Thursday, February 6, 2014


Everything takes an extra click.

That's the long and short of O.R.B., a defunct Homeworld-clone of yesteryear. In all fairness, I was warned by comments on its GoG page that this was at best an uninspired copycat, but in my Homeworld fanboy zeal I dared to hope even copycats might retain something of its greatness. And really in objective, absolute terms, this is not the most horrible game I've seen. It is... somewhat functional.

However, much like Age of Wonders, it's an amateurish exercise in interface wrangling. Instead of Homeworld's minimalist GUI and visual cues like contrails, O.R.B. clutters the screen with gratuitously wide window borders and a constant reliance on a tactical overlay. Instead of context-sensitive Ctrl or Alt-clicking, it manages to use half the keyboard. Instead of orderly, easily selectable default formations, it forces you to chase down each new vessel as it wanders off in a seemingly random direction after being built. Research is needlessly redundant with many completely gratuitous techs and even O.R.B.'s token strategic innovation over Homeworld, the "available pilot" limitation quickly becomes a chore, as you have to constantly bring up the allocation window to maximize your efficiency - and you can't do anything else while you have these windows active.

Visually and aurally, the game's just generic. While ships look more like space-ships instead of Homeworld's incongruously winged and finned Taiidan monstrousities, they are also sadly nondescript. Again, one of the most important and simplest visual cues, paint color, was completely ignored in favor of forcing players to bring up the tactical overlay whenever they want to give orders or even see what's going on. The attempt to give the aliens alien languages, while it could have been a very colorful set of individual intuitive exclamations a la Spore, ends up as perfunctory, inflectionless gibberish carrying no meaning.

And on and on. While removing both the aesthetic charm and practical grace of Homeworld, this knockoff managed to add a completely extraneous layer of interfering hodgepodge. I was perplexed at first, having seen Strategy First's label before as a publisher on Space Empires 5, a rather enjoyable if low-budget re-hashing of Master of Orion, and knowing they'd worked with interesting developers like Paradox, Stardock or Ironclad.

But I guess there really is a difference between publishing someone else's product and actually doing the creative work of development.

No comments:

Post a Comment