Friday, September 2, 2016

Tales of Orion

When it comes to Master of Orion, fans usually have a tale or two to tell. I am no exception, but unlike many players my fondest memories come from the original rather than the sequel. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun with Master of Orion 2: Battle at Antares. I could tell you the story of how the entire race of Meklar simply vanished without a trace from the face of the galaxy (ships, colonies and everything they ever built). Or I could you about Loknar, the Last Orion’s glorious suicidal assault on the Antares homeworld.  However, those are stories I’d like to save for another day. Instead, I want to recount my one-and-only childhood playthrough of Master of Orion 1 on the largest galaxy size.

I was the Silicoids.  Why?  Because they rock!  Puns aside, my homeworld was in the top left corner of the star map and from there our race colonized world after world. Whether it was a lush paradise or toxic wasteland made no difference, Silicoids are miniature walking volcanoes that eat rock and shrug off doses of radiation that would be lethal to any other intelligent species. The only thing that slowed our advance was a shortage of numbers, silicon-based life forms don’t reproduce as fast as carbon-based ones. Eventually, over half-a-century after the completion of the first colony ship I bumped into the first of four other races – the Sakkra. They were far more numerous than us, but lacked technological advancements we had achieved thanks to a research base established decades ago on the artifact world designated "Cloud City II" (don’t ask what happened to the first one). As fate would have it the leader of the Sakkra was an erratic expansionist, which could only mean one thing – war!

Needless to say our technological edge made the conflict a foregone conclusion. From the captured fortress world of "Thrax," the Silicoids assembled grand fleets under the protection of an extensive planetary missile system. Slowly, but steadily the Sakkra’s four-to-one numerical superiority was reduced, and their empire whittled down until only their homeworld remained. Rather than purge the Sakkra menace from the galaxy, the Silicoids attempted to stage a xeno revolution, a foreign coup d’etat. The subterfuge was successful in so far that the Sakkra leader was killed and replaced…by a xenophobic militarist. In hindsight it would have been unrealistic to expect anything different, but the outcome was predictably xenocide…sorry Sakkra, you have no place among us.

Wiping out an entire species of intelligent life might sound like a bad thing, but as it turned out the Sakkra had already made enemies of the Humans long before they ever made contact with us. This new race of evolved apes were honorable so relations with them went smoothly for a time, but a diplomatic blunder on our part nearly lead to large-scale violence which was only barely avoided thanks to recompense in the form of several non-weapon based pieces of technology. These gifts of knowledge the Silicoids gave freely to the humans, but they were not the only ones to acquire them. A third race, the Darloks, stole our technology through espionage. There is only one way to deal with a race of deceptive liars – war!

The Silicoid/Darlok conflict was not as one-sided as the previous one against the then extinct Sakkra. In fact it lasted almost an entire century, and even with the reluctant aid of human warships many Siliciod lives were lost. In part this was due to the relatively equal footing of each side in terms of technology and industrial capacity.  More importantly the Darlok inner worlds were enveloped in a vast nebula. Thematically appropriate to be sure, but it made spaceship travel in that region a slow and arduous process. It was, for lack of a better term, “space trench warfare.” Acts of Darlok sabotage wreaked havoc on Silicoid logistics and if it weren’t for the discovery of a secret wormhole the conflict might have ended in a stalemate. As luck would have it though that naturally occurring warp-gate drew a line halfway across the entire star map, allowing rapid transportation of Silicoid war materials to the front where the Darloks were overwhelmed through raw attrition.

Having eliminated this third and final threat, a hard won peace settled over the galaxy. In the wake of so much destruction an emphasis was placed on the colonization of many of the barren worlds left over at the end of hostilities. The Humans snatched up a few choice locals while the Silicoids colonized with impunity. It was at this time the fourth and final race made their existence known. They were the Alkari and, for reasons which still remain a mystery, had never bothered to explore beyond the confines of their homeworld…at least until then. No longer content to simple roost, this race of avian creatures finally spread their wings and sent out dozens of scout ships (one to each star within range). It was a sudden burst of spacecraft, that expanded out like a great ripple by turns, the flight of the Alkari had begun. Not long after, the galactic counsel was held and I (the leader of the Silicoids) was elected the inheritor of Orion…

…and with that my tale ends…or as the robo-news anchor says, “…and that’s the way it is.”

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