where you can never stop to smell the roses.

  4. Zankman says:

    Some mixed reviews on Steam. I’ll have to see what Quill18 has to say.

    • dontnormally says:

      Here is quill18’s youtube playlist of this Master of Orion:

  5. Joshua Northey says:

    I am very interested, but have enough of a backlog and don’t know the studio so I think I will wait a bit.

    I don’t mind the real time battles, or even honestly automated ones, I always thought that was the weak point of MOO, too easy to trounce the AI and break the strategy challenge.

    My main concern is that they deliver something that is different enough to be worth playing while not ruining the experience otherwise. There have been a lot of crummy MOO clones. Star Drive 2 is really pretty good, though I desperately hope in the new expansion they ditch the tedious current ground battle implementation.

    As far as what made MOO/MOO2 great. Constrained tech tree where it is hard to be good at everything, interesting choices in how to pursue techs and outfit ships, very good strategic layer with good balance on the building economy, solid and not too powerful or tedious implementation of espionage, fine graphics for the day and good personality with the races/lore such as it was.

    • Shadow says:

      Tactical combat’s MOO’s weak point? There hasn’t been a single 4X game (except perhaps Sword of the Stars, which was 80% combat) which has managed to make ship battles as engaging as Master of Orion II’s.

      We’ll see how this realtime variant pans out, but mandatorily automated battles are a monumental missed opportunity in space 4X, and diminishes the impact of custom ship design (looking at you, GalCiv series).

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I guess I am the type of person who likes a challenge and likes the strategic layer to mean something.

        The AI in turned based tactical battles is never really strong enough to deliver that. It is hard to lose when you are always wildly over-performing in every battle.

        But I am a type of crazy person who often just auto-resolves battles in most games if the auto-resolver is fair. If I want to play some battles I will play some separate battles outside the campaign (looking at you total war), but often manually playing them just destroys any difficulty/consequences on the strategic level.

        • Neutrino says:

          Decent turn based AI can’t be that hard. XCOM etc.

          If you are going to reboot a classic like Moo1/2 then there’s really no excuse for ditching such a key feature, unless you are sure you can replace it with something even more awesome, which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

          • Detocroix says:

            I don’t think XCOM (I think you mean firaxis XCOMs?) AI is that good. They do really stupid moves, blindly sacrifice important units to overwatches, use wrong skills and items at wrong points etc. Mind you I have only played XCOM1 and XCOM2 (firaxis) at classic and not on the impossible.

            If however you mean XCOM (the original), then the AI cheats so much it should feel ashamed!

      • Zenicetus says:

        Tactical hands-on combat isn’t that important to me personally, but I do think it’s odd that they made this decision.

        It would have been one of the few (or only?) larger budget space 4X games that included tactical combat, and I know there is a fairly large and vocal segment of the audience that wants it. It isn’t in GalCiv3 and it won’t be in Endless Space 2 or Stellaris, AFAIK.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Instead of “tactical combat” I should have said turn-based, since it looks like there are still some commands you can issue during real time combat. Not very developed at the moment though, and the pace is pretty fast.

      • PhilBowles says:

        Agreed – the tactical AI was bad, and inevitably this was compounded by poor ship design AI, but the tactical combat was precisely what elevated MOO above the competition. Certainly there were optimal builds, but it managed to make generally well-balanced options that weren’t just stat boosts, so that your choices to equip ships were relevant. And in a 4x unashamedly more combat-orientated than the Civ games of the day, the importance of a combat system that keeps the player engaged is not to be underestimated.

        In terms of broader strategy, MOO ultimately offered little or nothing that hasn’t been equalled or bettered since – the combat system remains its crowning glory.

        On top of that, the game managed to create great character with a fairly minimalist approach – it didn’t give its races any individual backstory, just a graphic, a set of default relations with the other races, and a racial trait onto which you could impose your own stories that emerged from the gameplay. MOO2 added individual hero characters, possibly a first for the genre, who levelled up organically with their actions (something that I’ve only seen bettered in Distant Worlds, which devoted an entire expansion to that one feature).

        I just picked the new game up – I’m sceptical about it, but getting the original trilogy on Steam is welcome. I always felt I never gave MOO 3 enough of a chance despite its universally poor reputation (it was summed up for me by a review I read at the time – “oh look, a game that plays itself!”)

        • LexW1 says:

          Re: broader strategy, whilst I think you can reasonably argue that any single element of MoO2 (say) has been beaten by some space 4X or the other, the big problem since has been the utter, dismal failure to combine those elements in a single game.

          Even good space 4Xes now tend to be distinctly inferior, in terms of “whole package” compared to MoO2, which is the reason it’s still the legend that it is.

