60 Minute Review* of…

Master of Orion 3

Tom's review: One of the most immediate facts about Master of Orion 3 is that, no matter where you turn, you'll run smack dab into a nearly impenetrable wall of numbers. Contrast this with SimTex's first two Master of Orion titles, affectionately dubbed MOO1 and MOO2. They relied on Sid Meier's Civilization model, in which icons were used to represent discrete and easy-to-understand units. One population point eats one grain bushel. Learning the wheel costs one hundred test tubes. Building the Great Pyramids takes one thousand of whatever those industry icons were supposed to be. The first two Master of Orion games used these sorts of immediately recognizable symbols, lined up neatly against backdrops of the planets that were creating them. It had personality and clarity.

Now comes MOO3. The following scenario features Real Numbers from the Actual Game: you harvest 970 minerals from seven dominant economic areas, of which 585 are used by the planet's 4,643 industry points to somehow create 3,778 production points. These production points are then used for the pair of production queues two screens deeper into the game at a rate according to a color-coded ratio of return, with a pollution penalty automatically figured in, not to mention the additional money, which is entirely separate from production points, that can be automatically allocated to these production queues from the different grants on the imperial economic adjustments panel four screen away where your imperial taxes are divvied up, as opposed to each planet's individual taxes, which are drawn from its gross domestic production, which is where I lost track of what was going on and officially have no idea how or even if this relates to my planet's production points, because I've long since lost interest in trying to figure out how the economy of MOO3 works. Not to worry. Your planetary viceroy takes care of all this.

From the manual: "Your planetary viceroy handles some construction tasks without informing you of the details." And by 'some construction tasks', it means 'all construction tasks'. You see that little 'Planet econ AI' checkbox? Don't think your viceroy will be deterred if you disable it with some silly notion of running the planet's economy yourself. He'll continue to build stuff on the planet however he sees fit, sometimes even overriding your choices. He will let you wade four screens deep into the production queue, which he'll kindly leave empty. Otherwise, your participation is the viceroy's way of humoring you. Your viceroy doesn't really need you bugging him. As far as he's concerned, your job is to hit the 'turn' button so the computer can get down to crunching all these numbers.


* Note: "60 Minute Review" is a riff on the title of Quarter to Three's short review format, which we called 60 Second Reviews. It is not a measure of how long I've played the game! I've completed three games on medium difficulty, each lasting well past 300 turns, and I've played into about a dozen more for varying amounts of time and at different difficulty settings.


February 21, 2003

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