4/8 – Master of Orion

Hello and welcome. My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Today’s game is the original entry in the classic 4X space series, Master of Orion. Developed by MicroProse, Master of Orion was originally released on MS-DOS and Mac OS in 1993.

Master of Orion is a turn-based 4X game where players must take control of one of a number of  space-faring civilizations, each with different strengths and weaknesses. The player is then dropped into a galactic map where they must research new technologies and explore new star systems,, all while managing diplomacy with the other empires. Unlike more modern examples of the genre, Master of Orion does not feature multiplayer so players can only play against the AI.

Like most 4X games, Master of Orion puts players in control of many different aspects of their civilization. They must build military units to defend their empire or attack and take over another’s. Players must also manage the planets they control by making sure the population has enough food, are able to produce additional structures and bonuses for the empire, and are happy with the way you are ruling your empire.

When the player meets another empire, they are able to perform a number of diplomatic actions. They can offer gifts or demand tribute, sign trade agreements for technology or production, offer non-aggression pacts or peace treaties and a number of other options. Each race comes pre-determined with their own AI regarding diplomacy. Some races are predisposed to like some races more than others so diplomacy can change drastically based on which races the AI opponents choose.

Master of Orion was not the first 4X game, games in the genre had been coming out for over a decade prior, but it was the game that originally coined the term. A preview in Computer Game World described gameplay as following the 4X’s, explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. This phrase has then been retroactively applied to a number of games such as Civilization and Reach for the Stars.

Master of Orion received mostly positive reviews when it was released. While the graphics were often seen as primitive, even for the time, the game mechanics were praised, with many naming it as strategy game of the year. Retrospective reviews are still positive for the game but it is often overshadowed by its sequel, Master of Orion 2, which is commonly held up as one of the greatest strategy games ever made. Still, there are some who still appreciate the intentional lack of balance a single player-only game can provide so to this day, Master of Orion 1 still has it’s devotees.

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