          I’m pretty skeptical about this reboot, to be honest – I very much suspect it will end up joining the legions of space 4Xes which have one or two elements better than MoO2, but with the rest of the game being distinctly inferior.

          • Apocalypse says:

            For me Endless Space has already beaten MoO2.

            Though I admit, the MoO2 tech-tree which forced me on meaningful decisions (playing with creative was basically the tutorial ;-)) was great. But that is something they cut from this new iteration, which in all honesty is imho a great shame.

    • Neutrino says:

      I thought ground combat in Star Drive 2 could be set to auto resolve?

      • Joshua Northey says:

        It can but the auto resolver is broke. So if you go in 4 on 2 where you might take a casualty in a manual battle, you take non on auto. But if you go 10 on 2 where you are invincible on manual, you might take 3 casualties. And if you go in 40 on 2 where the battle is a total waste of your time you might take 6 casualties.

        It is clearly some sort of % based system that rounds down. Unfortunately it has the perverse effect of punishing you for auto-resolving lopsided battles while encouraging you to auto-resolve evenly matched ones.

        • Neutrino says:

          Damkn, that’s a shame. I’d just about made up my mind to get this on the grounds that I could skip that horrible looking ground combat.

  6. Hobbes says:

    Right now the entertaining part is Wargaming has more or less cloned large elements of Stardrive 2 and used that as the basis for their MoO, the space combat system looks to be a wholesale cut and shut.

    There’s still a fair chunk of debate on Stardrive 2 and Sector Zero as to what’s going to happen as regards ground combat, hopefully it’ll get mostly exorcised or simplified in such a way that it can be easily dealt with. I think the whole turn based malarky is going which is a relief, it was the weakest link.

    The rest, we’re waiting on to see how it plays out.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Well Stardive 2 (other than the awesome ship design) is heavily inspired by M002, so I don’t think it gets to complain too much about a MOO game being similar to it.

      And yes I just hate hate hate the ground combat in Stardrive 2. It is sort of interesting the first 5 battles, but quickly is just purely a chore, and is the main reason I have never played a game all the way through. Who wants to do 20 hours of uninspired ground battle curb stomps?

  7. Baron von Noodles says:

    I worry that fans that exclusively played MOO2 are not going to be as pleased with this as they’d hoped. Seems very…simple, I guess is a good way to describe it. Non-customizable ships, no governors/admirals, no terribly major differences between races, and very basic combat.

    I’m not saying it’s bad (it’s already better than MOO3), but I just expect a little backlash is all from a corner of the MOO fan-base. I’m sure there will be a lot more changes to come in the coming months though.

    Personally, I really like the Civilization influences that I’m seeing in the changes to science and asteroid/warp-point upgrades.

    • LacSlyer says:

      Unfortunately I have to agree. They’re obviously trying to reach a broader audience with this game, but my feeling is there’s already quite a few games like this that I’d label “simplistic 4x”. Gamers expecting a more true 4x game will likely be disappointed.

      I hesitate to use the term dumbed down, but I’m not sure how else to describe some of the design decisions.

    • FCA says:

      Wait, no customizable ships, no governors, and no big differences between the races? That is a step back from the original MOO, let alone MOO2…
      The more I read about this, the less excited I am.

      Look, it’s simple: just deliver an expanded, HD-ified iteration of MOO2, and I’ll buy it, no complaints. Why spend money on the license, and then proceed to change so much of the core aspects of the gameplay?

      • stevev45 says:

        The current “tactical combat” lacks any tactics besides focus firing.

        It seems like
        -You can’t target different ships with individual weapon systems.
        -looks like you can’t even make your ships stop moving.
        -The game uses a real time turn system, but their is no auto pause after each “turn setting”
        -There are no shield arcs

        link to
        go to 3:22:50

      • stevev45 says:

        You can customize ships.

        • Baron von Noodles says:

          My mistake; I made the error in assumption based on the games auto-update ship blueprints feature every time I researched a new weapon.

          Thank you for the link showing the feature.

    • Askis says:

      Ship customization is in and seems to be pretty much the same system as it was in MoO2 (looking a bit different of course):
      link to
      From about 18:30 onwards.

    • Apocalypse says:

      Ships are already customizeable it seems.

  8. Macheitu says:

    I like how one of the first things you see on the official webpage is play as Terrans, only available in the Collectors Edition. Aren’t modern games great?

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      That’s not quite as bad as it looks – there’s already a ‘Human’ faction, the bonus is a second human culture by the look of it. Not that I’m in love with gating factions like that, mind you.

