Master of Orion

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Master of Orion Game Poster Image
Colorful space strategy with tongue-in-cheek humor.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Positivity depends on your approach. Peace-loving players can win through research, diplomacy, taking care of their citizens. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

You're your own role model, other characters' goodness depends on diplomatic relations. 

Ease of Play

Can be difficult at first to grasp rules, understand strategies.

Violence

Warfare central to gameplay, but consists of automatically-resolved battles or abstract fights between geometric icons. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Master of Orion is a downloadable sci-fi 4X strategy game ( "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate") that sets players at the head of a human or alien race. The point of the game is to build a civilization, research technology, explore other planets, collect resources, and, ultimately, colonize the galaxy. Players can choose to dominate in various ways -- through economic trade, diplomacy, or warfare -- although the strategy and rules can be a bit difficult to grasp at first. Violence is central to warfare, but it's shown via abstract geometric shapes, and battles are automatically resolved without any blood or gore shown.

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What's it about?

MASTER OF ORION doesn't start with a story but rather lets the player create one. Gamers are given the choice of 10 races (11 in the collector's edition), a home planet, and rudimentary resources with which to start building their empires. Winning depends on several things: exploring the galaxy, gathering resources, and colonizing other planets. Of course, other races are doing the same thing and that means having military might not only to stake your claims but also to defend what's yours.

Is it any good?

This is a high-production-value remake of 1993's original strategy game, and it's a well-observed, loving tribute to that classic. This turn-based strategy game gives players a broad range of important decisions to make, most of which revolve around resources, such as how to find, collect, and use them. Each of the 10 races has different traits that theoretically affect their success at various things, and each race has numerous options when it comes to dominating the galaxy.

Though the learning curve is somewhat steep for players brand-new to the 4X strategy genre, Master of Orion's single-player tutorial campaign gives them a chance to learn the ropes before taking on the main game's more savvy AI or jumping into online competition. The graphics and sound are exceptional, and a healthy sense of humor (rare in strategy games) is readily apparent during diplomacy sequences and in the game's many breaking news updates. Researching technology and exploring planets is fun, especially when anomalies appear or rumors abound of dangerous space monsters hovering in certain sectors. Less fun is the lackluster space combat, which can be manually controlled but is visually bland, and the tedious mid-game feels like one long countdown. (The latter has always plagued traditional 4X games, and Master of Orion hasn't solved it.) Still, there's enough here to keep intro-to-mid-level players interested for a good long while, and if you want to up the ante, you need only jump online and challenge some real-live players.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about starting a civilization. What's more important at first: gathering resources or building defenses?

  • Think about taxes. Why do governments collect taxes, and what are they used for?

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $29.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: WG Labs
  • Release date: August 25, 2016
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Mild Cartoon, Fantasy or Mild Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes.

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love strategy

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