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First Look: Master Of Orion

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Perhaps the most surprising announcement of recent times has been the revival of the classic computer series Master Of Orion. Unlike the likes of Shenmue III and Final Fantasy VII, Master Of Orion’s return wasn’t preceded by a large fan campaign nor extensive teasing – but as we were told out during an exclusive preview, love for the game is at the heart of this revival.

“This is a passion project for us,” explains Chris Keeling, director of product vision at Wargaming. It turns out that Wargaming’s CEO Victor Kislyi is a huge fan, and his love of the series was a driving force behind acquiring it from Atari. Interestingly, the new game isn’t a sequel to 2003’s Master Of Orion 3. “The original series – that’s the icon, that’s the legend,” Chris says, explaining the decision to reboot the franchise. “We don’t want to just try to glom onto that. What we wanted to do is to re-envision the original game for a new generation of players.”

First Look: Master Of Orion

The emphasis on modernising the game while staying true to the originals is evident. The 4X gameplay – explore, expand, exploit and exterminate – is largely lifted from the second game in the series, and the turn-based structure remains. The world is derived from the first game, with the original ten races making their return, as well as the GNN news broadcasts that inform players of random events. Proceedings are spiced up with new 3D animation for events. You’ll see ships swoop over the surface of newly colonised planets, and see fully animated characters during diplomatic events. Wargaming is promising voice acting from well-known sci-fi figures, but details of who they might be are currently under wraps. The interface has also been updated and made rather more user-friendly, too. “The way we felt about it when we were growing up and playing that game, we want a new audience to be able to feel that, as well as all of the original hardcore 4X players,” Chris explains.

Fans are often suspicious of any change of ownership, but it looks like those concerns are being covered. “The only thing that’s simplified is the interface and the way information is presented,” Chris explains when asked if there’s any danger of the game being ‘dumbed down’ for the new generation. Also, despite Wargaming’s success in the free-to-play sector with games like World Of Tanks, Master Of Orion will be a traditional release and is intended to be complete from the start. The new game is being developed by NGD Studios in Argentina, but members of the original team are on board in consulting roles and the original game’s composer David Govett is writing the music. And if you feel that the last instalment tarnished the name of the series somewhat, don’t worry – “we don’t speak of [Master Of Orion] 3,” we’re reassured.

Master Of Orion doesn’t have a specific release date or price yet, but it will be launching on Windows first. Look for a review in Retro Gamer when it hits the market.

First Look: Master Of Orion

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