If you’re anything like me, your reaction to hearing about the Master of Orion reboot was somewhere between glee and utter confusion. On the one hand, eff yeah, Master of Orion is always a good thing, but Wargaming? The guys who made World of Tanks are making a 4X!? Obviously, I was curious to find out why Wargaming were tackling such a classic, and after getting a brief demo at PAX, I think it’s in good hands. It’s the MoO we all loved back in the day but streamlined for a modern audience, and it’s very apparent that these guys know (and love) what they’re doing.
Before I got to see any gameplay, Randall King (the executive producer) explained why the hell Wargaming were taking on MoO. As it turns out, the CEO of Wargaming considered MoO to be the game that got him into gaming, and he initially steered the company to make turn-based games like Massive Assault. So, naturally, when he saw the IP for sale a couple years ago, he had to have it. For him, this is an opportunity to show people unfamiliar to the games what made him fall in love with them all those years ago. If that doesn’t bolster your confidence, it might help to know that authenticity is a top priority.
Master of Orion is often held as a golden standard in 4X games and is very dear to a lot of people’s hearts, so the guys at Wargaming wanted to do this right. To that end, they’ve gotten the old team from the original games back on board as part of the core team. They’re helping guide the game’s design, as well as add in any features that they wanted to implement back when the originals came out. They’ve even got the old composer back to do the music, and it’s all coming together to hit me right in the nostalgia.
Right from the get go, everything I saw was more like an update than a re-imagining, and that’s exactly what I wanted to see. Everything from the races to the planetary interface looked like it had been ripped out from the original games and shined up with some modern polish. The biggest deviation from the originals is the addition of star lanes (which were in MoO3 anyway), but other than that, it all looked identical. Population management was the same, setting up galaxies was the same and it just felt like I was a kid again. Don’t worry though, there are a few features that have borrowed from other modern 4X’s, and they’re looking very interesting.
As Randy explained, trying to get a modern audience to play the old MoO games is like asking someone to get excited over spreadsheets. To help engage with a newer audience, a few features have been added to help reduce micromanagement. For example, if you select a technology to research further down the tech tree, the game will automatically queue up what to research to get there. You can also get the game to automatically manage planets if you want, but one feature stood out to me as something that new players could benefit from.
4X games require a lot of forethought, but knowing what’s coming is difficult if you’re just learning how to play. So, MoO is implementing a timeline save system that allows the player to jump back to any turn and try again. If you started a war because you’re a newbie and don’t understand that war is the freakin’ worst, you can jump back to the turn before you declared war and try a different approach. The idea, Randy explained, was that while old players probably wouldn’t use the feature, it would let new players learn from their mistakes and try again. To me, this is a really neat idea, but the whole game is looking really neat thus far, to be honest.
I was sceptical about Wargaming trying their hand at such a classic game, but my confidence in what they’re doing couldn’t be higher. The game is looking great, they’ve got original team members working for them and it’s the same old MoO with modern sensibilities. It might seem like a bit of a leap from World of Tanks, but when you consider Wargaming’s beginnings and the ludicrous passion that’s going into the game, it’s easy to get excited for what’s to come.