I have been listening to some of the DGC podcasts (great stuff!). As a fan of Jagged Alliance 2, the one on UFO: Enemy Unknown motivated me to finally check out this classic and I’m loving it so far, also playing the 2012 XCOM (on iPad) again to see how they compare.
While I could spend many more hours on UFO, I decided to play January’s game of the month. Since my time is limited (in contrast to when I was a kid), I looked up the average playthrough time on https://howlongtobeat.com/ – some 10 hours for the main story. I can manage that! However…
I thought UFO was quite overwhelming at first. But, oh boy, it’s nothing compared to Master of Magic! I read the first couple of chapters in the 150-page manual, but that still leaves me bewildered! I don’t remember playing any other 4X strategy games except for Civilization IV (IIRC), but I don’t think that required any manual reading at all. Nor have I played Magic: The Gathering, which Master of Magic apparently draws much inspiration from.
Tired of reading, I just dove into the game, exploring the area around my starting city. It quickly became obvious that my initial troops are vastly underpowered to defeat any of the nearby baddies, so I’m assuming I need to focus on other things first. I guess that includes city building and spell researching?
Then something about the technical aspects of running the game. I got the GOG version, which runs the game through DOSBox. After changing the configuration file to use my preferred scaler (rgb3x), I’m happy with the way things look. However, I noticed the music often stutters. The default cycles set for the game seems to be very high. I have tried to tweak the core/cycles settings, but the stuttering seems to remain. Are you folks experiencing the same issue? See also Master of Magic DosBox Tweak Master Guide on the GOG forums.
I played Master of Orion I and II before playing this, and both of them I just sort of picked up through trial and error by playing them. For this game I thought I’d try the same as you and read the manual first, but now I realise that it’s more useful just as a reference. You just have to sort of dive into the game, mess up a lot and slowly figure it out.
You can definitely see the same DNA in this game as the two MoO games, especially number 2. And I will admit, for the first few hours I actually just found myself wishing I was playing that instead. I’ve gotten past that now and I’m enjoying the game for what it is, but I would still say I like Orion better. I think I mainly just like the sci-fi setting more!
I can see I’m not going to really experience all this game has to offer in just one month! It’s half way through the month already, and I’m still in my first game (at least the first where I didn’t completely screw up and have to start again!). I see all the veterans here talking about OP strategies and such, and it’s all going way over my head.
But then again, I think I’ll mainly be playing this the same way I play the Orions: I don’t go in for challenge much. I just set the skill level low, focus on building my empire, and fend off and ignore my opponents until I’m ready to steamroll them in one fell swoop! I guess I just treat these games as more of a management sim because I love that feeling of exploring a universe/world and creating an empire.
As for Dosbox: you’re right. It does seem to be a quite picky game in that regard. The default settings were way too sluggish on my system, but with cputype=auto and cycles=max it works fine.
(I actually wanted to play this on proper harware, but my 386 is underpowered, I’m waiting on components for my 486, and my pentium I and II are currently packed up!)