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Video Game / Master of Orion

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Master Of Orion is a turn-based 4X strategy game set in space. Players select a race and make decisions that would spell either the supremacy of their race or its destruction. They are not alone in the vast ocean of space, with other races controlled by the AI (or other players) attempting to do the same.

Throughout the galaxy, there are worlds filled with the Lost Technology left behind by the Precursors. Legend still speaks of the lost capital of their empire, Orion itself, filled with technological treasure for the taking of whoever can defeat its Guardian...

The game is famous for its ship designing feature, where everything from the hull to the components available are taken from the research decisions that the player makes, which is dependent on the selected race's bent toward a particular mindset, and thus technological focus.


Victory is achieved by winning a popularity contest, or by conquering the galaxy. The second and third games feature a third winning condition.

By default, the entries below refer to Master of Orion II: Battle At Antares, easily the most popular of the series nowadays. Many of the tropes also apply to one or both of the other games as well.

A port called Starbase Orion was released for iOS based on the series, which has since been expanded thanks to player feedback.

On 9 June 2015, Wargaming (of World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, and World of Warships fame) unveiled their revival/reboot of the game, Master of Orion: Conquer The Stars. The game was released in August 2016.

A Fan Remake of the original game, called Remnants of the Precursors, is also in the works. It's currently in open beta and available here.


The game series provides examples of:

  • 2-D Space: In the first two games, the galaxy maps and space combat all take place on a 2D plane. There's some use of the third dimension in the third game, but nothing that absolutely requires it.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: MoO 3 demonstrated very well just why many aspects of running an empire are simplified or abstracted in 4X games, and almost as well why the rest aren't.
  • The Alliance: Confederation governments, an advanced form of the Feudal Future.
  • All There in the Manual: While all of the game manuals contain backstory that has little to no effect on the game itself beyond establishing things like Orion (and later the Antarans), the manual for MoO 3 includes an expansive and intricate history of the galaxy, complete with a complicated system for establishing the galactic date, leading up to the events of the game.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Generally averted, since the game allows you to have more ships than your command points allow, although it comes at a hefty economic penalty. Played straight with Doom Stars in Conquer the Stars, where any player is limited to one at a time. This prevents players from having a fleet entirely made up of Doom Stars.
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: In MoO 2, lasers and almost all other energy weapons have range-based damage penalties due to bloom, but mass drivers, gauss guns, Disruptors, and the Stellar Converter do not. However, all weapons in the Master Of Orion series do have a maximum range that's not a direct function of ship's hit probability.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: In MoO 2, some weapons can be made in armor-piercing variants (and some in shield-piercing, for that matter) so that damage that passes through armor/shields is applied to the target ship's structure/internals immediately. The piercing effects of guns with the Armor Piercing mod can be negated by heavy and Xentronium armor, but neither can protect against an attacker equipped with an Achilles Targeting Unit device. Shield piercing weapons can be stopped from bypassing existing shields with the Hard Shields device.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI can be pretty damn clever, especially on Impossible difficulty.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • The AI couldn't design a good ship if its life depended on it, and its vessel designs invariably tend towards the Master of None.
    • The autobuild option in the second game. It seems to have some sort of priority system, but they rarely align with yours — if you wanted a colony to stop building things and produce trade goods instead, you'd surely have done that yourself.
    • A major factor behind the third game's failure was attempting to force the player into a top-down managerial role, leaving the details of planetary development to an AI that honestly wasn't up to the task. Because of this, instead of reducing micromanagement (which was the goal), the game ended up multiplying it exponentially.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Pretty much ubiquitous in the setting. If a rival leader is even mildly annoyed at you, you can expect their ambassadors to treat you in a condescending and often outright insulting manner. One especially egregious case is in the first game when you ask another empire to exchange technologies with you. If either party does not have anything to offer, the other empire's ambassador will insult your technology, regardless of your current relations with that empire, or even if they are the more technologically primitive side.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Not so much for ships, but in the first game the player can, with luck, use asteroid patches in the combat screen to thin out incoming missiles.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Ships can be put in various formations in the 2016 game during combat, with certain benefits for each (e.g. increased point-defense, higher beam damage).
