It’s one of the most imaginative takes on real-time strategy: replace military-type units with what amounts to the exact opposite: seedlings and trees. Those who appreciate the contrast will note that typically, we’re in command of units designed to destroy; here, we’re ordering around the building blocks of natural life. It’s a great idea. The simple yet refined gameplay is plenty accessible, the beautiful visual style is captivating, and the subtle music by Milieu makes the experience downright surreal. It’s just a little too…ponderous.
At first glance, there’s not much to the graphics. You only see a couple black circles on a bland, muted backdrop. But then you start to play; you direct your seedlings, plant trees and above all else, you zoom in to catch the colorful life triumphantly growing. The only downside is that we have to keep zooming out to keep an eye on the strategy element; it sort of downplays the intricate beauty of the presentation. Still, it’s very soothing. When an environment starts to get populated, you’ll see the natural splendor expand…just remember to zoom in.
The sound matches the visual flair and pervading subtle theme. I think it’s a little too subtle – the score can actually lull you to sleep – and the effects are a little too attenuated. It helps if you have a good pair of headphones, though; you won’t readily miss those low, pleasing tones. You will also notice a fair amount of variety as the levels progress, although I can’t say the music swells during complicated situations. Above all else, the look and feel is distinctly ethereal.
Of course, that means nothing is in your face, which is just fine. Eufloria is indeed a real-time strategy game at its core; your basic units are seedlings, which you need to populate “asteroids.” Asteroids are your bases, where you will plant one of two different types of trees (each of which require a certain number of seedlings). Bases can also be attacked by diseased invaders, which is why you’ll need a defensive tree that actually boasts a laser turret.
The turret is basically the only evidence of something related to death or killing in the game, and even that is somehow pretty. Now, while it may sound as if we’re talking about RTS Lite, you still have to consider most everything you would normally consider in this genre: timing, balancing your power, offense vs. defense; heck, you can even go scouting with a single seedling. The game really does place a strong emphasis on player choice and rewards you accordingly.
The campaign is of a decent length and there are additional gameplay modes, too. There are 8 maps available in the Skirmish Mode, and the Dark Matter mode gives the game another visual bonus by putting a twilight-like twist on levels from the campaign. Those levels are more challenging in Dark Matter, too. All of this adds to the longevity and makes us want to keep playing. But unfortunately, everything just seems too simple, too downplayed, and in some ways, too slow.
You can speed things up with a fast-forward button but that doesn’t really help much, and it diminishes the overall appeal of the game. Plus, with only two types of trees to plant and only one “unit” – your seedlings – this experience just never takes off. Too many of the levels start to feel like the same ol’ same ol’, and the AI doesn’t put up much of a fight. It really feels like we have a fantastic foundation for a AAA gem, but Omni stopped building halfway through.
There’s no multiplayer and you start turning to the alternate modes to get a little extra flavor. The campaign just grows stale too quickly, despite the excellent visual and orchestral bonuses. It’s really a creative concept – and that’s common in the digital realm these days – and the developer’s attempt at creating an accessible and oddly soothing RTS is interesting. I just don’t think they did quite enough with the formula, as the idea needed a bit more time to germinate. …I had to find a word that jives with the game’s singular style, you know?
Eufloria is a great concept that just feels a little undercooked. There’s plenty to be happy about, as the real-time strategy from a nature standpoint is innovative and the minimal backdrop works. The extra modes are fun and better justify the $10 price tag, and there’s a definite sense of satisfaction. But it’s too slow, there just aren’t enough things to do (and not enough units), and the campaign really starts to get tired way too soon. It’s great if you love refined, unique strategy games, though.
The Good: Unique, understated style. Great music selection. Refined strategy approach works. Additional modes add variety. Can be very rewarding.
The Bad: Not enough done with the concept. Feels too slow. No multiplayer. Campaign wears out too soon.
The Ugly: “It’s interesting but...can’t keep…eyes…open…”
10/13/2011 Ben Dutka