I’m not going to lie. I had never heard of Master of Orion before Wargaming emailed me about an interview opportunity with some of the Wargaming team at PAX Australia this year. However, I was interested in seeing the game because it was different to the World of Tanks/Warplanes/Warships that they are known for – and I dragged one of the TechGeek writers along to play the game while I did the interview.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to play the game, given it was an alpha build of the game. One of the Wargaming representatives played the game while we watched.
Master of Orion is a reboot of the franchise of the very same name. While the game is dramatically different in the graphics department compared to its predecessors, Wargaming assures us that it remains true to the 4X gameplay (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) that the game is known for.
For Wargaming, it is a return to the turn-based strategy genre. In fact, Masters of Orion was the game that inspired company’s CEO Victor Kislyi to get into games design. It has been jokingly referred to as Kislyi’s “MBA program.”
But while they want to introduce the franchise to a new generation of players, they also don’t want to alienate or upset the fans of the game.
“[We have] a very huge responsibility,” Max Chuvalov told TechGeek. “We’ve got a huge dedicated, hardcore community. On the other side, we got a huge amount of new players that could be introduced to the game.”
“We decided to contract… all the old franchise developers from the original series. We’ve got the lead developer of the first game, the lead developer of the second game, the art director and the music composer.”
While Wargaming owns the franchise – acquiring them in 2013 when Atari went bankrupt – the game is unique with its lineup as it is not being developed by the company. Instead, Argentine-based NGD Studios is developing the game, while Wargaming’s WG Labs unit will handle the publishing and distribution of the game. Master of Orion will the be first title to be distributed under the WG Labs title, but they hope it is not the last.
The gameplay is similar to Civilization – a turn-based strategy game where you have to colonise planets for resources, make alliances or start a war with your neighbours. What race you choose to play – there are ten you can choose from, but we only got to see eight at our demonstration – will determine how you colonise planets. For example, the Sakkra people are a tribal species that primarily focuses on rapid expansion; while the Psilon people are technologically and research orientated, providing a small early advantage.
While map generation is randomized, Wargaming has added a new featured called the ‘Big Band Seed’, where a seed number is generated based on the current map. This allows players to replay the same galaxy as different races and an entirely different play style; or share the map with other members of the community.
During the early game, we were shown basic planet exploration – how players can scan the planet for information about its size, class, resources and gravity. These four criteria are useful for deciding whether to inhabit the planet or use it for extracting resources. For Sakkra race, they prefer setting on ocean-based planets instead of desert-esque planets. Moreover, high-gravity planets can limit players expansion and production as some buildings cannot be build in this environment.
However, Wargaming has made some tweaks and improvements to the UI to make it more accessible to a new generation. For example, there is a text search box so you can easily navigate the long tech tree; and a single interface to manage all of your planets. However, you still have the option to micro-manage each colony.
Micro-managing your colony can be either done manually or automatically. Players can set each planet to focus on either increasing their population number, improving their income of credit per turn, producing food for their race, gather more planetary resources, or increasing their production rate.
When shown gameplay of a game currently in session, where players has met with other races, we were shown a preview on the interactions between these races. While communication with these races, the animations of these leaders were outstanding – showing their personality through their body language and facial expression. The relationship between the player and the AI race were shown by a diplomacy meter.
In terms of availability, all we know that the game will be PC only. The team told us that they may consider releasing console versions if the community demands it. The game also doesn’t have a release schedule.
Master of Orion may be different to what Wargaming has produced in recent years, but they really want to make sure they get this right. They understand they have a huge responsibility to the fans.
I’m just hoping those the fans won’t be waiting long or stuck in development hell – like a certain game.