Sonntag, 15. Januar 2012

Game V: Master of Orion III: The Ultimate Version

Game V: Master of Orion III: The Ultimate Version

The Recappening:

1. MO3 was the first true space strategy game I ever played. I played the hell out of it, then got bored out of my skull and shelved it for years.

2. I found out about something that made MO3 fun again.

3. I blathered on and on in my blog about MO3s many, many flaws (carriers of unending fighter support, super-rockets against weak-sauce shields, shit AI, DID I MENTIONED ALREADY: THERE ARE CARRIERS WITH AN UNENDING SUPPLY OF FIGHTERS! OK I DID? THEN I WILL STOP NOW WITH WRITING IN ALL CAPS.) And that stupid shit was only the mangled gameplay. But the apparently rushed production not only slaughtered the play-testing, it also produced many weird glitches. Trust me, if you play MO3 long enough, the behaviour of the game, especially the AI, will keep getting more strange. (And strangely enough, because of stupid things like leaky memory you need to be almost as patient as a saint to experience the truly dumb shit the game can throw at you -sooner or later a single round will go on forever. Or until your RAM runs out. Nowadays that can be quite hard to achieve, I guess. On my old PC that problem was maddening.)

4. In short: Vanilla MO3 is mostly only good as a method of torturing strategy gamers in hell.

5. Now I will start talking about Point 2.


Fake FAQ: How can Master of Orion 3: The tainted Reputation, be any good?

Well, there was that one time I was heavily medicated. Or in the very beginning, since I hadn´t known any better then.

But in truth I simply stumbled upon the website of a group of dedicated poor delusional fools... Sorry, I meant dedicated fans of MO3. Those strange entities had done the unthinkable and used the power of hope to combat MO3s shitiness. With the combined forces of a guy I can´t even remember the name of and their own huge balls they created the ultimate version of MO3. And aptly named it Ultimate Orion. (That should read Ultima Orion. But I think “Ultimate” sounds better.)

How does it work? First of, you need the one official patch for MO3. Afterwards, you can install Ultima Orion. The Mod comes complete with a german translation and a patcher, allowing you to manually patch many of the things that are plain wrong with vanilla MO3. You get also better graphics. You get better and more maps. If you want, you can now can use the new starter to change the order in which enemy AI-Races will appear. You want a map full of machine races? Just turn the AI-Players down to two and change the order of appearance to make Cynoids and/or Meklar first and second races.

Better still, if you don´t want some of the changes, or you disagree with them, you can use the patcher to change some things how you want -the nasty space rockets are to fast? Simply dial their speed down a bit.

All that stuff is of course only the beginning:

The guys and gals of Ultima Orion implemented stuff that was already there, but because of time issues was never used in vanilla MO3. Like religion for example. Finally you can play your Meklar like the true Atheist Abominations they are! All in all races in Ultima Orion behave more like their description in the background fluff -Ithkul allied with suicidal Humans? Not happening any more.

Space Torpedoes were severely weakened, but in exchange you got almost as powerful additional versions of the old ones with shorter range. Shields are now regenerating at a rate fast enough to turn real-time battles into actual battles, instead of the all-or-nothing approach of vanilla MO3. (There you either got Mutual Assured Destruction when both sides were evenly matched, or a short, boring slaughterfest if one side was only slightly stronger.) Combined with the better AI-Behaviour enemies will now actively try to flee if they are overmatched -and actually have a chance of succeeding with that. I can´t remember all the times when an overwhelmed task force in the vanilla version tried to flee but was horribly slaughtered because their useless shields all suddenly collapsed at once. I know that it is mostly a question of taste and what kind of SciFi you have grown up with. But my suspension of disbelieve never survived these battles.

Other new things: More techs, techs are now spread out over roughly double the number of tech levels. (Which means you now don´t have to update your blueprints every second round.) More and better balancing: Now you can get better versions of your point-defense mounts, preparing a nasty surprise for the more diverse versions of fighters you can get. The player set-up is better by a an order of magnitude. And since all races have their own little, hidden (and now actually working) quirks, you may experiment a while instead just using your preferred race over and over (not that that is a bad thing- I almost always use the Meklar, for example).

There is tons of stuff more I most likely keep forgetting. Not everything is roses however, Ultima Orion couldn´t rewrite the entire game, so some problems are just kind of repressed instead of replaced. The AI is better, but often it will still make decisions that are plain dumb in the long run, even if they are part of the fluff. (As an example: Ithkul or other aggressive races will often bombard your colonies as a kind of first encounter which will piss you off enough to wipe them out. But to be fair, that kind of metagaming would be hard even with the AI of today’s games.) Another annoying problem the mod is simply working around on: Your own AI will still try to flood your queues with ground units, but now it is forced to always build ten units at the same time. So you will have at least enough troops if you actually need them, instead of the old infuriating vanilla AI, which cluttered your queues with troops, but build not enough of them to actually prevent you from needing to build troops for yourself.

And of course, your AI will try to build the cheapest available ship. So if you don´t want a giant-ass useless fleet of unarmed reconnaissance-lancers, you still have to make every unwanted blueprint obsolete.

So Ultima Orion has still a few little flaws, but the game is actually fun now. Since the AI is now at least passable, you can now gladly (and still need to) relieve yourself of an overload of micro management and let your AI control your lower-tier worlds. And by the end of a long game, you may have hundreds of lower-tier worlds. Sure, you still need to fill out that weird spread sheet to tell your AI what it should do with your worlds. But you only need to that exactly one time. Afterwards, just save that rubbish and re-use it forever after.

In conclusion, if you were disappointed by Master of Orion III, try Ultima Orion. (And if you can´t read German, there is a less pretty workaround: Most of the problems of vanilla MO3 are already solved by someone called Bhruic. Use his stuff to prevent the kevorkian AI of vanilla MO3 in succeeding with its plans to make you commit suicide.)

My last comment? Vanilla MO3 is bad enough that it would have made me learn German if it weren´t my mother tongue already, just so that I could continue playing it without killing myself. Or destroying my PC in a fit of rage. Ultima Orion makes a bad game with good intentions good enough to be playable (well, playable with fun).

I almost forgot: It also implements a mechanism for allowing new star lanes to appear during a game. In UO, you aren´t actually limited to the ones you start with. And if you don´t like this mechanism, or if you want to change the chance of new star lanes appearing: Use the patcher that comes with Ultima Orion.

Here is a link if you want to test Ultima Orion for yourselves:

Next time: Something completely different.

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