ORB: Off-World Resource Base

A less interesting remake of Homeworld.

4If you’ve enjoyed space sim/strategy games like Homeworld, then you have a vague idea as to what to expect with ORB: Off-World Resource Base. It’s not completely like Homeworld, but a mix of it and more mainstream C&C. The opposing sides are the Malus and Alyssians, two alien races who, weakened by long years of isolation on their home planets, must establish resource networks for them to mantain their dominance of space. Resources aren’t plentiful, so each alien race is at each other’s throat.

The conflict is told via 16 scripted missions in two campaigns, as well as 22 optional skirmish missions. Be prepared for a challenge, as even the lowest difficulty setting will be quite difficult as the missions roll on and the AI becomes more aggressive. There are tutorial missions to get you into the game, though many of the finer points of gameplay (like saving up resources to expand via building new bases) needs to be discovered by the player.

Ore is the only material you need to worry about, and they’re found on asteroids. These asteroids come in two varieties: stationary ones and those that are part of networks of orbiting rocks. Not every one of them contains valuable ore, however, and it’s necessary to use a recon vessel to scan them. Once found, a resource base must be constructed – at substantial cost – aboard the player’s space station or carrier and then be sent to its destination. After it lands and establishes itself as a mine, it will create a light freighter to ferry ore back and forth between the asteroid and the nearest station or carrier

15Through constant mining you can eventually upgrade and build new units, and herein you’ll find a fairly typical RTS formula with two asymmetrical factions. The Alyssians are able to research cloaking devices, allowing them to build both stealth fighters and capital ships, though the Malus need only a recon craft to detect them. To balance this out, the Malus are able to discover the means to increase their shield regeneration by 20 percent and create an armed probe that can be fired as a missile at a distant enemy target. Otherwise, their tech trees are identical.

There are six different basic technology groups, each with eight different levels of proficiency: academics, construction, electronics, energy, explosives and materials. Researching a level will give a boost to an existing technology and unlock prototypes in the three unit construction trees. Once a prototype is finished, the unit will be available for production.

Combat crafts between both sides deliver the same amount of death, although they do look different. A fast strike fighter, a slower defensive fighter, a fast expensive fighter and a slow bomber. Each of these comes in at least two variants: the basic model and ones with additional armor, weaponry or a cloaking device, in the case of the Alyssians. Capital ships follow this same pattern, though there are fewer variants. You also get extremely expensive carriers as well.

It’s far from a perfect game, however. Where Homeworld had a very good pace, ORB feels like it takes an eternity to play, with much of the game time spent simply waiting for your slow-moving ships to reach their destination. Even on the maximum speed, often all you do is stare at the screen and wait for stuff to happen. In the end it’s definitely not as polished as Homeworld, and leans more towards the arcade side of things. If you’ve played that game to death and want an interesting knock-off, then ORB is a good substitute. Otherwise, I recommend you take a look at its muse first.

System Requirements: Pentium III 1 GHz, 128 MB RAM, 600 MB HDD, Win98

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