PowerMac 7600/120

Master of Orion II
Reviewed by Cale Corbett

Master of Orion II is saddled with the same sort of baggage many games of its genre: clunky interface and distinct lack of originality. I will touch more on the interface issues later in the review, but for now, let's focus on the aspect of originality. Not only is Master of Orion II very much like other space and land-based strategic games (like Civilizations I & II), it is hauntingly similar to the original Master of Orion. Granted, the graphics, sounds and gameplay in general has improved over the original, it is not a radical enough departure to entice this rather jaded gamer into calling it "insanely great." Yet, given all that, it is still a fun game to play and has provided me with hours of visceral thrills in the past two weeks.

The game has varying levels of difficulty, from a hand-holding level to a level that only the most masochistic gamer could tolerate.

One serious issue for gameplay for seemingly hundreds of Macintosh Master of Orion II players has been the glacial pace at which the game seems to crawl in many places. Many have complained the mouse pointer jerks and jumps around the screen. Others have noted that the further the game progresses, especially with larger galaxies and more players, the longer it takes for control to be returned to the gamer. Some have reported lags of two minutes or more on relatively new and speedy Macintoshes. A few have pointed out that turning off Virtual Memory speeds game play significantly, but for many with little RAM this is not always an option.

Graphics and Sound
The graphics and sound in this game are polished, refined and professional. The game is spiced up with the occasional scene of a planet being bombarded, massive fleets of enemy vessels pulling up alongside your system and other little surprise morsels thrown in for good measure. The sound is smooth, clear and crisp. Unlike most games of this type, the background music is not annoying and distracting.

The interface is rated rather low for two important reasons. One, the interface is clunky, PC-like and two, the Finder is conspicuously absent during game play. You are literally stuck with quitting the game to get back to the Finder unless you have installed a third party application-switching extension. Such issues may be complete non-issues for PC gamers, but we Mac gamers expect a little something more from our games, a pleasant and easy to use interface.

Difficulty and Replayability
This game has (as noted above) varying levels of difficulty, with enough to keep all but the most serious strategy gameplayer hopping. Given that the game has so many levels, races and the option to create your own custom race (with various abilities and disabilities) you can expect to have many hours of rewarding gameplay. If nothing else, experimenting and battling with the many thousands of spacecraft combinations alone could consume years.

Many 68k Mac gamers have reported Type 28 errors while playing Master of Orion II, particularly when changing production targets. I have seen very few, if any, similar complaints from PowerMac users. Overall, this is a stable, and competent port.

This game is a decent, solid, if rather uninspired creation. It is no secret from the interface or the gameplay that it is a PC port. However, it is a fun, engaging and sometimes downright engrossing distraction from daily life. If you enjoy games of this type, pick it up.