PSN Review – Eufloria
Eufloria sets the stage for galactic conquest using anything but the ships and weapons in every traditional space lore told, but rather relying on amber waves of pollen to overwhelm and consume the neighboring lands. Originally conceived and created from the ground up by a team of two men, this PC title has ventured to the most feared place any RTS can explore: the home console. After two years of transitioning, has the colony made the jump safely to this new universe?
Eufloria is a real-time strategy based around developing a thriving colony across multiple planets in a galaxy. It delivers on the key conditions any real-time title should, requiring you to organize and quickly move your troops to attack, conquer and defend new territories from your enemies. Your success is completely reliant on your ability to quickly adapt to new surroundings and counter any threat standing in your way of total conquest. Anyone who has played the likes of Mushroom Wars, or the infamous board game Risk will feel right at home with the make or break moves and timing required to get the best of your opponent.
The largest flaw of the RTS genre is overburdening the player with an exorbitant amount of building and unit types to master. The learning curve often alienates gamers, which is where Eufloria distinguishes itself from the crowd with its deceptively simple nature. You control and conquer asteroids that have the ability to grow trees of two varieties: one that attacks enemy by releasing explosive fruit, and Dyson trees that produce “seedlings”, or “pollen”. Pollen are the framework for your entire civilization’s success as they carry out all of your commands. They are, basically, the single unit of control as they attack, defend, and explore, but most importantly pollen can grow new trees, and conquer new planets.
In order to take control of an enemy asteroid, your pollen must destroy one of the trees to make a crack to the planet’s core. Each asteroid has a certain amount of health that the pollen will individually diminish by making their way to the center. Reduce the core to 0 and the planet is yours with a young tree freshly planted. By default, your units will automatically fight any enemy seedlings or trees they encounter, which is convenient for surprise attacks, however it also lends itself to vast disorganization. Following a command to invade a planet, your army will often spread itself thin attacking all trees rather than centering on one, leaving you searching (and failing) to find a way to select specific targets.
With only one unit type, wars could be won entirely by outnumbering the opposition, but instead, pollen are imbued with certain levels of energy, strength and speed that correlates to the asteroid they originated from. It works well to add some variety and depth, and depending on the asteroids you encounter, you may think twice about colonizing if you can tell your future troops are bound to be fodder. Nothing frustrates you more than sending your whole base into an enemy territory that opposes you in metrics only to find your fearsome troop size immediately vanish.
Even though much of the title is procedurally generated, meaning random planet selection, layout and types, your planet’s feature do not have to be a limiting factor since early on in the campaign you’re given the power to terraform. By sacrificing pollen into an asteroid (one instance where those fodder pollen really come in handy), you can permanently increase any one of the three planetary traits. This addition provides an opportunity for strategy as you can directly influence what kind of army you wish to build. Alternatively, you could create multiple pollen armies that allow you to combat whatever the enemy throws at you, however, your army will be a large combination of pollen types giving way to wars not often won by he who can counteract with the correct pollen, but by whomever can provide back-up the quickest.
The game does a great job of pushing you to explore and expand your reach throughout the galaxy, rather than turtle up with just your few planets. Asteroids provide a certain traversable distance for your pollen to venture between, while the rest of the map remains inaccessible and in the dark (fog of war). New and unknown planets are constantly teased just at the edge of your reach, begging to be examined. Their mystery becomes your gamble; if you send a single pollen out to a neighboring planet, you may find a stronger unclaimed land ready to be tapped into, or discover a thriving colony that has learned of your presence.
The real time strategy genre has a bad rap on home consoles for their notoriously poor control schemes. Eufloria‘s redevelopment paved the way for some creative selection processes with zoom modes and use of the analog sticks. The left stick will navigate throughout space, snapping the cursor to the nearest asteroid, while the right stick can select a percentage of available units to send in a pie-graph style circle after hitting X. Zoomed in on a smaller section of space, this works very well, but as your command of the universe expands and more asteroids are in view at once, selecting specific destinations becomes problematic. Even with adjacent planetary bodies allowing you to create a path for seedlings to travel between, precision is essential as clouds of pollen, mines or flowers must reach their destination before they can be redirected. Couple this with the command interface occasionally guessing your final destination for you, and you’ve got a recipe for some frustrating miscommunication. Especially as you become proficient with the gameplay, the interface often forces you to slow down to double check what the game registers, which is a real shame.
As your empire grows, so too will your inability to micromanage. One of Eufloria’s best additions is the ability to rally troops to other planets as soon as they fall from the tree. Few planets will provide the ideal troops, or when they do, great planets are often spread far apart. Collecting certain pollen types in one place proves invaluable when you need to quickly summon an army. This can save your butt, as the time you would spend selecting each individual planet can be better spent misdirecting enemy troops.
Eufloria was not created with the intention of satisfying your visual lust of explosions and detailed environments or blowing you away with its next generation visuals, but rather to draw you into an almost hypnotic sense where you become a colony member of the Euflorians. The music is serene and peaceful, the asteroids and space atmosphere are pastel in color and soothing to witness. It’s a brilliant, intentional design for the principles behind the almost hidden action taking place. It becomes a direct mock unto itself. Zoom into the outer edge of your colony, and take a deeper look at a world showcasing nothing but chaos and war between rivaling companies. Eufloria accomplishes the unlikeliest of feats by combining the intensity and make or break decisions of great strategy games with the gentle, peaceful nature of thatgamecompany’s legendary Flower.
Subtlety is the name of the game. Only in moments of your unknown decimation will you wish the subtlety was swapped for a more direct indication method. Following the feel of the title, enemy invasions prompt a gentle visual cue that, if missed, will quickly be replaced with an audio cue signaling a lost planet. Spend time with the game and your perception will sharpen on these indications, however one issue with level colorization exists beyond level proficiency. Towards the end of the game the background color on the final levels changes, making it almost impossible to see your amount of pollen on a planet unless zoomed in entirely. You, the player, are put at a disadvantage because of the inability to quickly identify areas to focus attention.
Regardless, the main campaign consists of 25 levels that will more than likely tax you between 30-60 minutes each on your first attempts. Not to mention the additional skirmish levels and Dark Matter mode which creates new objectives to the main campaign. All said and done, there is plenty of replayability with additional incentives, like beating record times, to justify every penny spent. The one obvious flaw with such a user-friendly RTS title, though, is the exclusion of multiplayer, local or online. It’s a shame, since the only thing you will want to do once you learn the ropes is put yourself to the challenge against a friend, but keep in mind that which was mentioned earlier: the game was made by two people.
Eufloria‘s simplicity is its greatest challenge. Your single unit production team means you must decide what to do with the army you amass; send them out to attack, or stay and defend? Sacrifice 10 of them to plant a new tree, or use them all to terraform your planet to guarantee a stronger future? Its a console RTS that makes use of simple controls and mechanics and, as any great RTS should, develops in intensity and complexity as it unfolds. The missing multiplayer hurts it, but it’s the unique feel and atmosphere that will have you returning to find your own ‘Eufloria’, as your colony finds peace and dominance in their prosperous new world.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Hours of content and replayability challenges you from the start
– Missing multiplayer, and occasional wonky controls leave you wanting more