Published on March 14th, 2016 | by Lyla Saudi
Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars – An Early Access Game Review
Summary: Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars is a little too early for a final score but it's still an entertaining play!
For those of you that don’t know, 4X Strategy stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate and that is exactly what Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars delivers. This 4X Sci-Fi turn based strategy game developed by NGD Studios and Warmgamming.net was released on Steam as an Early Access game on February the 26, 2016.
After reading the lengthy Preview Guide of 49 pages aimed at providing you with the basics of the game, I was ready. Having never played any of the previous Master of Orion games I was excited that this fourth instalment to the popular series was going to be my first one.
You start by choosing one of six races – Sakkra, Psilon, Human, Mrrshan, Alkari and Bulrathi. I chose Mrrshan and began on my home planet where with the help of an advisor that’s pops onto your screen every now and then to alert you/advise you on how to run your empire, I sent off my fleet of ships to explore the galaxy and discover new planets to colonise. Back on my home planet I set my colonists to work researching new technologies, producing food to expand the population and building ships and structures to better the liveability and security of my newly acquired planets.
Completing research allows you to discover new items and upgrades that can add benefits to your colonies, populations and defence. You are taken to a research tree where you have the choice to decide which branch(es) of technology you want to develop but it is more of a guessing game as there are no descriptions for any of the items you want to unlock.
Another development option is customising your ships with newly discovered weaponry and armour. Although there is a button to automatically upgrade your ships it is still a nice feature to have for those who like to spend time custom making their own.
As you continue to explore the galaxy you will eventually come across the other races that you are playing against. As you click to zoom out of the galaxy you can see where each race that you have encountered has established themselves. In the beginning the majority of them will bring peace, establish embassies, trade goods and maps of the planets they have discovered. This is short lived though as negotiations turn sour and in my case they easily saw a weakness in my defences and took turns destroying my ships and colonies after declaring war on me. And it isn’t only the other races you have to be on the lookout for as you also have to deal with space monsters and pirates roaming the galaxy too.
When it came to the battle mode I was disappointed along with confused and frustrated. You are given two options to battle. Tactical and Simulate. Simulate allows the computer to take control but the battle is over in less than three seconds and it isn’t much fun. Tactical (theoretically) allows you to manually move your ships to destroy the enemy but I could not figure out where my ships were half the time because they were so small and I could not move to where I wanted. It was just not user-friendly at all.
To win the game you are given 500 turns and the option of three paths to victory, Conquest (exterminating all the other races), Diplomacy (being elected as the leader of the Galactic Council) or through Excellence (having the highest average score of all the paths of victory. Two more paths, Technological and Economical are due to be released later on. At any point in the game you can click to see how many turns you have left and devise your strategy accordingly.
Graphics and Audio
The game wins big points on its star studded cast of voice over actors such as Mark Hamill (Star Wars Saga) who plays the Alkari Emperor, Alan Tudyk (Firefly) as the Psilon Advisor and John de Lancie (Star Trek: The Next Generation) as the Human Emperor, just to name a few. The graphics are great too. There is fluidity to the movement of the characters when you are interacting with them and the cut scenes are smooth and vibrant. The ships have a retro look and feel which I assume pays homage to the original game.
I would say this has the makings to be a great game but you can definitely tell that it is in early access. It can be a bit slow, as not all the gameplay options are available and there are a few bugs and adjustments that needs to be sorted out prior to full release. Being priced at $49.99 USD, I would personally wait for the release of the full version to begin conquering the galaxy, but if you can’t wait then give it a go, just be prepared for a few speed bumps along the way.