While it does not look like the traditional real-time strategy game you may be used to (i.e. Starcraft II or Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II), it preserves all the major concepts and wraps them in a unique and beautiful package from both an auditory and visual study.
The history of Eufloria goes beyond its existence on the PlayStation Network because contrary to how Sony is marketing this game, it is not an “Only On PSN” game. Calling the game a PlayStation exclusive would be ignoring the fact that it has been on PC for 2 years and available from several digital distributors. In fact, this indie ambient-strategy game used to be known as Dyson prior to its initial release. A contest was held to find a new name and the winning name was Eufloria.
In Eufloria, you control an army of seedlings which are both your units and resources. You always begin on at least one asteroid and your primary goal is to conquer other asteroids using your seedlings. Those other asteroids may be inhabited by a different faction, such as the rogue gray seedlings, so you need a solid army to attack those factions. You grow more units by planting trees but planting a tree requires 10 seedlings. You can also create defensive trees that aid you against invading enemies, and after you plant either type of tree it begins to grow and becomes more powerful with time. It’s recommended to send scouts to the asteroids within the range of your base before you attack to learn how many enemies it has and when you feel like you have enough seedlings you may begin your invasion. You do this by choosing how many units you want to dispatch and then send them to the target asteroid. Using the thumbstick to select the number of units is intuitive and feels very natural after a few minutes with the game.
You do not directly control your units but issue waypoints to them; they can only go from asteroid to asteroid. You can also choose which type of units you wish to send because each asteroid has different properties (Energy, Strength, Speed) and the seedlings inherit the properties of the asteroids they are grown on. A successful invasion of an asteroid means it belongs to you and any existing trees on it are now yours. Each asteroid has a maximum number of trees that can be planted on it so if that limit hasn’t been exhausted, you may build more trees on your newly acquired asteroid. As the story mode progresses you gain more tools to aid you in victory and one such tool is the beacon which I found crucial for successful unit management. Beacons allow you to send newly grown seedlings to a different asteroid which means you have much less micro-management to do and can instead focus on higher-level strategy and tactics.
The core gameplay ideas like base building and unit/resource management are standard for RTS games, although they are uniquely implemented in this game. However, the primary way in which Eufloria differentiates itself from others is with its peaceful visual style and its ambient soundtrack. From an artistic perspective, it is minimalist in its small variety of graphical elements, their simplicity, and the color palette in general. The seedlings are made out of basic shapes, each asteroid is a circle, and fractal trees are simple at first but become very pretty when they’re fully grown. The visual design doesn’t feel cheap; it feels efficient and purposeful. It is also accompanied by very well composed ambient music and you rarely truly notice it but this is precisely what marks a great soundtrack. These two factors yield a zen experience not found in any other RTS because you are not meant to constantly be doing something, instead you are meant to relax, reflect, and enjoy the view.
In a way Eufloria can also be seen as a puzzle game. For example, in one of the earlier levels you are surrounded by asteroids and each one has 5 defensive trees. This makes those asteroids practically impossible to invade but I tried to do so anyway. At first I sped up time until I had 100 seedlings. They all died. I restarted and tried again with 200 seedlings. They all died. Clearly something was wrong with my tactics and so I began considering alternative solutions. I soon realized that mere brute force was not the way to beat this level and instead used my fast seedlings to travel to empty asteroids, dodging the defensive trees on the way. In this sense, the game provided me with a puzzle to solve rather than an enemy to destroy. The game features a Dark Mode if you have played through all the story missions and while the game may seem easy at first, it becomes very challenging as you progress.
I highly recommend this game on either platform (PC or PS3) because it is very well made and provides you with a unique and interesting experience. It’s a very fun game but it requires an open mind. If you’re looking for a game that requires your actions per minute count to be insanely high in order to succeed, this is the wrong game. If you have enjoyed other indie ambient games such as Osmos (PC/Mac/iOS) or flOw (PSN), I suggest giving Eufloria‘s demo a try. It translates very well to the DualShock controller but the controls take some time getting used to and you may, at time, experience difficulty navigating between asteroids because of how asteroid selection works. However, once you familiarize yourself with how the game controls and plays, the game is an excellent source of fun and euphoria.