'Master the unknown before it masters you'
The company byline for Master of Orion 2 says that it's a game of exploration, population growth, and trading. Really though, it's based on death, destruction, and conquering enemies, which I must say, is very fun.
Master of Orion 2 is a turn-based strategy game located in space. There are many options to suit your needs before you start the game, such as difficulty, number of opponents, galaxy size, and more. You can chose to either control your star battles, or have the computer do them for you. There are a lot of options which will keep you busy for a while.
When you start the game, you are assigned a homeworld. You can expand from there, with colony ships, to other worlds in the huge galaxies. Each star represented on the game map can have between zero to four planets in orbit. Some of those planets can be colonized, some can't. Some planets have special minerals, some are toxic or radiated. Choosing the right planets to live on is vital to anyone's campaign. Another important factor in the game is the ability to negotiate with the other characters. You can create treaties, declare war, or just keep them happy by offering gifts. Depending on what you do through your relations with them, they will either attack you or help you.
There are a total of thirteen races to choose from. They all have different abilities, and they can help or hinder you accordingly. For example, the type of government (feudal, dictatorship, or democracy) can increase morale in your people, or cause revolts. You can have special abilities, such as 'luckiness' that prevent you from encountering any bad random events. Omniscient races know where everything is in the whole game, and all of the star systems are already plotted for them, giving them a distinct advantage. And if all this wasn't enough, you can create your own custom race. Choose your advantages and disadvantages to decide your outcome later in the game.
One of the coolest features in Master of Orion 2 is the ability to do research. There are over 200 different technologies that you can acquire by the use of scientists in your empire. You get to choose many different technologies to research at any point and time. What's more important to you now? Class 10 shields or Fusion Bombs? Depending on what you chose, other races may want to trade technologies with you, adding innumerable possibilities and making for a great gaming experience.
The music is ambient space sounds, something you would expect to hear from an easy going exploration game, but it can get fast paced during action scenes. All in all the music is what we have come to expect in a game, it won't blow you away. The sound is, again, average. Some digital speech while interacting with the alien races would've been nice, but we can't always get what we want.
One of the major changes from the first Master of Orion is the ability to play multiplayer games. It has the option to play over the modem for some two player action. Get hooked up on a network and play in a massive and lengthy eight player game. Have multiple people play on the same computer, or play over the Total Entertainment Network. Anyway you do it, you'll be happy.
There aren't massive differences between Master of Orion 1 and 2. The gameplay is the same, there are some more features, but the make or break point may be the multiplayer aspect. If you have access to playing friends, or just love the game, this is a great buy.