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Death Ray in the first game. It can deal up to 1000 points of damage, but only against one ship at a time. It's also bulky enough that until very late in the game you can't fit it into anything smaller than a Large hull, which makes it extremely ineffective against the giant stacks of Small or Medium ships the AI likes to throw at you. Averted with the Death Ray and particle cannon of the second game, both of which are also randomly awarded upon defeating the guardian and both of which are useful for most of the game. There, the Stellar Converter is the flashy but horribly inefficient late-game weapon.
    • Antarean and Orion technology have great stats and abilities, but they can't be miniaturized by improving tech levels. You can get far more damage by simply loading up on disruptors.
  • Beef Gate: The Guardians in all the games; each one an incredibly powerful automated warship left to guard Orion from any intruders.
  • Big "NO!": In MoO 2, you hear this when a ship bearing a leader is killed in battle, and the dead ship's owner hasn't researched Survival Pods tech, which allows you to retrieve a leader as long as at least one ship survives the battle.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Silicoids are able to land on and colonize hostile environment planets without the need to research specialized habitats. They are mineral lifeforms, after all. On the other hand, they reproduce very slowly and are virtually unable to communicate with other races.
  • Blob Monster: One of the game's random events is being attacked by a space amoeba.
  • Boarding Party: Enemy ships that have had their engines disabled and space stations can be boarded and captured. A ship can be boarded at distance without immobilizing, using transporters (if shields are down) or assault shuttles (though they're vulnerable to point defence). Like captured colonies, captured enemy ships can give you access to technology you either chose not to research or have not researched yet, when you scrap them at one of your systems.
  • Boring, but Practical: Since weapons become cheaper and take up less space as you climb the Technology Tree, a ship with a lot of weapons a generation or two behind current technology will often be cheaper and have vastly more firepower than one with a few ultimate weapons.
  • Bug War: What happens when you get involved in hostilities with the Klackons.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Travel between planets is as simple at it gets. You just click on your destination and the ship goes there with no problems. The only limitation is the distance from your closest colony and your level of fuel technology.
  • Cleavage Window: In the first game, the Mrrshan ambassador has an outfit that does little to hide her... vast tracts of land, including one of these. The 2016 game goes with Absolute Cleavage instead for the Mrrshan Empress.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: For the Human empire in Master of Orion II. The leader portrait for the Human faction is Patrick Stewart, and on the "new technology acquired" screens, the animated figures presenting the new toys are drawn to resemble Sean Connery (as a lead scientist if the tech was researched by you) and Willem Dafoe (as a commando with a prosthetic arm if the tech was captured in battle from another empire).
  • Command & Conquer Economy:
    • The original game abstracted management enough to avert the trope. MoO3 was a deliberate experiment to subvert the trope by forcing players to only give high-level orders and rely on AI subordinates. For most, the experiment failed.
    • The second game plays this straight (in the style of Civilization). You have to give orders to construct any particular building (from barracks to space station). On the other hand, you could let the AI handle construction... in which case you end up with a planet full of farmers trying to build a Doomstar.
    • The third game tried to find a middle ground, where the player could set general, empire-wide "Development Plans" for different categories of worlds while leaving the AI to manage the specifics. It failed.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Played with the humans and the Terrans in the 2016 game. Their stats, abilities, and goals are different, but their ship designs are virtually identical, except regular humans use the Everything Is An I Pod In The Future color scheme, while the Terrans use darker shades and add menacing red lines.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Psilon aesthetic in Conquer the Stars. Their leader, the Controller, is shown wearing robes in a brightly-lit room curved room with plenty of windows and some strange glowing contraption spinning in the center. The music is decidedly New-Agey. Even the Controller's voice is a soothing baritone.
  • Cultured Badass: The Mrrshan, at least in the original and reboot. The new description points out that, while still proud warrior race guys while at war, they also enjoy the fine arts, and produce much sought-after art, architecture, and fashion when they're at peace.
  • Death Ray: One of most powerful beam weapon techs in the game; the Infinity +1 Sword the player (hopefully) wins for defeating the Guardian of Orion.
  • Defenseless Transports: Troop transports cannot be customized or armed in any way, and are automatically destroyed if they encounter hostile ships with no proper warships around.
