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Conquer the Cosmic Reaches in Master of Orion’s new remake – Remnants of the Precursors – Review

Written by armies and castles

Remnants of the Precursors


Remnants of the Precursors - Review

The skies are dark, yet full of lights. A thousand silver drops, piercing the black veil. Each is a mystery, a world on its own. Most are dead and cold – frozen landscapes of lifeless lands. Others are but ghosts, shadowy silhouettes of cosmic dust, unfit for any habitation. Yet, they have their uses too.

There are others, however – the priceless jewels over which so much blood is spilled. The living worlds, full of air, water and organic matter. So many have died to claim these for their own. Their value cannot be overstated – their resources are vital to your species’ survival.

They shall be yours, in due time – of this you are sure. Your fleets are vast – their weapons mighty beyond mortal comprehension. Your spies have infiltrated the courts of the most powerful rulers of the universe. Your farms and factories never cease their tireless labor. Your empire shall tolerate no opposition.


Remnants of the Precursors - Review

Can you guess what genre I’m talking about in the introduction? The one that involves large open worlds, warfare mixed with diplomacy, colony building and exploration, and complex resource management. Well, I’m sure you guessed it already, but here’s the answer – Remnants of the Precursors is a classical 4x strategy, with everything it entails.

There can be no doubt about the goal here. The game never steers away from the traditional, deeply strategic gameplay. Remnants of the Precursors isn’t just inspired by the great classics in the genre. It’s actually a complete remake of one of its first and most critically acclaimed examples – the original Master of Orion.

Yet, it’s not just a high-resolution version or something like that. I wouldn’t bother writing a review if this was the case – we all know Master of Orion is perfect, right? Instead, this game comes very close to being a complete reimagining of the original title. With all new graphics, music, user interface and some expanded mechanics – it certainly makes me interested.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Remnants of the Precursors - Review

If you’ve played Master of Orion – you know what to expect. For all the visual differences between the two games, Remnants of the Precursors is still as faithful a remake as one could ask for. However, even if you’re not familiar with the original – the game offers a ton of visual tips and clues. More than enough to get you started on your cosmic empire-building adventure.

The basic gameplay isn’t actually that difficult to master. Although if you aren’t familiar with the series it may seem somewhat strange. A lot of what you’ll be doing, in the beginning, is just ending your turn. The game requires lots of patience as you send your first scout spaceships into the cosmic darkness, seemingly devoid of any other life forms. As your scientists discover their first space-age technologies: lasers, hydrogen fuel cells and deep space scanners.

When the game gets real – it does so without much warning. Your enemy just stumbled upon a technological breakthrough, and a hostile fleet appears on the cosmic horizon. When entire worlds are annihilated – how will you respond? Do you abandon a whole planet to its doom and retreat into the shadows? Do you stand and fight, hoping for reinforcements from the other parts of your empire? Do you sue for peace, as much as you resent doing so?


Games like Master of Orion

The main characters are all taken straight from classical science fiction books. If you like the genre, then you should be familiar with the cast. There’s an ant-like insectoid hivemind, robots with their Mainframe oracle, space-faring cat-people, bird-people and lizard-people and, of course, the living crystals.

It’s hard to call the setting unique – yet it somehow feels so, as you play the game. Maybe it’s the fantastic ambient music that does it. Or perhaps, it’s the images, that have an almost Warhammer look to them at times. The art, just by itself, is certainly one of the main reasons to play Remnants of the Precursors.

In any case, don’t expect anything too special in terms of the plot here. The game is about writing your own history, and it gives you plenty of tools for doing so. The setting is just a foundation for your own epic tales of honorable robot-ant alliances fighting the evil human space empire with their treacherous cat-like friends.

Atmosphere, Art and Music

Sci-fi 4x Strategy

As I’ve already hinted at – the atmosphere is incredible. The music fits perfectly with its mysterious sci-fi undertones, full of synthesizers and such. The art is, for the most part, beyond praise. I, personally, really like playing as the robots. As such, I was astonished, in a good way, at their transition from the living vacuum cleaners of the first Master of Orion, to something from a Warhammer tech-priest’s dreams.

