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Publisher: MacSoft    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 350 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 400 MB    Graphics: 800x600 @ 16-bit

Master of Orion III
April 29, 2003 | Michael Phillips

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Growing up, most little tots want to become a fireman, or a nurse, or a race car driver? VROOM! However, the previous wasn't the case for me. Indeed, for many years I aspired to be the supreme ruler of my very own galactic empire. Of course, the opportunities for such work are slim at best, but it's still nice work if one can get it. Furthermore, telling people of my little goal only landed me on the little bus to a special school. Yet, recently I've finally been able to fulfill my childhood ambition, albeit digitally. How is this possible? I'll just give 3 words and 1 Roman numeral; Master of Orion III.

That's right, Master of Orion III (MoO3) has come to the Mac OS by way of those crazy kids at MacSoft. For those unaware, Master of Orion III is the 3rd in a series of turn-based strategy games, yet is little like its predecessors. With 16 distinct races, vast galactic star maps, the ability to play diplomat, advanced economic and social architecture, real-time combat, multiplayer support and a mysterious planet of the apes? Ok, everything save the ape planet is actually in the game. So, does MoO3 live up to the previous MoO titles as well as the hype? In today's fast paced world of first-person shooters and MMORPGs, do we have time for a turn-based game? For those who don't even have time to read this article, Master of Orion III is pretty freaking cool. However, for those who need more details, fire up those hyperspace drives and set a course to read on!

Gameplay: Yeah, I'll Have a Tab
Master of Orion is a turn-based strategy game in which players take on the role of a galactic ruler of one of 16 different races. Each race has its own strengths and weakness, providing a vastly different gameplay experience depending on the chosen race. For instance, the Psilons, a humanoid race that allowed themselves to be genetically altered for the sole purpose of expanding their capacity for knowledge, are an excellent race for technology, research and diplomacy. They are very capable of forming profitable alliances and trade agreements with their reasonable neighbors. However, their genetically induced intelligence came at the cost of their physical form. Thus, when things become hostile, the Psilons don't always fare so well. In sharp contrast are the Meklars, a race of machines. Having separated themselves from all biological matter, the Meklars refer to themselves as the "Pure Ones". They work with deadly efficiency, excel in math and computer sciences and above all else, they despise all biological organisms. Knowing this, other races look very unfavorably up the Meklars in economic, diplomatic and political circles. Not that the Meklars care what inferior beings think. Therefore, while playing as a Meklar leader, one's best course of action is to build a deadly army and cleanse the galaxy of "flesh beasts". Indeed, choosing a race has an immense impact on gameplay.

Now, I need to say right now that at first glance, MoO3 will look frighteningly complex. The game setup screen is host to a myriad of options, such as galaxy size (they range from 50 stars to hundreds of stars), number of enemies, number & type of star lanes and Victory Conditions. A large galaxy basically means a longer game. It also insures that combat won't come early. In my last game on a small map, war was declared on my poor Psilons after just 12 turns. It was like playing against President Bush? HEEEYO!

The number of opponents can be up to 16; more opponents equal more action, whether it be economic, political or military. Star lanes are like roads that connect one planet to another. Ships traveling between star lines arrive at their destinations FAR quicker than those traveling "off road". More star lanes equate to faster gameplay.

There are 3 ways to achieve victory in Master of Orion III. One can either become the Sole Survivor, be Elected President of the Orion Senate or Discover the Antaran X's. Becoming Sole Survivor is the most straightforward of the Victory Conditions; blow everyone else off the map and win. Being Elected to the Orion Senate takes a crafty leader with a keen sense of diplomacy and military prowess. One has to ally with the right leaders and crush the others who refuse to fall in line. Some races are more suited to political victory than others. For instance, the Ithkul, a race of genetically created parasitic killing machines, are generally hated by every other race. So, don't expect anything but war declarations and almost immediate trade embargoes when playing as the Ithkul. The last Victory Condition involves Discovering the Antaran X's. In a nutshell, the Antarans were an ancient race that actually created several other races, namely the Psilons and Ithkul. The Antaran X's are long lost pieces of the Antaran civilization. Players simply send out expeditions in search these X's and hope for the best.


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