  • Deflector Shields: In the first game, shields serve as a form of Damage Reduction. The second game has shields sectored into quadrants and regenerating.
  • Demoted to Extra: The fate of many playable species in the second game that were axed from the third. They weren't removed from the game entirely, but rather demoted to "Magnate (minor) Race" status, meaning that although their colonies could be added to your empire, they themselves weren't playable.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Ships can be freely designed by the player, though several systems (engine, computer, shields, armor) default to the best available tech. The system is revamped in the 2016 reboot, with ships now having a limited number of slots for weapons and systems in addition to the size limitation, which may or may not have been inspired by the Starbase Orion iOS port.
  • Disc-One Nuke: In the second game, defeating the Guardian not only gives you access to the planet and several unique technologies, but also the highly advanced battleship Avenger, commanded by Admiral Loknar, the Last Orion. With some effort and a few specific tech choices, it's possible to accomplish this early enough in the game that the ship alone can wipe out entire enemy empires.
    • Build battleships or cruisers in which every available cubic centimeter of space is devoted to gyro destabilizers. Gyro destabilizers ignore shields (including Hard Shields) and armor (including Heavy and Xentronium armor), cannot be shot down by point-defense weapons or lightning fields, and deal damage based on the size of the target ship, with the Guardian being the second-largest ship size in the game.
  • Early Game Hell: The game is brutal at the start. Your starting technology is absolute garbage, and it takes a long time to research anything better. Expansion is extremely constrained by your lack of fuel technology, as well the agonizing amount of time it takes to build colony ships, and if you aren't playing the as the Silicoids, many planets will be impossible to colonize until you research upgraded versions of the colony base.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Stellar Converter weapon in MoO 2 gives your ships the ability to to turn enemy planets into asteroid belts.
  • Easy Logistics: Subverted by the nature of the game. While the fleet itself is automatically supplied, the need to get reinforcements to it forces the player to think in logistical terms; for instance if you have a raiding fleet cutting a swath through the enemy a long ways from your home worlds, you often need to order it to a rendevous point to meet incoming reinforcements. If done well the rendevous can be the same world where you plan to launch a strike.
  • Eat Dirt, Cheap: The Silicoids and custom Lithovore races can survive without having to grow any food, making them especially effective on dead but mineral-rich worlds early in the game.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Conquered races' population units retain their stats, and captured ships join your fleet after the battle (or during battle, if your race is Telepathic).
  • Enemy Mine: The canon version of the second game (according to the third game's manual) deconstructs this trope. The playable races allied together to strike at the Antaran "homeworld" (actually just a forward base) and won. The Antarans laid low for a bit while the alliance fractured over possession of the technology captured in the campaign, then swept in after the resulting wars to pick up the pieces.
  • Epic Hail: The intro to MoO 2.
  • Excuse Plot: Averted in the third game, where the developers made an effort to create a detailed backstory. Sadly, with the gameplay as unbalanced and broken as in MoO 3, it is hard to enjoy it.
  • Extra Turn: In MoO 2, ships equipped with the Time Warp Facilitator get an extra turn in the ship combat screen, before the other side gets to take their turn. Makes a very deadly combination with Phasing Cloak (if the ship doesn't attack, it becomes untouchable at the end of its turn).
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • In MoO 2, planets with a mixed population of races (from moving colonists between worlds) gets a morale penalty that can be fixed with an Alien Control Center. In MoO 3, there are hardwired bonuses and penalties to diplomacy between certain races. Everyone hates the Harvesters, except the New Orions, who only mildly dislike them.
    • The Meklar in MoO 3 were so convinced that they were perfect in every way that they came to hate all organic life forms.
    • But the big one definitely goes to the Antarans.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Drives are required to travel certain distances between two stars. As drive tech progresses, ships are able to cover the distances in less time. Meanwhile, advances in fuel are required to travel further without refueling at your planets or outposts.
  • The Federation: Democratic governments, especially in their advanced form, called... Federation.
  • Feudal Future: One of the government options, which gives discount on ship production but aren't able to take full advantage of morale boosts available to dictatorships.
  • Fiction 500: The leaders with the "Megawealth" trait will pay you to work for you, to the tune of one or two gross planetary products.
