Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares went gold as version 1.1 and was available in North American retail stores starting November 22, 1996. Simtex had just finished version 1.2 one day prior and Microprose released a 1.2 patcher to the web on November 25.
Version 1.3 was released on March 4, 1997. This patch fixed many bugs and addressed balance issues, but it was not well received because it broke diplomacy. The last official patch by Simtex, version 1.31, fixed these diplomacy issues and also introduced an optional ship initiative system for tactical combat. The 1.31 patch was released by Microprose on April 11, 1997.
The English DOS version 1.40.b23 that is sold online is a fan patch from May 2006. This patch fixes bugs and introduces new game features like the 'Cluster' galaxy size and the 'Post-warp' technology age. Lord Brazen's blog has a faq with more detailed information about his patch.
The new fan patch for the English, German, French, Spanish and Italian DOS versions of Master of Orion 2. Fixes most known crashes, stalls and network synchronization errors, as well as an abundance of lesser bugs. Introduces new features like the option to play against a random number of opponents, and interface enhancements that reduce micromanagement like new keyboard shortcuts and editable build queue lists. The patch supports modding via plain text configuration files so you can easily customize your game!
Since version 1.50.8 the distribution comes with a GUI installer / launcher which includes several mods ranging from Classic to the extra challenging ICE-X mod. The launcher defaults to '1.50 standard' after initial installation.
The big manual contains detailed descriptions of bug fixes, new game mechanics and modding options.
Selecting 'Classic' from Launcher essentially gives you 1.40 with interface enhancements, corrected game texts and a plethora of bugs fixed. Some quirky behaviors are unaltered to preserve classic strategies; two examples are the buggy Lightning Field causing guaranteed survival of 50% of missiles in a stack (for Guardian rush games) and Fighters that have a +1 extra damage for energy beams (for blitz games).
The default choice in Launcher, 1.50 standard enhances classic with an improved ship initiative mechanic (YouTube video), interactive combat stats, updated AI ship designs, removal of quirky behaviors, a few balance changes, and an AI that can research hyper-advanced techs.
1.50 Standard config.
This mod adds to 1.50 standard: Rebalanced race picks, several additional balance changes (mind control requires a battleship) and improved planetary defenses: Star base and missile base can fire torpedoes, missile base has 2x 8,7,9 instead of 2x 7,6,7 missiles at levels 0-2 miniaturization, fighter garrison can fire fighters every turn for 20 combat rounds, ground batteries get +50 space for one extra heavy beam, cheaper marine & armor barracks.
1.50 Improved config.
The ICE mod changes many aspects of the game, aiming to create a more challenging game: Stronger AI opposition; revalued race ability costs (46 picks instead of 20); revamped tech tree; beefed up Guardian; more threatening Antarans and a grand finale when invading the Antaran home world!
Custom Race Design
All attributes, including governments and special abilities have been revalued. Some are more expensive like Unification and Lithovore, and some are cheaper like Ship Defense and Ground Combat bonuses. In classic MOO2 you can design a race with up to 20 picks (10 base picks and 10 negatives). In ICE there are up to 46 picks available (24 base and 22 negatives). This allows for a more precise valuation of the different traits. The 6 extra picks make construction of very powerful custom races possible. The stock races have been redesigned to match the new picks.
The most broken trait in classic MOO2 must be the Telepathic ability at a 6 pick cost. In ICE, Mind Control requires a Titan or Doom Star class ship instead of a Cruiser, so quick tele-blitz games are no longer possible.
Population limits have been increased and all climates and planet sizes have different max pops. A standard medium Terran world will now support 15 instead of 12 population units. There are no more planets with max. 1 pop! Tiny radiated and toxic planets have the lowest population capacities and can support up to 2 population units.
