Empire simulations. Maybe you never heard that term. That is because I just invented it. Of all the strategy games on the market, the ones I preferred the most were the turn-based empire builders, similar to Civilization. I don’t know, there is just a special kind of fun when you control the lives of millions during thousands of years.
But long before we had the chance to even play on chequered boards with nice graphics, we had Master of Orion. This one is set in a distant future, where multiple races lived in a dark age and now it is up to you to bring them together again or, as some of us love it, exterminate them (video game genocide… now that sounds real bad!). It was published By MicroPose in 1993 for the PC.
The simulation had close to no graphics. It played mostly on a map with different stars scattered around it. Each star represented a star system (much like the Solar System) in which there was a probability of a planet looming , although not all were immediately habitable. After founding a few colonies you finally found the first race and then you have to trade with them and create treatises.
Now, the complexity of this game was incredible. What I specially liked was the technology tree, which did not have differing paths as we see on modern time strategy games, but technically was endless, since they resorted just to heighten the bonus. You could easily research a technology to make your factories better and had, at least, nine versions of this, each one better than the other. Also, you could research many things at the same time!
Also the best feature was the ability to design you own spaceships. I think that alone made the game just great. Just check it out! The more technologies you researched, the more possibilities you could get to make better, faster, more powerful vessels to make the enemies kneel before you. Can you imagine a Civilization like this?
Now, as far as I have heard, there were two sequels, of which I only played the second. Master of Orion deepened the strategy by putting actual planets on the system, as well as including some strange race that randomly attacked you. The last one was annoying, although you could turn that off.
Somehow, the deepened strategy ended up being not attractive at all to me. There were more nice graphics, but the game became even slower and it was annoying to explore each planet on each system, which is why I stopped playing it. It is a perfect example in which deeper strategy and better graphics do NOT make a good game.
What about the third part? I never played it, I am not even sure that it exists, but I stopped playing after the second Master of Orion.
I do recommend the first game. It is now an Abandonware, which means that you can play it for free legally. Just make sure you get the latest version of DosBox to emulate it, since it is a very old PC game.
May they smile upon your way!