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: Biological weapons will drop your relations with every other species in the galaxy. Nobody cares about any other means of committing planetary genocide, though, or even the Stellar Converter.
  • Final Solution: Unless you are a democracy, when you capture a planet, you have the option of exterminating the populace. You can also simply nuke the place from orbit, regardless of your government type.
  • Flying Saucer: Psilon ships use this aesthetic in the 2016 game.
  • 4X:
    • A review of the first game was the Trope Namer.
    • MoO 3 was billed as a "5X game", with the 5th X being "eXperience".
  • Game Mod: One of the few strengths of the third game was its ease of modifying the game, as most of the game data is stored in spreadsheets that (once you figure out how to access them) are fairly easy to modify.
  • Gameplay Automation: MoO 3 attempted to place more emphasis on top-down management through empire-wide Development Plan categories that could be customized to an extent, leaving the AI-controlled planetary governors to actually build improvements. Unfortunately, the AI was not up to the task.
  • Genesis Effect: Planetary Construction tech in MoO 2, which turns asteroid belts and gas giants into colonizable Artificial Planets.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The Biology tree thrives on this, and of course Evolutionary Mutation takes the cake by actually allowing you to change one or more racial traits for your species.
  • Giant Mecha: Battleoids, a mid-game construction technology replaces tanks with these. Awesome, but Impractical, since orbital bombardment renders ground combat irrelevant.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In the third game, the Harvester Project. It was an attempt by the Antarans to create a sentient bioweapon that could kill any species. It started with them.
  • The Greys: Psilons. They're actually rather nice, but don't get on their bad side. They would rather sit back and do research... and have the advantage of gaining all the technologies in a given category (instead of one to two of them). So, if you go to war against them thinking your new Battleship is going to wipe them out, they roll out a Doomstar and blow up a few planets.. Beware the Nice Ones indeed...
  • Hard-Coded Hostility:
    • The Antarans, in every game.
    • In Master of Orion II, the Silicoid are a borderline case. They have the Repulsive flaw, which limits their diplomacy option to war, peace, and surrender. In practice, this meant they wouldn't ally with anyone, declare war frequently, and nothing but the most crushing military steamrolling of their fleets/worlds would get them to sue for peace or surrender. And since they had no diplomatic options like offering money, worlds, technology or tithes, (nor demanding them) once war is declared, things tend to stay that way.
    • Master of Orion III has both the Antarans occupying the Orion system, and the Harvesters. Neither can be effectively negotiated with. The Harvesters (who use other alien species as food) will declare war on any neighbor (even other Harvester factions) fairly quickly, will refuse any offer for peace, and never make alliances. The Antarans generally stay in the Orion system and never expand or settle outside of it, but occasionally will send a huge fleet to attack a planet or system outside the Orion system, for no stated or apparent reason, then withdraw the fleet back (unless the attackee or other power destroys it). They will not engage in or respond to any diplomacy.
  • Healing Factor: If your race is cybernetic, or you have the Automated Repair tech (or both), your ships can repair damage during a fight. In the second game, leaders having the Engineer trait can also repair the ship they're assigned to, as well as giving an increase to the shield regeneration rate. Generally speaking, however, this is only useful in the early game. As technology progresses, firepower increases exponentially while ship durability only increases at a linear rate, resulting in much shorter (often one-turn) battles.
  • Homing Projectile: Missiles track their targets, and in MoO2 with modifications can switch to a new target when the original is destroyed or specifically attack the target ship's engines, disabling it for capture attempts.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Antarans from MoO 2. They have access to some powerful technologies that are unique to themselves, but there's a limit to the size of ships they have and they don't have standard force field technology, so they're easy enough to destroy or even capture to reverse engineer their tech.
  • Hive Mind:
    • Another government option, and the preferred choice for the insectoid Klackon race.
