Reviewed by Ala Shiban
Tired of all the cheesy REAL LIFE WAR simulations? Of all the attempts to emerge you into reality so you could defeat evil? Well, read ahead as Strategy First brings you the next best thing since Homeworld. O.R.B, or Off-world Resource Base, tells the story of two war torn alien races seeking destruction to secure the systems' resources and territories. Destruction being the key, only one questions remains: Who will prevail?
O.R.B is a real-time space strategy game, pioneered by the infamous Homeworld; it introduces new concepts and graphics never seen before in a similar title from the same genre. After the bad Project Earth, I had opted to simply wait for Homeworld 2, simply to avoid offsprings of a successful title, but being a strategy advocate, I looked upon O.R.B for salvation, and salvation I have found. The game features two different campaigns with 16 missions in them, and yet another 22 skirmish missions included. All gameplay strategy elements that made Homeworld a great strategy game have been tweaked, optimized and delivered in a gorgeous 3D universe, ready for control.
A noticeable improvement over Homeworld is the more vivid universe, no longer will you be floating around black emptiness, and instead you will be staring at lush nebulae, gigantic stars, asteroid fields and explosions that will make Hollywood jealous. Ok, so maybe not Hollywood, yet the graphics do shine compared to the most recent attempt in the genre, Project Earth, although the latter did not do well (due to its... well, everything), O.R.B perfectly distances itself from Homeworld and the likes by actually re-inventing the wheel, and most importantly, the steering wheel.
What makes O.R.B equal, if not better, than previous attempts at the genre (including Homeworld) is the easy to manage interface, Strategy First knew that in order to make the game a success, they had to build a game around the interface, as it is hard enough to navigate in 3D, not to mention in space, and if that wasn't enough, manage an entire off-world base, well, enough is enough!
The interface is very innovative and sensible; everything is exactly where you'd think it would be. Moreover, the tutorials are interactive enough, and won't treat you like a complete jackass (hold the mouse, notice how the pointer moves?). It will introduce you to all the game dynamics, camera works and pointers, so the learning curve is extremely easy, and especially for anyone that had tried 3D engine-powered games, specifically space strategy.
Another innovation, or reinvention, is the 2D view. Originally introduced in Project Earth, O.R.B takes it further by simplifying what actually you'd want to use the 2D view for. You could easily tag your fleet, tag the enemy and switch real fast to 3D to watch the fireworks as they happen. Also, while in 2D mode, you will still see the currently selected unit(s) on your right bottom corner in 3D, leaving you in the over-all picture of what's going on.
O.R.B follows a trend in which more and more strategy elements are incorporated into Real-time; that includes technology research, espionage and the classical resource management. Looking at research, you will be presented with a research tree, divided into several categories, you will be able to research different technologies that will directly effect how the game progresses. Technologies include gigantic cruisers, mini-space bases that can manufacture their own fleets, thus creating an off-base, preferably close to the attack-target, ship yard, giving location, timing and stealth a major factor in winning your opponent.
These days you'd expect a great multiplayer experience, and O.R.B will surely present you with one, as you can imagine, running together all the elements, the randomization factor, chaos theory and human intelligence will naturally reflect on the experience, to the better. I especially recommend this one to all the LAN players, as massive universes, space dogfights and various sneak attacks need quite a bit of time, and seeing your fellow opponents helps with the growing sense of tension in the air.
Although I'm not a soothing-music lover, you have to simply appreciate what O.R.B offers you, rich and dark relaxed music, something too keep you in the atmosphere of dominating space...
After playing the game quite a bit, I must say that there's a lot to talk about, not too much micromanagement for all you control freaks, but after all, it is real-time. So if you are a devoted Homeworld fan, impatiently waiting for Homeworld 2, go buy this one, because it certainly builds on all the strong foundations of its ancestor as well as establishes its own roots and respect.