There are certain games which just tend to relax the player. You find yourself losing track of time, settling back to enjoy the ambience. Sure, there is enough of a game there to keep you interested, but it’s not even really the main attraction. The art style, music and pacing are what really draw you in as a gamer.
Anyone who has played Flower knows exactly what I mean. The gameplay is not what made so many people a fan of that game. After all, using the six access controls to move the breeze around never really felt extremely crisp, at least not to me. I didn’t care, however, as the art and styling of the levels kept me coming back for more.
Eufloria is that type of game. Simple yet beautiful art work and great atmospheric music make it easy to lose yourself in its simplistic design. I just never thought I’d be saying that about an RTS.
Real Time Strategy Meets Relaxation
No, you did not read that wrong. Eufloria is a Real Time Strategy game. That is not the kind of game you generally think about when you think of ambient atmospheres,but that is just what you have here. The game is the PSN version of the indie PC game Dyson with expanded levels and music. Question is, how in the world do you create a relaxing RTS?
You start with a deceptively simple premise: you control a group of seedlings, or organic ships, which are trying to colonize asteroids. In order to form colonies, if you want to call them that, you must sacrifice ten seedling ships to create Dyson trees, which will in turn create more seedlings. As these seedlings form, you are given the option to move on to the next asteroid or plant more trees on the current one, up to the maximum limit. Capturing more asteroids will not only give you more chances to build your fleet of seedlings, it will also give you access to more distant asteroids, as your seedlings can only fly so far without being able to slingshot off another asteroid. In most levels, you advance once you control all the asteroids in the level.
It does not take long, however, before you begin to run into resistance. Your first battles will be with the grays, seedlings which have seemed to lose their way and now attack you. As you progress, you will run across enemy seedlings as well, and defeating them will unlock all sorts of new abilities for you, including the ability to create defensive trees and plant beacon plants which can automatically direct newly created seedlings from one asteroid to travel to another.
So you have the basics for an RTS, but where does the relaxation come in? Well, the first thing you will notice is the art style is not what you would generally expect from a game of this genre. The graphics actually take on an artistic appeal which is, for lack of a better way to put it, easy on the eyes. As you continue to colonize an area and build your forces, you will not be able to ignore how fluid and downright elegant everything is. The music just adds to this overall relaxing feel, presenting an ambient, almost soothing atmosphere in which it becomes rather easy to lose yourself as a gamer. I have passed many a stage with no clue of how long I took beating it until I saw the time tally at the end.
So, if Eufloria works so hard to be such an atmospheric experience, it must not be that deep of an RTS, right? Well, while it will not rival the intense strategy of StarCraft or challenge the very way you look at the genre like Achron, you will find there is a little more to this game then meets the eye.
I have seen some reviews of Eufloria in which the writer states all you have to do to win each confrontation is build overwhelming numbers of seedlings and perform what would be this game’s equivalent of the StarCraft “Zerg rush.” While this is not entirely untrue, it is unfair to paint that as the only strategy for beating the game.
Not long into the storyline, you will run across seedlings which are really difficult to overcome. The reason for this is seedlings will take on the characteristics of the asteroid from which they are grown. Each asteroid is rated on three different attributes: energy, strength and speed. Energy determines the health a seedling has, strength the amount of damage it can do and speed how fast it can move. Well, when you are trying to attack several seedlings which have high strength and energy, you can find yourself loosing even if you do severely outnumber the enemy.
So how do you combat this? One way is choosing just what seedlings you send into battle. When you select an asteroid from which you will launch your forces, you can choose to send primarily those with greater strength, energy or speed, making it easier to choose the proper attackers for the proper job. Another way is to try an capture better asteroids so you can build stronger fleets of seedlings. As each asteroid has a cap of seedlings it will produce (set to ten times the number of trees which can be planted on it), you can choose to mass forces on weaker asteroids so you can make sure to have your stronger ones continue to produce units.
There is one other thing you can do once you unlock the ability. At the cost of seedlings, you can “teraform” and asteroid to increase one of its attributes. For example, if you have an asteroid which has high strength and speed but low energy, you can plant a flower to change the asteroid and sacrifice up to 100 seedlings to improve that attribute, meaning the seedlings grown from that asteroid will be truly formidable.
This is just the start. As you gain more abilities, you will have flowers you can pluck from your Dyson trees which can create either Dyson or defensive trees and ones you can pluck from the defensive trees to form mines (think orbital defense platforms as opposed to what we would normally think of as mines). These give you even more options to use in your conquest.
So you have a decently deep RTS combined with ambient atmosphere to create something truly unique in gaming. Only one question remains.
Does It Work?
Eufloria attempts to do something which, to the best of my knowledge, has not been done before: create a real time strategy game which is as relaxing as it is deep. So does it succeed?
The short answer would be yes, though not entirely. While it is true that there is a fair amount of strategy buried in the game, it is also true that the “Zerg rush” tactic generally works best. Granted, you cannot just rely on overwhelming numbers; some levels will require you to be very intentional in both how you divide your forces and what asteroids you choose to claim first, but in the end you will find yourself more often than not relying on having more seedlings than the enemy can deal with.
That being said, Eufloria manages to be a great palate cleanser. If you are looking for a game unlike any you have played recently to kind of break up the monotony, you will probably find this one fits the bill. Add the skirmish levels and a much more difficult dark matter level which you can unlock, and you will find more than enough here to justify the purchase. Eufloria gets a 4 out of 5.
[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]