Finally found one thing from my childhood that actually held up: Master of Orion

Something about being very sick made me want to go back and re-experience things that I loved as a child. Most of those things turned out to be unsatisfying. For instance, X-Com: UFO Defense (a twenty year old game where you build up a paramilitary force that’s capable of defending the Earth from invading aliens) is a pretty fantastic game…but it’s also extremely frustrating and time-consuming. I have zero desire to spend an hour fighting out every single UFO crash.

I also tried reading a bunch of books that I enjoyed way back when, but (as I mentioned the other day) most of them were abysmally written. However, even the ones that weren’t poorly-written were just…it just wasn’t the same. For instance, I used to love David Weber’s military sci-fi (it’s basically Horatio Nelson, in space, fighting space-communists), so I reread the second book in his Honor Harrington series (Honor of the Queen). And it was good and everything. The book was well-enough written and the plot acted on me in such a way as to keep me reading, but I also felt very disengaged. I just didn’t care about these or about this story.

The same thing happened when I reread another military SF series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels. I reread the two with which I had the greatest mix of fondness and lack of familiarity (i.e. they’re ones that I liked but hadn’t reread to death when I was a kid). I read Barrayar and The Warrior’s Apprentice. And, again, they were well-written and well-characterized and well-plotted. Lots of interesting touches. But the action felt so far removed from me. I don’t know that it’s any deficiency with the books: maybe I’ve just read them too many times (I hadn’t read them in the last five years, but prior to that, I must’ve read each of them at least 3 times), but I found myself shrugging and saying, “So what?”

However, Masters of Orion (a twenty year old game where you colonize the galaxy and f*** up some other jerks who’re trying to do it at the same time) was much more satisfying. I always played it at the small or medium galaxy settings, which limited the game to a merciful 1-3 hours. And it was at just the right level of difficulty. I won most of the time, but there were some occasions when everything went south in a hurry.

When playing MOO1, you'll be looking at this screen about 75% of the time.
When playing MOO1, you’ll be looking at this screen about 75% of the time.

And it also felt about as good as I remember it feeling. This is a game, by the way, that I literally have not played since I was twelve. Because after Master of Orion 2 came out, I switched to that game and abandoned the original. However, MOO2 is a game that suffers from way too many features and way too much customization. By the time you get to the midgame, you’re just swimming in too many choices: which buildings to build, which ships to refit, which leaders to hire.

MOO1 is a much simpler game, and I actually think that makes it a better one. When I was a kid, I always wanted more, more, more, and I responded to feature-rich sequels (Baldur’s Gate 2, Fallout 2, Master of Orion 2), but I finally understand the carping of the people who preferred the purity of the original. Nowadays, I think I’d probably be in their camp. Well, except for Star Control 2. That one is no contest. StarCon 2 is just a completely different (and much better) game than the original.

But that’s a different post.

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