      If they were going full 4Xploitation they’d be charging for Elerians (ie sexy space elves.)

    • Neutrino says:

      I was really looking forward to this but am ambivalent about what I’ve seen so far.

      The decision to use star lanes is a terrible mistake. Whether your enemy is going to try to push your expansion back gradually or go for the throat is a key strategic consideration. The presence of star lanes completely precludes the latter and reduces strategic manouvering betweeen empires to basic lane pushing. Horrible!

      Combine that with auto resolved space battles and from what I’m hearing so far greatly simplified tech progression and it starts to sound fatally simplified.

      Which if true would be a real shame since it looks like they have the art style, voice acting and lore nailed. If nothing else it certainly looks awesome.

  9. magnoberta says:

    real time battles is the deal breaker :(

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Real time battles?
      If I wanted to strain my non-existent reflexes I wouldn’t play a turn-based game.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Apparently it’s real time with spacebar pause where you can issue orders. But it doesn’t seem like there are many orders to give, and the feel is very RTS from the videos I’ve seen. I haven’t played it yet.

        I’m tempted to buy it, just for what seems like fairly lightweight fun. There’s a niche for that, and I’m still keeping an eye out for other things in the pipeline like Endless Space 2 and Stellaris.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          Sigh, why are people fixated with real time combat? WHY?
          Unless it has an option for autopause, but then again it wouldn’t be really turn based then.

        • PhilBowles says:

          I have my eye on both, but if the original Endless Space is anything to go by, ES2 is likely to be the definition of lightweight fun. ES had all the complexity and most of the mechanics of Sins of a Solar Empire – an RTS – slowed to turn-based speed without any of the associated strategic depth of a true 4x.

  10. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I don’t see anything really new and exciting for space 4x in this myself, seems rather bland. I’ll skip it and save my credits for Stellaris.

  11. HuvaaKoodia says:

    Just watched an LP of the EA build. It’s kind of good to know already that I’m not going to like it.

    The audio-visuals are quite nice. The galaxy map is beautiful and even integrates planets in solar systems without a separate screen, which is nice.

    The first problem is the research screen, more precisely, the tech tree. I’ve never liked tech trees because they show you everything in advance. Why can I see to the future again? The great thing about the original system was the fact that you had to make choices based on impartial knowledge and, sometimes, random chance. Kind of like funding real research!

    Second problem, MOO2 style planetary micro management. I’m the leader of a spacefaring empire; assigning workers and babysitting build queues is not my cup of tee. Diplomacy, espionage, conquest, intrigue, now that is where my responsibilities lie.

    I guess I shouldn’t demand too much from these developers. If you want something, you better do it yourself.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The tech tree does have a very Civ-like feel, which makes more sense for a historical game than space 4X tech. Still, it’s not the only game that does this. Endless Space and GalCiv3 show the whole tree. In a game where reaching the end of one tech branch is a win condition, you kinda need to see the path to reach it.

      It does look like some tech nodes involve a choice between two benefits, where one excludes the other. I like that, and it might help with replay value. OTOH, there doesn’t seem to be much (any?) distinction between tech trees for the different races, which is always disappointing in a game like this.

  12. Unsheep says:

    I’m afraid this game will be too complex for mainstream media to handle, so it will end-up in the ‘boring’ pile…subject to ridicule while you media folk wait for the next pretentious and short-lived artsy game.

    • HuvaaKoodia says:

      Wow, cut down on the passive aggression, will ya?

      I’ve got a solution for your anger. Start calling “short-lived artsy games” interactive fiction and you won’t be annoyed anymore. You’re welcome!

  13. Laurentius says:

    Sure, I am a huge MoO and MoO2 fan but this is not looking that great. My main worry is that is will be another modern 4X strategy that is ruined by multiplayer. That’s right, devs of these games ( ie. Endless games ) are so afraid that some cooler features, distinctions between races, techs or playstyles would break the game and make things incredible hard to balance, and at the end everything gets flattened and is mostly bland. Old games were unbalanced mess but interesting, these modern 4X games are balanced but SP campaigns suffer, lacking punch and epick stuff.

  14. namad says:

    moo2 is the best and first 4x space game people liked, it was good, all modern 4x space games are based on it. the same way modern 4x’s are based on civ.

  15. Tim Ward says:

    I seriously don’t understand the fascination with Master of Orion 2. Let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s total shit.

    I can’t think of a single thing it does well. Horribly unbalanced, bad planetary management, bad AI which cheats so heavily that it can only be defeated by exploiting said horrible game balance, bad diplomacy, childish and banal setting where almost all the alien races are Space [Type of Animal] or, in an especially cringe worthy moment, Space Women. This is a game with literally nothing to recommend it.

