this game is much different from the other 2 in the series but it's not such a bad game... rather it's a hard, very hard game to learn to play. It takes you quite a large amount of playthroughs to start understanding it's mechanics. I've still not mastered it yet xD
Master of Orion III Review
Master of Orion III is a disappointing follow-up to the two most significant space empire games ever.
Quicksilver's Master of Orion III is more complex than any of the previous games in the turn-based strategy series of interstellar conquest, and yet it lacks much of what made its predecessors such classics. The design relies on extensive automation to make it playable, and at its best, Master of Orion III succeeds in reducing the micromanagement that often plagues the later stages of games in this genre. But the combination of weak opponent AI, unappealing graphics, and having to second-guess the automation makes for an experience that is much less rewarding than you might hope, especially considering how much effort you must exert to get used to the game's complicated interface.
Many of the basic mechanics in Master of Orion III are the same as in the previous games. You start out in a lone system that's being orbited by a couple of scout ships and a colony ship. You start exploring and colonizing your corner of the galaxy and balance the need to build new colony ships against developing infrastructure so that you can build ships faster later on. Colonies take a long time to develop, depending on how suitable the worlds are for your species, and are pretty much defenseless early on. It won't be long before you bump into other species, though it may take a while to set up diplomatic relations, and you have to build military ships just to guard your fledgling territories and set up choke points to prevent other empires from sending colony ships to parts of space you'd rather consider your own. Early decisions determine the course of your empire, but there's really not a lot of action at this point in a game.
It can take a long time to make any progress in your first game of Master of Orion III. Not only does it take some effort to get used to the game's sprawling interface, but basic things like moving a ship to a location a few systems away or building a new colony ship can take a dozen turns, at least at first. And unlike other turn-based strategy games, Master of Orion III doesn't prompt you to advance turns when all your units have movement orders. The game's pace picks up only once you've started hitting the "next turn" button every few minutes, though you can at least research technologies that get your ships moving faster.
Master of Orion III may seem like a daunting game, but it's not a difficult one. Unfortunately, new players don't even get the luxury of a real tutorial to help them along. When you first boot up the game, you can choose the "quick game" option from the main menu to bypass the options for setting up a game and be dropped immediately into a large galaxy map. The closest thing to a tutorial is the "master's notes," a series of text boxes that appear on every new interface screen. The master's notes are long and dull to read, but they're still more useful than the game's manual, which was apparently printed long before the game was released and is rather outdated; in fact, the game's readme documentation file has a long list of manual errata. The manual's true purpose seems to simply be to relate the game's background story, which may satisfy a few extremely curious players but doesn't otherwise play much of a role in the game.
If you've ever wondered how big a galaxy really is, Master of Orion III's main 3D map should give you some idea. The game succeeds in conveying the truly massive scale of space, since playing a small, simple map just isn't an option. You can play a small cluster galaxy, but even this kind of map will be a ball-like cluster of 50 to 100 stars--a map you'll have to rotate about just to get a sense of how far each star is from its neighbor and how far your own civilization's borders extend. The standard spiral galaxy maps are actually simpler to play, since you can usually leave the universe locked in the overhead view.
This sense of scale carries over to many other parts of the game and contributes to the mazelike interface. There are eight major reference screens for elements like finance, diplomacy, and shipbuilding, and each one has at least two major window views. The important planetary management screen contains no fewer than six submenus to control the finance and infrastructure for one of many planets in your empire and to passively consult the demographics, local military status, and environment suitability. And there are separate expandable screens for the two build queues. While this setup does hide unnecessary details, it also forces you to open up even more screens before you can get to the production controls you need to get to most. Master of Orion III features AI automation that will carry out basic tasks for you, and this automation generally handles finance and basic infrastructure building fairly well, but it's pretty terrible at choosing military projects to build. As such, it's too bad the build queues aren't surfaced more prominently at the planet level and on the overview screen that lists all the planets in your empire. Still, there are ways to limit how often you need to tweak production, first by marking ship designs obsolete and then by adding orders to build five or 10 of something to the otherwise short three-slot queue.
The game's automation is arguably helpful and does keep Master of Orion III moving even when you're running an empire of 50 or more colonies--in these cases, letting less-than-competent AI automation take care of the details seems like a much more attractive prospect than micromanaging every last colony. However, the game's opponent AI is simply bad. In fact, it's actually difficult to lose a single-player game because of how rarely a computer-controlled empire will attack even completely undefended planets. The higher difficulty settings don't make the AI any more warlike, but they do make the other empires expand more effectively and defend their planets better. So instead of being a game about conquering the galaxy by fighting battles here and there, the real challenge in Master of Orion III is gobbling up new worlds faster than other empires and then grinding through the weak to moderate defenses of every other world on the map. There's not much reason for you to build your own defenses, such as orbital defenses or system ships--although planetary shields keep piracy and unrest down. The only defenses you really need to build are just to keep your opponents' pesky colony ships from getting to their destinations.