Gaming - A lost art

I had high hopes for a remake of an old classic. Master of Orion 1/2. This is the game by which all other space 4x strategy games are measured by. But what happens when the devs take the wrong path with the relaunch of the new one? You end up with a disappointed fan base that continue playing a 20+ year old game because nothing has come close to replacing it. I'm one of those fans because the 20+ year old game has better game play than the modern version.

So what went wrong?

One thing really, the lack of tactical combat (or turn based combat). You see, when you play chess, each player has a turn. Sometimes you might take a bit of time working out your move before you take it; but the key thing is, you each have a turn. Now imagine trying to play chess where you didn't have to wait for the other person. Imagine if you had 5 or 6 turns before they even moved a piece. What if it were reversed? Now you can see that playing chess in this manner makes no sense whatsoever.

Now don't get me wrong, I like RTS (real time strategy) as well, and it has its place. But for games like Master of Orion, you must have tactical combat. The reason for this is that you design your own ships with their load and fit out. The ships you design have specific purposes, the same as the type of weapons you place on them. For instance I would typically have these types of ships in my fleet:

  • A lightly armoured missile ship with 2 shot missiles. These are designed to stay in combat for their 2 turns (1 turn if I have fast reload missiles) before exiting the battle. They're designed for an initial massive hit.
  • A general purpose combat ship. Designed to survive to the end and have good fire power
  • A support / planetary defence ship. Maybe relegated 2nd or 3rd tier ships used to help a star base or planetary defence. These are generally used to defend against surprise attacks or if I'm spread a little thin
  • A point defence ship. Designed with point defence weapons to take out missiles, fighters and assault ships. Generally this ship is indestructible, and if I'm lucky it draws most of the attention of the enemy (away from my combat ships).
  • A suicide frigate. In desperation I may have suicide frigates (or old scouts), they don't pose much of a threat but if you self destruct it can cause a massive explosion that affects the ships nearby. Useful for taking out large swathes of fighters, missiles etc or targeting larger ships and their shields.
  • Capture ships. Designed to board and capture ships. They might have assault transports, boarding capabilities. Definitely an assortment on Neutron blasters (kills marines), and useful for boarding star bases or larger ships. Generally used in conjunction with a general purpose ship that attacks the shields.
  • Ion ships. Used to overload the drive and cause massive explosion (affecting other nearby ships). Also useful for disabling starbases and used in conjunction with a general purpose combat ship which can lower the shields first.
  • Decoy ships or 3rd tier ships. Ships that haven't been updated for a while. These might be the scarificle lamb so to speak. Excellent in multiple player because it gives the enemy a false sense or your weakness / their superiority.
  • Stealth bombers. Used for covert operations where they don't show up on screen (for multiplayer) and destroying undefended outposts. My friends would get upset because they would lose their outposts but not know how / why.

Here is the problem. There is no point in going to this sort of effort in designing a ship / fleet if you don't have the control in combat. I need to

  • Tell which ships to go where (and when)
  • What weapons to use, the ship and their fire order (i.e. weapons to knock out shields first, then weapons to decimate onboard marines/systems etc).
  • How to turn the ship (place stronger shields in the line of fire)
  • Which ships to board (and when)

You simply can't do that in real time combat. You end up with C&C or Total Annihilation type combat; which works for those games because you're not designing your units with specific fire orders or targets in mind. I might add both those games are great, and in some cases the best in the genre.

So without tactical combat in Master of Orion I'm not buying, and there are many other people not buying either. Just compare the reviews from MOO2 to the newly revamped version, and you'll see that they well and truly managed to stuff it up!

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