Eufloria Nurtures Stylistically Unique RTS Experience
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, while the phrase ďless is moreĒ is used just as often. Regardless of which mantra you subscribe to, Eufloria by Omni Systems crosses both in delivering a real-time strategy (RTS) game thatís just as simple as it is complex. With elements from games such as Risk and Galcon, Eufloria is a unique bucket of mellowness mixed with a healthy gallon of challenge. It wonít necessarily appeal to hardcore RTS fanatics, but it has the right ingredients for casual ones.
The story, what there is of one, is about conquest. In this case, Eufloria is about the flight of seeds where the ultimate goal is to seed and grow across this little world of asteroids. Once these seeds land and grow successfully, they become trees which transform these barren rocks into planets of life. Of course, there are enemy seedlings and other nuances to the game that throw a wrench into everything.
The basic unit if you want to call it that is the seedling which serves as the scout and defender. The seeds are used not only scope out asteroids, but grow into the trees that lay claim to territories. Eufloria provides a rather straightforward tutorial along with a help button that can be accessed during gameplay. The game has a 25-level Story Mode which provides the barebones story; Skirmish Arenas which offer a number of specific challenges; and a Dark Matter Mode which is the Story Mode except with a much darker background. The game arrives with levels locked meaning previous levels and challenges must be completed before progressing, but players also unlock everything in the Options section. Eufloria also offers two difficulty modes: Relaxed and Challenging, which are exactly as they sound.
The Story Mode takes players through 5 stages: Takeoff, Into the Wild, Outer Colonies, Deep Space, and Event Horizon. I would suggest players go through Story Mode first since this provides a hands-on tutorial prior to attempting the Skirmish Arenas.
Visually, the game can easily be called beautiful in the general sense and stylistically unique in another. Eufloria is all about mood and ambience, which is successfully done from the minimalist interface to the extremely relaxing soundtrack. A pastel background (this can be changed to a dark screen in Dark Matter mode) with a bunch of orbs along with trees and flying seeds would be an appropriate description. Of course, that would be an understatement as the smooth soundtrack does wonders to enhance the gameplay.
The controls in Eufloria are extremely responsive with little learning curve. In addition to panning and zooming using finger pinch and drag gestures, tapping on an asteroid will bring up an information panel highlighting the energy, strength and speed of the asteroid and its seedlings and trees.
The control mechanism for deploying seeds is just as easy to use with a number of different methods for doing this. The simplest way for me was tapping on an asteroid with seedlings brings up an arrow and tapping on the target asteroid will send those seeds to that destination. A nice touch is how to select a specific of seeds to send. A green dial appears around the asteroid which can be manipulated by touch.
The gameplay in Eufloria and the level of satisfaction will likely come down to the expectations of the player. Sending seeds to populate and evolve asteroids can set the scene for rather intense battles. Personally, zooming in to watch the seedling battles can be wonderfully relaxing in a strange way because the resulting colors and animation add much to the experience. In some ways, this is the best part of Eufloria.
Because the planets have different attributes in terms of energy, strength and speed, the seeds that are sent will eventually take on those strengths. An added complication involves the maturity of the trees because the older they get, the harder it becomes to conquer that planet. The reasoning here is that older trees will burrow deeper into the core of the planet which makes it harder for them to be destroyed.
Eufloria does provide a fair albeit not overwhelming degree of strategy which I found very enjoyable and satisfying. Players will face a number of decisions, and the game does offer a good deal of options in that area. As the game progresses, players can select specific seeds to send based on the planetís attributes as well as selecting different trees and flowers to send and plant. The gameís complexity is furthered by the type of tree with the Dyson Tree being the most basic. But, beacon plants, terraform trees, flowers and laser pods are added to the mix. While you can send individual seeds to scout asteroids (this is pretty neat) which youíll donít really want to send your forces into an enemy ambush, planting flowers via enhanced seedlings are another capability.
The game is designed for the casual player in mind. For all the damage the AI can do, itís slow enough that players will have time to consider moves and build up their seedling forces. Personally, thatís makes for a relaxing, yet challenging game with just the right level of management options.
Having said that, the slow-paced proposition of Eufloria can be an issue for some. While itís not unusual for an RTS game to last anywhere from 15-30 minutes, gameplay can feel drawn out because of the slower pace. Normal and fast forward buttons are provided, but they donít speed things up considerably.
Unlike other RTS games, stats are not a particularly strong point for Eufloria. Right now, the most players can expect is the elapsed time it took to complete a stage. Another shortcoming in the current version is the artifacts which for the most part can be collected but lack any real use. The game also doesnít have GameCenter or OpenFeint support, which frankly is begging for achievements.
Eufloria is a different kind of RTS game because of its slower pace and more relaxing approach. It offers a simple, yet elegant interface with just the right balance when it comes to the degree of game management involved. Thereís enough complexity to make it challenging while enjoying the stylistic visuals. Casual players will love the ease and pick-up-and-play controls, while advanced RTS players will value the uniqueness and variety.
Albie Meter: 4 Stars (unique minimalist approach to visuals; responsive and easy-to-use controls; simple, yet complex nuances to make it challenging; slow pace will appeal more to casual players; great soundtrack; minimal player stats and no real achievements)