    • The iOS port has an interesting take on this. The Vass are a collective consciousness, but only as long as they're close. This means that planets with low populations receive a penalty to all production, while planets with high populations receive a bonus. Interesting, this has no effect on ships. This ability can also be picked for a custom race.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The Terran Khanate in the 2016 game embodies this trope, seeking to dominate the galaxy at any cost. They are different from the normal humans (whose hat is diplomacy), which are also present in the game.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: In the third game, a ship technically could go "off-road," but doing so took far longer than using the predefined star lanes. On occasion it would allow one to bypass chokepoints, like systems defended by a Guardian. This comes back in the 2016 "reimagining", where ships travel to other systems via "warp points". The only way to go "off-road" is if you happen to locate a strange artifact in deep space. You can then send a ship to get it, after which point it'll automatically set course for the system it left. Also, space factories can be used to build fortresses at warp points in order to keep any enemy from entering the system from that direction unopposed.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Defeating the Antares Master of Orion II instantly wins the game even if you would otherwise be crushed by enemy forces. There is also the option of diplomatic victory through the galactic council (although you can choose to defy the council if you'd otherwise end up losing.)
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better:
    • In the original game, while energy-based weapons don't have particular weaknesses, in their tech class, particle/ammo-based weapons halve the effectiveness of shields. A side effect of this is that projectile weapons take longer to become ineffective due to the onward march of technology.
    • Averted in MoO 2: early on, missiles rule the day because targeting computers (for beam weapons) and ECM technology are both terrible. Over time, better computers allow beam weapons to become a lot more accurate, while missiles get a lot easier to shoot down or otherwise render useless.
  • Last of His Kind: Loknar, the last of the Orions, can join your civilization as a leader in the second and third games.
  • Living Gasbag: Master Of Orion III added a class of races called "Etherians" to the series, consisting of two races, the Eoladi and Imsaeis, who inhabited gas giants. The Eoladi were whale-like gas bags, while the Imsaeis were more like gigantic gaseous jellyfish.
  • Magnetic Weapons:
    • Master Of Orion 2 has quite efficient Mass Drivers in the early game, and their big brothers, the Gauss Cannons, in the later game.
    • From the original game, there's the Gauss Autocannon. Each round doesn't do much damage by itself, but it fires 4 times each turn, and unlike the sequel's Gauss cannons, they halve the effectiveness of shields, making them viable for longer than their energy-based contemporaries. 4X, meet More Dakka.
    • Gauss cannons are also an option in the third game, though earlier in the game their value is limited.
  • Mass Hypnosis: A telepathic race can capture a planet undamaged after destroying its defenses by mind controlling the entire population from orbit if there's at least one ship of "cruiser" size or larger in the orbiting fleet.
  • Massive Race Selection: 10 to 16, and in the second to third games, conquered populations can be assimilated into your empire. It's not impossible to have a Psilon empire where, aside from your homeworld, all your citizens are actually Meklar. This can be a tremendous help, since assimilated citizens retain their racial abilities. Klackons for the forge worlds! Psilons for the research bases! Just don't capture any Harvester worlds without thoroughly sterilizing them first. The 2016 game brings it back down to 10, although the Collector's Edition also adds the Terran Khanate, an evil version of the diplomatic humans.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: Meklar started out as cyborgs, they ultimately split in two races in the third installment. Those who ultimately became purely mechanical kept the Meklar name, while their still partially-organic counterparts became the Cynoids.
  • Mutants: In Master Of Orion II, there's a tech called Evolutionary Mutation allows a one-time change to statistics of the race that discovers it, resulting in the second kind of mutant.
  • Naval Blockade: Master of Orion 2 allows fleets to blockade a hostile system, cutting all types of production in half and severing it from the empire's economy. This is particularly devastating to colonies reliant on imported food. A monster occupying a star system has the same effect.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: In Master Of Orion 2, some of the one-time random events screw with hyperspace to impair or outright denynote  space travel.
  • New Tech Is Not Cheap: Tech discoveries start out at their maximum cost, which in some cases can be a bank-breaker if you're short on funds, but as the tech tree continues, the older discoveries become cheaper over time to eventually become Boring, but Practical.
  • News Broadcast: GNN (Galactic News Network) occasionally shows up to deliver reports of certain kind, such as how many systems the largest race controls or if a space dragon has appeared. In the 2016 game, the reports are delivered by two anchor robots (male and female), who are fully voiced.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The Orions sealed their worst rivals the Antarans away in a pocket dimension, and shortly thereafter collapse as a civilization. When the Antarans learn how to get out, they realize this means they have a nigh impregnable fortress from which they can raid the shit out of everyone.
