Players begin the game by either choosing from one of a dozen prebuilt races, or by creating a custom race by choosing a combination of attributes, each of which costs (or grants, in the case of disadvantages) a given number of "picks." The player then begins on his homeworld with a colony ship and two scout ships, which he uses to explore and gain control of new worlds.
Planets and colonies
Different sizes and types of planets grant bonuses or penalties to production. Larger planets offer a higher maximum population than smaller worlds of the same type. More hospitable climates also have higher max populations and produce more food per colonist.
Players must manage the population of their colonies, divying it up into producing food, industry, or research. Food is required for population growth. Industry allows the creation of colonial facilities which grant bonuses and/or abilities, the production of military units, and trade. (Excess industry generates pollution, creating a point of diminishing returns.) Research allows for the development of new technologies.
Additionally, until the very end stages of the game, colonies are required to refuel spacecraft, who can only travel a certain radius from previously established colonies or outposts.
Space combat is turn-based, and functions on a two-dimensional grid. Each ship's armament is customizable, and old technology becomes smaller and gains more options as time passes. Included are options for beam weapons, missiles, and fighter craft, as well as more exotic technologies such as weapons that damage ships through (for example) the generation of miniature black holes or by destabilizing gravity.
A player moves and attacks with all of his ships before ending his turn.
Planetary defenses constructed by a given colony are all targeted through attacking the planet, and are damaged or destroyed in the order of construction. Orbital defense platforms remain in a fixed position near the planet that constructed them.
Boarding actions are available provided the enemy ship is immobilized and the attacking ship is within two grid squares, or, with the Teleporters equipment, the enemy's facing shield is down and the attacking ship is within fifteen grid squares. Ships may be captured, but may not be used in the same battle unless the player has the Telepathic trait. Boarding actions may also consist of raids which are intended to damage as many ship systems as possible. Boarding actions are resolved automatically based upon infantry equipment once they are initiated.
Planets with no defenses or in-system fleets may be bombarded from orbit, which can destroy ground garrisons, colonial facilities, or colonists, although precise targeting is not allowed.
Ground combat is resolved automatically based upon infantry equipment once it is initiated. Special troop transports are required to stage planetary invasions from orbit; these transports are defenseless in space unless accompanied by a combat unit. Races with the Telepathic trait may Mind Control a colony if they have a combat ship of Cruiser-class or larger, which automatically transfers full control of the colony without the need for invasion.
Once control over a colony is established, the enemy occupants may either be assimilated into the player's culture or eliminated. Depending on a race's government, the rate of assimilation differs. Building an Alien Control Center increases the rate of assimilation.
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Research in Master of Orion II is the basis of acquiring technology in the game. While there are other methods of acquiring tech, research is a fundamental aspect of empire growth. On the colony management screen, a player can assign his populace to three different areas; farming, industry or research. Each unit of population (1 million colonists) produces a certain amount of RPs or Research Points when assigned as researchers. The number of RPs generated per population unit assigned is based on racial factors and colony buildings. Building research oriented structures such as the Research Lab on colonies produce two effects. In the case of the Research Lab, the building itself produces 5 research points, and an additional point per population unit assigned to research. Therefore, if there was no population assigned on a colony with a research lab, the colony would output 5 RPs a turn. But if there were 2 population units assigned, the colony might output 11 (5 on its own, 2 per population unit, assuming that each unit produced one RP/turn). There are three tiers of research buildings (each generating 5, 10 or 15 research points and adding 1, 2 or 3 RPs per population unit), all acting cumulatively with each other. In addition to this, there is a building called the Autolab that generates 30 RPs a turn, but does not grant any other bonus.
Total RPs are collated each turn and displayed on the right side of the screen. These RPs are used to research technology. The Tech Tree is divided into distinct fields; Construction, Power, Genetics, Sociology, Engineering, Physics, Computers, Chemistry and Forcefields. Each field has a number of tiers of technology. Each tier has two or three separate items (and in some cases, one or four). When researching a particular field and corresponding tier, it is necessary to select one of the available items. Only one field/tier/item can be researched at a time. However, an exception is made for races with the Creative characteristic. In that case, only one field and tier can be researched, but upon completion, the race will gain all the items in that particular tier. Uncreative races on the other hand are given less technology to research and may skip tiers entirely.
Each tier has an associated RP cost. Once an item is selected, RPs are automatically allocated towards that cost. When a project is assigned, a counter begins ticking down turns remaining on the right hand side of the screen (where total RPs are displayed). These 'Turns Remaining' are a rough estimate, and research will not always be done on time. Within 5 turns of expected completion, a random die roll (with an attached percentage) is used to determine if a breakthrough will occur that turn. The likelihood of achieving a breakthrough at 5 turns remaining is very low, but the chances increase exponentially as scientists near completion. This percentage is also displayed in the research window on the main screen.
Once all the tiers of a given field are exhausted, new teirs open up. These tiers are called 'Hyper-advanced' and they do not offer any new technology per say. The hyper-advanced tech instead shrinks component size and cost. For example, the Stellar Converter is one of the largest weapons in the game (and also the most powerful). Initially when it is first researched, the component is too big to fit on any ship save for the Doom Star hull type (the largest). As you research hyper-advanced physics however, the size of the converter shrinks, and eventually it becomes possible to place it on battleship hulls (the third largest type). Hyper advanced tech can be researched forever, but the RP cost does multiply exponentially with each tier.
Research in Master of Orion II differs from the first game is several ways. First of all, a race does not research all fields simultaneously. Only one field is researched at a time. Therefore, a player does not need to redistribute RPs throughout the different fields. While this does eliminate some nuances present in the original game, it more tightly focuses research. As a result, the tech tree is more transparent and goals are more easily set. In addition, the tech tree in the game does not branch. Each tier leads to the next higher up with no pre-requisites existing for certain technologies. Some technology however, such as all Antaran and some Orion cannot be researched at all. Only by conquering Orion, or by capturing Antaran ships can this be acquired. This technology is considered to be the most powerful in the game, such as the Damping field, which eliminates a need for shields and instead blocks a percentage of damage based on ship size.
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