MoO3 mini-review

  • Khab 2 Mar 2003 06:48:08 6,583 posts
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    Well, after spending two nights with this, I thought I'd let you UK boys who won't get it 'til next week what the deal is.

    Sadly, it's less than splendid.
    The game itself is an interesting take on the space empire genre, choosing extreme macromanagement instead of the usual extreme micromanagement. This translates into setting lots of sliders, making a few more detailed plans, and keeping an eye on the empire as a whole.
    Initially there's not much to do, and playing rather feels like watching. Once there starts to be some competition about, things become more interesting, however. A very odd thing I encountered here was that where MoO2 had you make contact with other races as soon as you were within a few systems of them, MoO3 seems fit to deny you diplomatic contact with races tou may even have fought with. I've fought one or two battles each with the Klackons and the Meklar, two of my neighbours for quite a little while now, since I haven't been able to open negiotiations - because they refues to appear in the diplo screen. Not good.
    The whole ship-designing glory that was present in its predecessors has been eschewed for a system with taskforces, which doesn't translate into bery much fun. To create, say, a carrier taskforce, one must first design a carrier in the shipyard. There, you get to choose the size and type (Orbital, System or Starship) of the ship, and press 'Auto Build', and then 'Confirm'. Of course, you could choose the parts yourself, if you really wanted, but there's no real meaning to it, AFAICS.
    Having completed the design, it's a waiting game. By either upping your military spending and hoping, or by diving into the planetary build queues yourself, you manage to build a few carriers. Then to assign them to a taskforce.
    To do that, you click on a system (with a mobilization center) and choose 'Create taskforce'. Then you pick what kind of taskforce you want - a carrier one for us, then - and then press 'Auto Create'. This will make the AI pick ships from your reserves (ships built but not yet assigned) to the taskforce. Then you press 'Confirm'.

    This doesn't make shipbuilding much fun.

    What's worse, the user interface suffers from some of the most glaring misjudgements I've ever seen. For starters, the resolution is set at 800x600, and antialiasing cannot be turned off. This gets REAL blurry on a 19", let me tell you. Fortunately some thrifty person found some better font to replace the default ones with, and this makes things tolerable. The other problems are not so easy to fix, however. I made a list of the most glaring mistakes, in no particular order:

    * No system search function. - With 200+ systems, this is VERY annoying.
    * No autocomplete battle option when battle has been joined. - Watching a scout take out a Colony ship takes about 8 minutes.
    * When pressing the hyperlink from the SitRep -the turn report- to a system, there is no way to find out where that system is located. - This combined with the first, makes things hard.
    * All production queues are WAY to deep into the interface.
    * Double-clicking and having to wait for animations to get in and out of submenus is NOT GOOD.
    * Zooming on the galaxy map is useless, since all info disappears when not max zoomed in.
    * No way to merge/split taskforces without returning them to the reserves, waiting, and then re-forming them.
    * AFAIK there's no way to make an existing infantry unit (division, corps, etc.) embark on transports above. Both transports and army have to be formed (from the reserves) when they're to be assigned.
    * No way to make taskforces move through space with lowest common speed, ensuring they arrive together.
    * The limitations in taskforce formation are IMO idiotic, and completely ruin the point of having them in the first place. - Certain sizes of taskforce MUST have certain amounts of certain ships in them, or they cannot be formed.
    * NUMEROUS issues with the shipyard:
    - Having to completely redesign every ship every ten turns because there's no "update design" option.
    - Naming, missions, type, size options don't 'stick' - if I change one option the others might flip as well.
    - Names are too short - There's no fun killing Ithkul with a 'StrFriLR'.

    All in all, it's a good concept, a not-so-good execution, and a TERRIBLE presentation.
    I probably will end up taking Master of Orion 3 back to the store. I may well try it again in a few months or so, if the patches seem good, but for now, I'll hold on to my hard-earned.
  • JohnBye 2 Mar 2003 09:20:19 1,127 posts
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    Pity, I've wasted god knows how many hours on the original Master Of Orion. It's up there with Civilization in my all-time most played list.
  • FWB 2 Mar 2003 12:34:00 56,367 posts
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    A real shame. This was one of the big releases of 2003 for me and I was looking forward to it.
  • FWB 2 Mar 2003 15:09:12 56,367 posts
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    Well I will be picking it up anyway. I'm patient and willing to wait for patches, plus apart from EU2 and HoI I have no other strategy games keeping my attention.

    I assume, Khab, that it does have its good points? Anything positive stick out for you?
  • Khab 2 Mar 2003 15:35:45 6,583 posts
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    As I said in the review, the macromanagement, when it works, is really good - it's fun to run your empire, and nudge it in the right directions, and it's fun to watch your ships fight others, once you get larger numbers. Of course, You can only have a mximum of 16 ships in a taskforce, and you'll be using hundreds if not thousands of ships late in the game - meaning you have to form hundreds of "Armadas" of 16 ships each...
    As I said, the concept of macromanagement is sound and fun, the execution of the idea is ok, but the UI and the general bother it is to actually do things kills it off for me. Do try it if you can get it from a place that accepts returns though, because (as a lways) YMMV.

    I WAS excited about this, and I really liked (not loved, mind) it the first 8-10 hours. But then the daft design started to wear on me.

    As someone on the Apolyton forums said: At some points in the game when Energy Tech is just streaming in - I have to redesign ships every 2 Turns!?! There's an AI for every other function of micromanagement!
  • FWB 2 Mar 2003 15:40:31 56,367 posts
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    So I take it most of the faults can be fixed with patches? Its not huge game flaws that ruin it but lots of little annoying designs?
  • Khab 2 Mar 2003 21:03:14 6,583 posts
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    Soemthing like that, but others annoyances are basic design decisions, such as the placement of the build queues, the ship design and the taskforce creation.
    I must admit I HOPE they'll be able to patch at least some of the items on my list, but some of them strike me as 'features', not bugs.

    Do try it, though - it's certainly worth trying it.
  • Whizzo 2 Mar 2003 21:09:39 44,807 posts
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    Reading through the official forum is quite an eye opener, it appears practically nothing works very well and it seems to have been designed by people who don't actually like enjoying themselves. The AI being found never to invade one of your planets seems frankly bizarre! Best to avoid this like the plague by the looks of things.

    Edited by Whizzo at 21:10:01 02-03-2003
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