  • Obvious Beta: The third game was released with many bugs, and in spite of multiple patches issued to try to fix it there were still issues that could impair gameplay. The game is more or less playable now, after many official and unofficial patches, but it's considered "too little too late" by most fans.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Antarans from the second game, who love to send threatening Evil Overlord messages whenever they launch their attacks.
    You may not surrender, you cannot win, your only option is death.
  • One-Federation Limit: The 2016 game provides the name of each empire (of which only one is actually named "Empire"):
    • Alkari Flock (ruler - Skylord)
    • Bulrathi Empire (ruler - Emperor)
    • Darlok Cabal (ruler - Hindmost)
    • Human Republic (ruler - President)
    • Klackon Hive (ruler - Queen)
    • Meklar Combine (ruler - Overseer)
    • Mrrshan Pride (ruler - Empress)
    • Psilon Quanta (ruler - Controller)
    • Sakkra Brood (ruler - Hierarch)
    • Silicoid Crag (ruler - Keystone)
    • Terran Khanate (ruler - Khan)
    • Elerian Fiefdoms (ruler - Grand Marshal)
    • Gnolam League (ruler - Commodore)
    • Trilarian Shoal (ruler - Stinger)
    • Each of the minor races also has a unique government name (each of these being a Real Life type of rule):
      • Akirian Dyarchy
      • Degonite Kritarchy
      • Eldritch Anocracy
      • Glis Nomocracy
      • Har-ssian Autocracy
      • Nyemorian Magocracy
      • Nyunyu Sortition
      • Thersonian Timocracy
      • Zarkonian Chiefdom
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Space Dragons sometimes guard planets from colonization, and sometimes wander the galaxy in search of Plunder.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different:
    • In the second and third games, some planets are connected by a wormhole that allows a ship to travel between the systems in a single turn regardless of the race's propulsion tech. The wormholes can span distances anywhere from a few parsecs to going from one side of the galactic map to the other.
    • A one-time special event can also create a temporary wormhole for a ship/fleet in transit, letting them finish their trip at the start of the next turn regardless of how long they would normally have had remaining.
  • Planetville: In MoO2, the colony view shows a single sprawling city with all the structures you've built. MoO avoids this by abstracting planets into 5 sliding bars (Ship production, factory production, ecosystem spending, planetary defense spending, and research spending) and only an orbital view of the planet itself, with rows of icons to indicate population and industrial output. Also averted in the 2016 game, where the view of the spinning planet shows abstractions of the structures you build all over the place. More populous and advanced planets also have swarms of craft moving around it.
  • Point Build System: Although used for building a race instead of a character, the second and third games give you a set amount of points to distribute as the player wishes, with positive and negative attributes. For the second game, a later technology, Evolutionary Mutation, allows the player to add four extra points, though there are some restrictions on what racial traits can be modified. Obviously enough, no amount of genetic alteration is going to add Precursor ruins to your homeworld.
  • Portal Network: In the first game, one of the later Propulsion technologies gives you Star Gates, which have to be specifically constructed by a planet. In the second game, however, one of the mid-game technologies you can research lets the player build one of these, though it only speeds up travel instead of making it instant. The late-game version really is instantaneous, and if you're successful enough you most certainly will need it to defend far-flung systems. The version in the 2016 game does not have the instant travel upgrade. However, the gates are still incredibly useful due to the Hyperspace Lanes mechanic that prevents normal direct travel between distant systems. The gates (built over warp points) allow such direct travel and speed it up as well, although you're never going to cross the galaxy in a single turn, unless you got a wormhole.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Bulrathi specialize in ground combat. Success in ground combat nets the invader a mostly intact colony. Conversely, it is good policy to bombard Bulrathi colonies, while researching better ground armor and weapons than theirs, before attempting to mop up on the ground. Except for telepathic races, which can just ignore ground combat and mind control the whole planet from orbit with even less damage to the colony.
  • Cat Folk: Mrrshans.
  • Fish People / Cthulhumanoid: Trilarians, the aquatic race. In MoO2, where they first appeared, they were aquatic humanoids with fins and small tentacles, and in MoO3 their appearance was changed to look more like eels. Their Conquer the Stars appearance goes with humanoids with tail fins, face tentacles, and a single eye.
