Eufloria offers a unique real-time strategy experience that stumbles just shy of greatness.
- Fantastic ambiance
- Simple to pick up
- Major improvements over PC version.
- Unbalanced difficulty
- Overly repetitive.
Looking at screenshots or video of Eufloria, you may find it tough to tell exactly what kind of game it is, or if it's really a game at all. When you finally wrap your head around it, you may get the impression that this is the most relaxing and mellow real-time strategy game you'll ever play. That feeling doesn't last forever, though, as Eufloria evolves into a game that gets difficult at times. Still, it makes a graceful jump from the PC to the PlayStation 3 with some new features and improved gameplay that make it well worth playing, particularly if you missed it the first time.
The easiest way to describe Eufloria's gameplay is to compare it to the board game Risk. Usually, your ultimate goal is to take over the entire map by capturing territories. In Eufloria, perfectly spherical asteroids serve as the coveted land resource, and you can only travel to asteroids that are more or less adjacent to your units (as least in the sense that the Earth is "adjacent" to the moon because we're talking about space). You want to create life on those asteroids by planting trees, and the primary type is the Dyson tree, which creates seedlings. For all intents and purposes, seedlings are the only unit you need to worry about in Eufloria, which is one of the biggest factors in keeping the gameplay simple. Not only are seedlings your soldiers and scouts, but they're also your resource for creating new trees on asteroids.
To take over an asteroid, the opposing seedlings must destroy at least one of its trees and then burrow into the center of the asteroid to beat it into submission from within. It's harder to kill a tree if the tree fights back, so you can plant defensive trees that launch explosives at attacking seedlings. Trees also mature over time, making them both harder to kill and more productive, so it's in your best interest to protect asteroids you already own in addition to taking new territory. Things are mixed up a little bit by the fact that different planets have different attributes for energy, strength, and speed. Seedlings will have the same stats as the planet on which they're produced, so some planets (usually the larger ones) are more valuable than others. You can also take advantage of laser mines to take out large groups of weak seedlings, and later in the game, you can upgrade your Dyson trees to make more powerful seedlings.
At its best, this formula is fun and relaxing, if repetitive. But there is something satisfying about building a massive army of seedlings and watching it conquer your enemies. The game is thick with ambiance, from its relaxing music to its art and animation. When zoomed in close to the map, you can see each individual seedling as it leaves its tree and flies around its asteroid, most of which is beautifully colored. When you zoom out, you see a galaxy of colored seedlings swarming to and fro. Even though these seedlings are often attacking and killing each other, the mix of colors can be pleasing to the eye. The enemy AI isn't usually too aggressive, which gives you a chance to take your time and build up an army. Because everything is so streamlined, though, you are given very little control of your seedlings outside of where they move, which can be frustrating. This means you cannot instruct your army to focus its attacks on one individual enemy tree, despite how useful this would be when trying to take over an asteroid.
The game struggles to find a balance in difficulty. Much of the game is procedurally generated, which means that there is an overall mold for each stage, but the exact placements of asteroids and enemies are random. This is good for replay value, but it can be frustrating when trying to finish certain levels. You might start a map one time to find yourself surrounded by enemies that decide they want to kill you immediately, or you might start the same map with a useful flower on your asteroid and plenty of empty asteroids nearby to colonize without fear. There are a few maps that are disproportionately more difficult than those before or even after, and you might find yourself restarting the mission multiple times in the hope of getting a better starting scenario. Other missions are painfully easy and amount to little more than waiting for armies to grow.
Eufloria doesn't try to map a mouse cursor directly onto the PS3 controller. You look around the map with the left stick and select asteroids with the right stick. You can hold the X button to quickly drag all seedlings from one asteroid to another (useful if you're on the offensive) or tap X and use a wheel to select exactly how many units you want to send where. This works surprisingly well most of the time, though when the map is filled with asteroids, it can be annoying trying to select exactly which one you want. It can also be a pain to order seedlings around if you want them all to converge in one location because there is no option to select multiple asteroids or to select all available units. While the PC version has a slight upper hand in controls, the PS3 version has better content. Since its original release on the PC in 2008, Eufloria has seen a lot of tweaks and improvements. The PS3 version not only includes more rebalancing and improved AI, but it also introduces a couple of huge additions that have been demanded for a long time: a fast-forward button to speed up time and a beacon plant that serves as a waypoint to direct new seedlings. These two things alone fix a lot of gameplay issues that people had with the original release, and the result is a much better game.
The 25-mission Story mode introduces you to all of the game's controls and mechanics, after which you unlock harder versions of those missions, as well as skirmish missions. The lack of multiplayer is unfortunate, but there are many hours of content in this package. This is a great port and one of the better examples of an RTS working on a console, though the simplicity will turn some players away. If you don't go into Eufloria expecting a deep or complex RTS, you will have a good time with it, provided you can look past some spikes in difficulty.