In ICE you need to invest 20% more research points to complete the entire tech tree. The placement of various technologies in the tree has changed, but I tried not to stray too far from the classic tree. The crucial tech Research Labs has been isolated. This helps the A.I. and is good for Uncreative races but lowers the value of being Creative. Fighters are available a little later in the tree. Bombs have been moved from the Power to the Physics branch and many techs have moved positions in the Fields branch.
Star Bases, Battlestations and Star Fortresses are stronger, have more space for weaponry, and more Marines onboard. All bases have a reinforced hull by design. Researching Reinforced Hull technology does not increase orbital platforms structure points. Satellites and Missiles Base can be fitted with torpedoes. Missile Base and Ground Batteries have some more space for weapons. Fighter Garrison has been upgraded and launches fighters every turn instead of every 10 turns. Planetary Flux and Barrier shields are available earlier in the tech tree.
All ships except the Frigate have 20% more base space available in ICE. The Battle Pods bonus has been decreased from 50% to 25%, so total space stays the same (1.00*1.50 = 1.20*1.25). A.I. opponents that miss out on Battle Pods now have a smaller disadvantage. Note that the value of Megafluxers has increased, as the 25% bonus is calculated over the larger base space.
A.I.'s design their ships according to a few templates, which I have adjusted to improve chances that they show up with something that can actually crack a nut.
A new feature in ICE is 'Stealth detection'. In Standard MOO2, you can only detect stealthy ships (Darloks) when you are Omniscient. In ICE you can detect cloaked ships with advanced scanning technologies.
Orion & Antares
The Guardian has a Class X Shield with Multi-Phased Shields plus some other improvements, making it much harder to kill. Be prepared! EMG Merculite missiles were the quickest road to defeating the Guardian in classic MOO2 but they will not have the desired effect in ICE.
The Antarans have a few surprises waiting for you at their home world. Compared to the original, it is really hard to win this way and requires advanced ships. I like a grand finale!
ICE-X is the same as ICE-M except that it has AI opponents with more raw power, further increasing the difficulty level. The Impossible level of ICE-X is for expert players, you'd better know what you are doing! Both ICE versions are included in the 1.50.9 distribution. Choose your preferred version in the launcher!
ICE strategy and walkthroughs on Civfanatics.
In response to a request on Reddit, I have adapted the old Defensive Anti-Blitz Mod by Jukka Mikkonen to run on 1.50.9. I haven't changed it much, mostly enabled the new 1.50 combat mechanics and corrected a few issues with the original mod. Highlights: Missile Base has 800 (instead of 300) space units - An upgrade to ship hit points, and even larger for star bases - Strong ground installation with 10x the hit points - Severely upgraded space monsters & Guardian of Orion, damagewise - Antarans should prove to be a threat once again - A few automatic techs, such as Auto-Factory, Fighter Bays, Fighter Garrison, Reinforced Hull and Heavy Armor.
DAB.zip v4 (392 downloads; 88 kB.)
You are an uncreative telepath, starting in a corner of a large galaxy. Can you win within 100 turns? To play, download the zip and extract. It contains 2 save games, one for version 1.31/1.40 and one for v1.50. Rename the appropriate version to SAVE10.GAM and copy it to your MOO2 folder. Then load save 10 from the universal menu and start!
SAVE10_OC1_Kraft.zip (407 downloads; 95 kB.)
You play an uncreative race, starting in an isolated region of space. Can you get out, and if you do what resistance will you meet? To play, download the file, rename it to SAVE10.GAM and copy it to your MOO2 folder. Then load save 10 from the universal menu and start!
SAVE10_OC2_Rocco.GAM (438 downloads; 204 kB.)
You start in a system with five good planets, but the galaxy only contains three stars! To play, download the zip and extract. It contains 2 save games, one for version 1.31/1.40 and one for v1.50. Rename the appropriate version to SAVE10.GAM and copy it to your MOO2 folder. Then load save 10 from the universal menu and start!
SAVE10_3_STARS.zip (414 downloads; 60 kB.)