  • Winged Humanoid: Averted with the avian Alkari in the first game, who appear to be wingless. Played straight in MoO2, where they morph into a pteranodon-like form. The 2016 version is much more humanoid and wingless.
  • Planetary Parasite: Master of Orion II has the space eel, a space monster that would target a star to use as spawning ground. This causes all colonies in the system to count as "blockaded", which applies a 50% penalty to food and production output. If left alone long enough it produces a second space eel, which picks another star and does the same there.
  • Point Defenseless: Averted. If an enemy ship has the tech, good luck getting a missile or fighter to it. Even the earliest point defense tech, the anti-missile rocket, is highly effective and it improves from there, until you have the lightning field and the various energy screen weapons that will wipe out incoming missiles and fighters in a single shot.
  • Powered Armor: One of the ground troop technology options.
  • Precursors: The Orions and Antarans.
  • Press X to Die:
    • Accepting another empire's Council victory results in an instant loss, though at that point you most likely cannot win anyway, since the alternative is facing an enormous star fleet that vastly outnumbers yours, and outclasses yours technologically too.
    • In the second game, you can "surrender" to another empire, which means that the other empire instantly annexes you. AI players use this often, which can easily prevent a Council victory for you, or secure a Council victory for your main rival.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Mrrshans, Bulrathis, Elerians
  • Real-Time with Pause: This is how combat works in the 2016 game. You also have the option of letting the AI simulate combat. If you choose to take command personally, you are presented with three more options: take complete control over all aspects of combat; let the AI handle the minutia, such as maneuvering and firing, while you act as an admiral; or just sit back and watch the show, as the AI handles everything.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The GNN robot anchors in the 2016 game. They frequently appear to be either relaxing or chatting with one another just as they appear on camera. Also, the "male" robot typically ends his reports with a typical "cut" gesture. They do, however, talk in Robo Speak, their voices unexpectedly rising and falling for no apparent reason in the middle of a sentence.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Elerians are just sexy humans with blue body paint
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Antarans from MoO 2 were, prior to the game, locked into another dimension, but have managed to penetrate that barrier for occasional attacks on "normal" space.
  • Settling the Frontier: Like most 4X games, you want to establish new settlements early and often.
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Silicoids, naturally. Their appearance varies from game to game, although it tends to keep them vaguely humanoid (two arms and two legs), except for the third game, where they appear to be a strange mish-mash of purple crystals with tendrils. In the 2016 game, they return to their appearance from the first game, including the strange glowing rocks floating around in their head cavity. Due to their nature, they consume inorganic matter, so food is useless to them. However, this also means that their production is reduced because they eat the ore. They are also much more resistant to hostile biomes. In the 2016 game, they are the only race, who can terraform Volcanic planets.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Averted in MoO 3, otherwise played straight.
  • Shout-Out: And how!
  • Snowclone Title: Master of Magic.
  • Space Elves: the Elerians from the second game, complete with Mind Control.
  • Space Fighter: Master Of Orion II has Interceptors / Bombers / Heavy Fighters carried by ships and planetary bases.
  • Space Marine: Useful for either Boarding Party duties or defending against boarding parties of your opponent. Troop Pods double the amount of troops on board. A rather obvious, but interesting twist is that in space Low Gravity penalty does not apply.
  • Space Opera: The setting. MoO3 tried to approach the game in a more realistic manner.
  • Starfish Aliens:
    • Supposedly, the Antarans. Some of the space monsters, while looking fairly smart, are likewise unable to communicate with other races. MoO3 tried to make all the aliens more alien.
    • The Silicoids from the first game are supposed to be this - they're silicon-based whereas all the other races are carbon-based, and they can live naturally in hostile environments, but they're bad at diplomacy, reflecting how other races are put off by their weird biology. The Darloks could fit this too, for that matter, since they can shapeshift (although apparently their default form is just a humanoid in a cloak). The reason they're hated is probably more because they use their shapeshifting to steal everyone's technology, rather than the shapeshifting in itself.
