Nearly all real-time strategy, or RTS games are built on the same principles. Veni, vidi, vici, the famous quote of Julius Caesar, translating to I came, I saw, I conquered.
Most of us will have had their hands on at least some of the major real-time strategy games, and everyone recognizes names like Age of Empires, Red Alert and Command and Conquer. To be quite frank, though, I never really liked them.
All these games were much too similar for me, not providing enough innovation, and introducing a barely sufficient dose of amazement material. I reckon them to be great, if it’s your cup of tea, but it’s a gaming branch that silently passed my interest. However, I recently encountered a new RTS game that instantly grabbed my eye. Grabbed my eye quite litterally, because it’s absolutely gorgeous. Gorgeous and innovating.
Dyson is a new, ambient real-time strategy game. It’s available on Mac, Windows and Linux, and was originally developed for the TIGSource Procedural Generation competition. Since then, it had also entered the Independant Games Festival competition (also see Mightier), where it had made its way to the finals.
It’s not quite a beta, but its content is procedurally generated. The game is about conquering an asteroid belt, working through a nodes system; colonize a nearby asteroid, settle yourself, and start preparing for the next one. It’s like old European business, though now in space. This sounds pretty easy, and it is fairly simple on paper, but as you proceed in the game, the levels grow to be exceedingly difficult.
Seedlings and Trees
The seedlings are your people. They’re your tools to go, see and conquer other asteroids – not to mention defend your own.
It’s easy to anatomize a seedling. The size of the body indicates its health, the nose shows its strength, and the wings determine their speed.
You start the game with a single asteroid, your home, and a seed. This seed will grow to be either a Dyson tree, or a defensive tree. Dyson trees produce new seedlings, where defensive trees are your artillery fire to take down possible besieging seedlings.
When colonizing other asteroids and widening your empire, you can encounter two basic types of asteroids. Death ones, and habitated ones. Conquering the deat ones is, as you might have guessed, exceedingly easier, because when reaching for the habitated ones, you need to deal with the original population as well.
For this reason, you can choose how many seedlings to send to other planets. Send enough to liquidate the families already there, and to take the necessary number of casualties that result of the enemy artillery.
Once you’ve got an asteroid in your hands, it’s time to plant new trees. You can create any combination of defensive and Dyson trees, with a total maximum of five.
As soon as you’ve conquered an asteroid, you can head for the next one. Note that you can’t use dead planets as intermediatary stops, but need to habitate them first. Once you’ve placed all asteroids under your wings, you’ve beat the level.
There’s a limited amount of available levels, six at the time being, but the game gets regular updates and new level introductions.