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Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares

Master of Orion II is playable in DosBox, and is, as of 2017, still one of the better space strategy games.

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Edited: 2018-03-27 18:46

Master of Orion II is a turn based strategy game that takes place in space. The goal of the game is to become the supreme ruler of the galaxy.

Normally I do not enjoy turn based games as much as real time strategy games, but Master of Orion 2 is an exception, another is Heroes of Might and Magic 2. However, I do not enjoy them enough to actually play them very often.

What I dislike about turn based games is that they tend to reach point where they stop being fun to continue playing. Either because other players have become too strong, or because they are too weak, and nothing is left to explore. Also, what you do from that point on, matters little in deciding the outcome of the game.

MOO2 is a challenge, and perhaps one of the most challenging games I have played. It forces you to think about even the tiniest of details, and every turn you make.

The Gameplay

I have still yet to beat the game on the higher difficulties, and fully understand what is happening doing a game. Sometimes the enemy appears to suddenly have huge fleets, and I have no idea how it happened. So far, I have only managed to win on average. Anything below, and I think the game becomes to easy. While I do try to increase the difficulty, the rest of my settings will be the same.

Tech level Difficulty Galaxy size
Pre warp Average Huge

I prefer pre warp, since I enjoy researching all the technologies. Sadly, the tech system in MOO2 forces you choose between different techs, so if you research one tech, you will usually not be able to research others. This is a big problem, since you will often have to choose between researching Fuel Cell techs, or stronger ship hulls.

There seems to be very little activity early on, which is a shame, because you do not really get to exercise those lower tech weapons much. Sadly, space monsters are also very strong, and you need a fairly big fleet to take out just a single space monster. It is incredibly frustrating when you do not understand why you are failing.

The Galaxy is too small to make up for the rapid expansion in the game, even on a setting of Huge. This usually results in AI players killing each other before you get to interact much with them. In longer games, this can mean that you end up facing just one or two enemies.

Voting in the game. Every now and then, the galaxy will cast a vote on who will become the leader, which will end the game. This is more an annoyance than a fun aspect to the game. I always abstain on those votes. Another frustration like this is that you can warp into the Antarans home world, defeat them, and win the game.

Spying is an incredibly annoying aspect of the game, which in my opinion almost ruins the game entirely. At least the way it is implemented. Sadly, you can do very little to defend against spying, except to waste resources constantly building spies. Even then, at some point the enemy AI always seem to catch up.

Hidden effects that are hard to understand unless you read about them online, or in the game manual. For example, miniaturization of cost and size of warship components happens when you research more stuff in the same technology three. This is not mentioned in the game, and it takes a while before you realize what is going on. It can be a good idea to read a strategy guide before playing the game on harder difficulties.

Despite the many annoyances, and it now being a very old game, if you enjoy space games, it might still be worth a try. Especially since there are not many games in this category.

Other space strategy games

The first space strategy game I tried was Reunion (1994). A game my dad brought for me when I was a kid. It is also a very hard game, but I liked it so much that I somehow managed to beat it. I was very disappointed that Reunion 2 was never developed, even though strongly hinted in the end. But that is just how it is.

Dungeon Keeper 3 is another of such disappointments. But maybe for the better, since Dungeon Keeper 2 has severe problems with crashes and flickering graphics, and to this day, still does not work very well on modern computers. Not to mention the broken 16:9 implementation.

The main problems with Reunion also has to do with crashes. But, in addition, it also has a very annoying anti-piracy check later in the game. All the answers to the anti-piracy checks are available in the game manual, but still very annoying.

Problems and solutions

Both games seem to suffer from occasional problems when played in DosBox. I do not remember if Reunion used to crash as much when played in native DOS, but it had problems with EMS memory, and I do remember it crashed (which was frustrating to a kid with very limited patience). Therefor, save often!

Another problem, which I think is specific to DosBox, is that sometimes it will report that you have thousands of satellite carriers (Reunion), or Colony Ships (MOO2). It is strange this happens in both games, so maybe it has something to do with the way the games are doing basic math.

It could also be a bug with the version posted at different abandonware websites, so you may want to try and obtain an original copy or .iso of the CDs. The internet archive sometimes has these copies, which can be freely downloaded.

Often you will also be able to get older games from gog.com or steam.

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