  • Subspace Ansible: Control and diplomacy are obviously instant. In addition, Tachyon Communications (3 parsecs range), Subspace Communications (6 parsecs range) and Hyperspace Communications (unlimited range) allow ships within the specified range to be redirected while in transit.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The 2016 reimagining adds voices to race leaders, your advisors, and the GNN robots. The voice actor cast includes a number of well-known names.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: The AI players will eventually declare war on another empire (yours or an AI empire) with complete disregard for the strengths of the respective empires. Particularly in the second game, at higher difficulty levels NPC empires will refuse to surrender even if their empire consists of only one population point on a planet blockaded by a fleet of warships that can turn the world into a rubble pile and eliminate the offending empire entirely.
  • Tech Tree: The first game has generic Tech Levels with various upgrades at each one, while II has multiple branches with at least two techs at each level of a branch. Most races can choose one upgrade after completing a level, except for Uncreative races that get a random pick and Creative races that get everything.
  • Terraforming: Each type of planet (except Toxic) can eventually be turned into a life-rich Gaia World. High technology even allows you to transform gas giants and asteroid belts into solid worlds. In the 2016 game, Toxic planets can be improved as well (although not through terraforming), but Volcanic planets can only be improved by Silicoids (or by blowing them up with a Stellar Converter and reforming the resulting Asteroid Thicket with a mobile factory ship). If you're not playing as them, you may want to avoid those, although large and rich Volcanic planets can still be useful, if you can supply them with food.
  • Transhuman Aliens: Play as Humans. Take a walk down the Biology tree and pick up Evolutionary Mutation (along with a host of other technologies like Heightened Intelligence). Humanity may now look human enough, but it sure doesn't have much in common with the beings that flew into space.
  • Transplanted Humans: The Terrans in the 2016 game. Abducted from Earth by the Antarans long ago, they were bred to fight the Orions, until the Antarans abandoned them on a dying world. In order to survive, harsh measures had to be taken, eventually twisting the Terrans into aggressive imperialists in stark contrast to their more diplomatic cousins back on Earth.
  • Underground City: In II the Sakkra are a reptilian civilization with a penchant for underground cities, effectively doubling the population that can inhabit a planet and making orbital bombardment harder, as well as give defending ground troops a +10 advantage over any invaders other than the Bulrathi, who get the same amount of boost due to their strength.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Starving your own people to death in order to replace them with androids or imported aliens is a viable strategy in many cases.
    • In MoO2, you can eliminate a planet's population after conquering it in a ground battle. Or just blow them all to bits from orbit, which is much faster than assimilating or eliminating large populations. On the other hand, conquest can give you new technology and averts the need to build everything from scratch.
    • Want the free tech and buildings but don't want the expense and hassle of troop transports? No problem! Just drop biological weapons on 'em. Population and defending ground forces are wiped out, while all the pretty pretty buildings remain intact. (However, you will take a major diplomatic hit, since all the AI players now regard you as a monster.)
    • If you want to really be a jerkass once the tech becomes available, the Stellar Converter in the second game can be used to blow planets up and turn them into a asteroid fields, if a world is of no use to you (toxic environment, ultra-poor, tiny). If desired, once the player controls the system, the resultant rubble can be made into a barren, abundant large planet with Planet Construction. From there on out, it's eligible for a couple of rounds of Terraforming and ultimately Gaia Transformaion.
  • Visible Invisibility: In the second game, ships with a Phasing Cloak device active show up on the tactical screen as a transparent outline. You can scan a ship using their Phasing Cloak, but are unable to target it for weapons fire.
  • We Will Use Lasers in the Future: If you want to annoy your enemies, shoot them with a missile. If you want to kill them, then shoot them with an energy weapon. Even photon torpedoes and the like are energy weapons, rather than the usual physical missile. To put it in perspective, nuclear missiles are usually the top-tier weapon in most games. Here, they're the lowest-ranked missile in the game and the gap just widens as higher-end energy weapons like disrupters and ion beams become available.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: the "Cybernetik" species in 3.
  • Zerg Rush: In the later stages of the first game, the AI loves to drop tens of thousands of ships on your head. Changes to the later games prevent fleets quite that large, but the AI does still tend towards believing that quantity has a quality all its own. Which is probably just as well, given their ship design philosophies.


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