However, I do have some criticism concerning the art, or rather – the interface. It’s hard to explain, but it just doesn’t feel right. The original Master of Orion had an almost hand-drawn feel to it. Even the stars looked ornamental, like something from an old book. The main interface was rather simple – but it had a definite spaceship aesthetic.

Even the planets’ images looked somehow more mysterious in the original. The colors were darker and deeper. They looked distant – like something you’ll dream about looking at the stars. With how great the rest of the art in Remnants of the Precursors is – it’s really strange that the general interface seems so uninspired, at times. I mean – it still works very well for what it is – but it has absolutely nothing special about it.

Differences and Similarities

4x Strategy Game
Even the stars looked ornamental, like something from an old book. The main interface was rather simple – but it had a definite spaceship aesthetic.

Since I’m writing about a remake, I think it’s important to summarize the differences and the similarities between the two games. They are, without doubt, very similar – the gameplay is, essentially, exactly the same as in the original. Remnants of the Precursors is still a true 4x strategy, as complex as one would hope for.

The most noticeable difference is, of course, in the art and the music. There are some images that are absolutely fantastic. These mostly include the different character portraits – the rulers, the scientists and such. The main interface, however, looks bland, while the planet’s landscapes – while good on their own – lose some of the original game’s charm. The music, however, is a definite improvement – there was almost none of it in the original. The many tracks in the Remnants of the Precursors perfectly fit the atmosphere.

As for the mechanical, the gameplay and the UI changes – these may be hard to notice at first, but there are many. From the expanded universe customization options to the incredibly useful ship range indications, to the way more flexible zoom level. The game does feel that much easier to get into, compared to the original. It also adds plenty of tips and clues – absolutely invaluable for such a complex gameplay system. All considered – there are definite improvements, all around.


Strategy Games on

As a whole, the game feels like a good, solid remake. Of course, the higher resolution helps, as well as the new art and music. Yet, there are also many other changes, though you might not notice these right away. The game just feels more straightforward to play, somehow. For all the UI’s visual flaws, it’s still way more intuitive and responsive compared to the original.

Now – the main question! If I wanted to play Master of Orion, which one would it be? Would I go for the DOSBox and the classic version, or would I choose Remnants of the Precursors with its modern high-resolution look? In all honesty, I’d probably select Remnants of the Precursors! It introduces just enough changes to make the gameplay that much more clear and streamlined – without losing the essence of the original.

The game looks and feels like a modern title, yet it works like a real classic from the glorious past. There are some remakes that are worth playing, even if you haven’t tried the original – Remnants of the Precursors is definitely one of these. And if you liked the classical version – then what are you waiting for? The game’s free on itch – you can try it for yourself.

Thank you for reading this – I really hope it was useful and that you liked the introduction. Goodbye!


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armies and castles

A programmer, making turn-based strategies - guided by the traditional board games' aesthetics, and the grim atmosphere of the classic roguelikes. You can see examples of my work on my Twitter: @armies_castles.

3 thoughts on “Conquer the Cosmic Reaches in Master of Orion’s new remake – Remnants of the Precursors – Review”

  1. Great review! I would add that, being a remake from the ground up, the game also lacks a number of bugs that were in the original – and the developer is working on fixing those it has.

    (Personally I think the images of what a planet looks like from the ground are good for setting the mood. They also help me picture what sort of world a given planet is; I think they’re well done.)

    • These are both very good points! You’re right – the game works flawlessly, as far as I can tell. Definitely a plus.

      Now, about the art – while I do think that the main UI is rather bland looking, which is my main criticism – the planet images are more subjective. They certainly have a style to them. However, it does seem to look more regular, in a way, compared to Master of Orion. The original game really had that mysterious look to it, I think – you know what I mean, right? While some Remnants of the Precursors’ art is very bright, in a sense.

  2. Unfortunately, other game breaking bugs have been implemented as “features” that ruin the gameplay after certain tech levels are reached.


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