By Marty Mulrooney
Eufloria (formerly known as Dyson) is a real-time PC strategy game created by indie developers Alex May and Rudolf Kremers, with music by Brian Grainger. Taking control of multiple ‘seedlings’, players must advance through space one asteroid at a time, fighting enemies, planting ‘Dyson’ trees and building up a powerful, colourful army. Eufloria is available from various online digital distribution outlets.
The main campaign consists of 25 levels featuring procedurally generated asteroids, meaning that technically, every playthrough should be unique to the individual player. These asteroids are the main form of transport in Eufloria: your seedlings cannot travel freely, instead having to hop from place to place. The aim of the game is to plant Dyson trees (up to 4 per asteroid), which come in two flavours, defence and resupply. The game is a careful balance of sending out scouts to explore new asteroids (they look like empty circles until they are visited), fighting enemies (which is done automatically) and planting trees to expand your numbers and defend your taken territories.
The controls are wonderfully intuitive. The mouse scroll wheel can zoom in and out with ridiculous speed, allowing a swarm of dots to become a full screen of writhing seedlings within the space of a few seconds. Double clicking one of your own asteroids lets you see how many of each type of seedling you have, separated into categories of ENERGY, STRENGTH and SPEED. The right mouse button can be clicked and dragged to move the view, or clicked once upon an asteroid to bring up an arrow letting you plot a travel path for multiple seedlings (you can travel great distances via conquered asteroids). Left clicking the mouse is used to select an asteroid and view its stats at the bottom of the screen, whether friend or foe.
Holding down the Tab button allows you to see the stats for every single asteroid, which can be a quite proud moment after slowly exploring and taking over an entire level. Watching your seedlings busy at work from a fully zoomed out view is almost like watching an ant farm. It feels alive and is absolutely hypnotic. Each asteroid can only produce a population of 40 seedlings at a time, but you can then move them to another asteroid with ease and start all over again. There is a limit to the amount of seedlings residing on any one asteroid, but that limit is so high that players will seldom reach it.
Sadly, Eufloria’s most addictive quality also proves to be its ultimate downfall. Building a seedling army is a wonderful thing, watching your troops grow into an unstoppable force. However, it takes time and although by no means too slow, this time requirement means that it is possible to simply leave a level loaded, walk away, come back later and win through sheer overwhelming force because your numbers have automatically grown.
By trying to be something new and different, Eufloria has effectively taken the strategy out of the strategy game. The later stages eventually ramp up in difficulty but by then it’s too late. As a result, your mileage will vary. Repetition can set in fast: the different levels and modes all basically boil down to the same core mechanic. It can often feel less like a game and more like an interactive screensaver. There is certainly plenty of content, including a ‘Skirmish’ mode with 8 additional levels, but it all ends up feeling the same.
So why do I keep returning to it? Because Eufloria is undeniably a work of art. The visuals are amazing, simplistically beautiful in a way that never gets old or tired. The music by Brian Grainger is suitably chilled out too, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that is a joy to lose yourself in. Furthermore, regardless of being repetitive or integrally shallow, Eufloria is almost frustratingly addictive. There is no real story of any substance, but it really doesn’t matter. This is a game that is almost impossible to hate even when it bombards you with its shortcomings.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in my eyes, Eufloria embodies the word beautiful even when its gameplay proves lacking. With plans for a reboot on Sony’s PlayStation Network next year improvements can still be made too, especially if the developers spice up the core mechanics. The PC version has also enjoyed regular updates (2.05 added achievements), with the modding community actively creating new content. An acquired taste, Eufloria won’t be for everyone, but it certainly showcases an abundance of audiovisual prowess that is rather staggering for an indie production.
6 OUT OF 10