Master of Orion 1 (MS-DOS) Review by Honorabili
One Sentence Review:
“The original explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate space mega empire game.”
10 out of 10
This is the grand daddy, 5000 lb gorilla of space empire games. From the now dead Microprose, this is one of those games, among XCOM and Master of Magic and Civilization that made that company a gaming legend.
You take the role of the immortal emperor of one of many emerging races that just discovered the ability to travel to other star systems and begin the competition for colonization, later leading to war, and galaxywide politics as to who will win the war for supremacy or the votes of all nations as the race to unify the galaxy as the leader of a mega empire (ending the game).
The game consists of you taking turns (non-simultaneous) with your rivals, managing your planets’ development, research directions (allows multiple research projects at a time vs 1 in later space empire games, which I think that’s unrealistic), your spy projects (they can sabotage, steal tech, be sleepers), your diplomacy (make alliances, actually never do almost, and trade tech, start trade deals, threaten and demand tribute, end and start wars), and conquer conquer conquer. You can orbitally bombard planets to dust basically or be smart about your killing (because later the weapons can literally scorch all populations out of existence, even one ship) and enslave, I mean welcome the conquered population to your empire.
There are different races that each has an advantage, whether a bonus in diplomacy or faster production or research or better combat skills (space or ground combat, which is good for taking over planets) or spying or their people breed like rabbits or some don’t require any terraforming whatsoever (which is a major part of the game, being able to actually claim and live on planets aka breathing is a major technology).
The game is won be either eliminating all rivals or becoming the new emperor of a unified star empire.
This is the game that inspired most future space empire games such as Space Empires, Galactic Civilizations, Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, etc.
This game is like crack. If you love micromanagement and having to defend 6 fronts at a time, this is the turn based strategy game for you. Since the game is turn based, you can take your time planning where to attack next or who to try to start a war with (or make them fight each other by making your spies start a fake terrorist attack vs each other). The game makes you feel as though you are using your brain and even to this day, over 15 years of me playing it, I’m always finding out new little secret strategies to deploy. If you’re a war gamer, you will agree that this game has a Fun Factor of 9 out of 10. It’s a game for thinkers.
The game has like 5 difficulty settings and it becomes really brutal the higher you go. You can scale the size of the galaxy so that you can play a long or REALLY long game. This sometimes has a harsher effect on how hard it is. Imagine having to fight a fleet of 20 war planets producing full time vs one of 4 planets. It requires you to have the logistical foresight to be able to take on such an onslaught. I give the Difficulty Versality a score of 10 out of 10.
Well, Microprose is dead and basically so this game is now free. You can get it from sites such as http://www.abandonia.com/ or http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net/ and run it on DOSBox for free. You can also opt to buy Master of Orion 1 + 2 together for $5.99 from Good Old Games. Since this game is amazing and it’s free or very cheap, the score for Value is maxed out at 10 out of 10.
I’ve been playing it at least 2-3 times a year since the mid 90s. It’s one of those games that is on a permanent list to play each year. Like Civilization, once I start playing this game it’s hard for me to do anything but that for a good 2-4 weeks, each time. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10.
I usually have the sound off, but the sounds are okay for an early 90s DOS strategy game. I give the Sound a score of 6 out of 10.
The music is alright but I usually shut it off and play some classical or epic music in the background. Keeps the game play strong and my concentration on maxing out planets and blowing up enemy fleets. The Music that comes with the game gets a 6 out of 10.
Of course, the graphics are now way dated, but for it’s time they were pretty great for a war game. The weapon beam effects look great for DOS and even the homing missiles look threatening although it’s just a grey arrow almost. Considering the style behind the Microprose games of this time and that it’s a war game, Graphics get a 9 out of 10.
The game never, ever crashes, itself. Sometimes DOSBox has some issues when you ALT-TAB but that’s a problem with DOSBox, not the game itself. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.
The controls are simply point and click with a few hotkeys integrated. The hotkeys however are not necessarily shown in game and you’d have to read the manual or look them up online. Some are essential like B for scrapping your missile bases in case they are too obsolete or your war front has moved up from that location and you’re wasting resources maintaining them. I give controls a 7 out of 10 because although some are hidden, they do what they’re meant to do properly and keep the game playable.
This game will run godlike on any computer, maybe even a mobile phone. Performance instantly gets a 10 out of 10.
My history with this game:
This is actually one of the first PC games I’ve ever bought and it was well worth it as it has given me literally over 1000 hours of gameplay. I played it first on a 486 so you have an idea how much of a place in my gaming history this game has. Because of it’s turn based nature I’ve even played this game while working and that’s very doable so long as you have good multitasking skills and a good memory as to your strategems. I hope you will all start playing this classic even as a new gamer, you will learn new ways to think and that’s always, always rewarding in itself.