    Maybe 20 years ago it was something special because what it was doing was still so new. But not in 2016. It’s kind of heartbreaking that two decades later developers still think this game is the epitome of the Space 4x and strive to emulate it and it’s “civilisation in space” model (except they tend to remove perhaps the only thing about the game that isn’t intolerably bad – the turn based tactical combat), rather than take the genre somewhere, you know, good.

    Thank god for Stellaris.

    • WyldFyr says:

      Hear, hear! I wasn’t a fan of the combat either (#4 on the list of things about the game I didn’t like). The way it was done made large battles long and intolerable, so I felt i was being forced by the game designers to do something I didn’t want. There was a lot of that going on, especially in the GUI (#1). They took out some of the fun things I liked, like large space battles and fun tech trees (see below), and the stuff they added didn’t really make up for it. I realize some might point out that the there was so much more going on in the battles in MOO2, and they would be right. MOO battles were more about preparation. You had to know when to advance and when to retreat, when to go easy or hit them with everything, but that was about it. Quick and easy, no matter how big each sides fleet was.
      IF they swapped out the tactical combat in MOO2 for GSB, I could forgive them, else, nah…

    • Neutrino says:

      Get out!

  16. WyldFyr says:

    Why is it most people here are all like “Yay! MOO2 2.0… its a MOO1 reboot! Oh ” constrained tech tree is fun!” Nope, not for me, boring. I want to go back to the good ol` days of super weapon syndrome; where i would go frothing at mouth, so addicted to tech popping out, always delaying my pivot because “the next one is *almost* done”. And the tech tree was different every game, so you never knew what was just over the research horizon (at least until you got to level 40 in that category).
    All you MOO2ers, please stand aside and let us have our moment.

  17. Gynoug says:

    When i understood that Wargaming is behind the MoO reboot i almost had a mental breakdown. When this launches i am quite sure we will be looking at 100+ bucks to get the “whole” game. On top of that there will be at least one additional money-making scheme to slyly milk the targeted audience some more.

    In this regard it is baffling to see how other companies get roasted for the slightest missteps by users and gaming-press alike, while Wargaming releases one trainwreck after another which all have one quality in common though: flawless p2p transaction model.

    not fair say I

  18. Zenicetus says:

    I just bought it because space 4x is one of my favorite genres, and I’m just curious where they’re going with this title. I did play MOO back in the day, but it was so long ago I barely remember it.

    Having just barely dipped my toe in it (so take this with a grain of salt), I think it’s a mistake to think the developer is going for a full-on, deep, space 4X title here. I’m sure they’re aware that this game is entering a market where GalCiv3 is already out, Distant Worlds has a hardcore audience, and Endless Space 2 and Stellaris are waiting in the wings.

    I think they’re shooting for the “lightweight and fun” niche here. From what I’ve seen at first glance, the art direction is decent, the UI is simple and manageable. The tech tree is a rip from Civ/GalCiv etc. but at least it does have a few exclusionary choices here and there.

    The alien design is laughably old-school, but what are you gonna do with a MOO reboot? The voice acting has a tongue-in-cheek quality that fits the silly themes.

    The real time combat may not be as bad as everyone thinks, once they add a few more commands you can issue when pausing. I’d prefer turn-based. But it’s early days for what they’re trying to do here, I think.

    Take a close look at the design. This isn’t supposed to be direct competition to Stellaris. I think there is probably an audience for this. Maybe I’ll soon burn out until they add more features, but I’m enjoying the silly stuff, like the way the Psilon ships are classic 1950’s sci-fi flying saucers.

    • LionsPhil says:

      From what I’ve seen of it (mostly the Mrrshan), they’re going for the MoO1 aesthetic pretty much as-is, just with modern tech. Which is fine by me. “Lightweight and fun” was how I found MoO1 when I finally picked it up on GoG a couple years back or so.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Two more quick comments:

      So far, the Early Access version feels pretty stable. No crashes or other weirdness (so far), just missing features. It feels like it has a light footprint on CPU/GPU. Very fast to load, save, and exit.

      The art direction for the main galaxy map and the UI is easy on the eyes. I know we’re not supposed to care that much with a strategy game, but I was an AD in a former life and I can’t enjoy looking at ugly strategy games when you’re basically staring at a map for hours. It’s one reason I like the Amplitude games like Endless Space and Legend so much, even with their limitations. This new MOO isn’t that artistic and clean, but it’s pretty good. Much better than a lot of other space 4X stuff out there now.

  19. Chris says:

    All the indications indicate that it’s a rather dull and conservative space 4X. Wait for Stellaris.