Overall Score 90%
Not since I first discovered Civ2 has a game made me late for so many things. Eufloria offers two of the same addictive qualities as the Civilization series, both the empire-spreading and the need to play just a few more minutes until the next mini-milestone. Eufloria simplifies the unit selection and improvement add-ons of the real-time strategy genre, presenting mystical space lifeforms in a surprisingly vibrant universe. You play not as a general or political leader, but as a collection of seedlings, and your goal is to grow, and spread, take over neighboring asteroids, and make the growers proud.
The game's artwork is reminiscent of Antoine de Saint Exupéry's pen and ink drawings for The Little Prince, while the game as a whole brings to mind Madeleine L'Engle's Sporos in A Wind In The Door, right down to the Greek roots in the game's title. (I knew my degree in classics would pay off eventually).
This is an elegant, simplified RTS game. Gameplay is intuitive, with simple, clear menus. You can easily check at your planet's stats as you play, if you're into that, but the focus is not on watching the numbers change, but on the gentle spread of seedling colonies and algorithm jungles across the galaxy. Your units don't gain experience or power-ups from successful combat, but you can build battle trees and a deathray flower after a few levels.
The basic, mouse-driven controls would lend themselves well to a touchscreen, too, and I have to wonder if there's a Eufloria iPhone app in the future. There's a odd bit of pathing, though, where seedlings assigned to move will go through hostile territory to their destination, if it's shorter than going around through safe space. Brave of them, but I'd rather they didn't run off and get themselves killed taking a shortcut.
I'd also have liked the ability to set a rally point for all my seedlings. In more populated galaxies, it can become a bit tedious to organize seedling deployment. But, again, this isn't a game about rushing towards a goal. Along those lines, play could be improved with an option to continue playing the level after completing the mission goal. I found myself playing more to grow a thriving seedling empire in Eufloria's lovely universe than to score points or take over new planets as fast as possible, and I would have liked to continue colonizing each planet and watching my trees grow instead of jumping to the next level.
Eufloria presents an elegantly simple universe of asteroids and seedlings, and then uses tiny variations and random elements to create a new universe each time. Each asteroid offers seedlings grown on it a unique combination of energy, strength, and speed. Stats lawyers can build an army of seedlings on steroids, but more importantly, these factors slightly change the visual style of the trees and seedlings grown on the planet (for example, faster seedlings grow with bigger wings), adding more options for your unique Eufloria universe.
You're never squinting to determine what kind of tree you've planted, and differenciating between friendlies and hostiles is never hard, but each tree is unique, and each seedling takes a slightly different path to orbit, quickly making a starting gameboard of Microsoft Paint circles into a delicate, dynamic universe.
Zoom in to watch realtime battles between opposing seedling empires. This isn't just watching a red healthbar or watching numbers go up and down. You can watch your seedlings fly across the galaxy to dive-bomb the evil grey menace, or throw themselves at enemy trees, hurtling down the Dyson tree's root to the center of the planet to clear the planet for colonization.
Although most of the game has a gorgeous, organic feel, story information appears as clumsy white text on a black background. I know this seems to be an indie game constant, whether it's a cut corner or a stylistic choice, and I would rather have a stunning game with amateurish text, but the high-school MySpace look is still jarring in what's otherwise such a visually appealing game.
Like the best real-time strategy games, it's hard not to get sucked in for just a few more minutes, even after successfully completing the level.
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