UPDATE:  Dyson has now become a commercial indie title.

Those familiar with traditional Real Time Strategy games know they often involve a great deal of resource and unit management, not to mention the multi-front battles that comprise the core of the game.  This typically translates into a lot of micro-management on the player’s part, which can get burdensome…especially when your forces and territory have reached a certain threshold.  Dyson endeavors to turn this paradigm on its head and does so with a fresh new game that’s brimming with style.  This one’s come a long way over the past year or so and was just recently nominated for an IGF Award in the ‘Best Game’ category.

The premise of the game is simple; you start out with a few Seedlings and a single Asteroid.  The goal is to increase your Seedling population in order to slowly take control of the entire local asteroid belt.  Of course you’ll be battling with several other computer controlled colonies along the way, and competition for the best Asteroids is key to survival and success.  The reason for this is based on the relationship between your Seedlings and the various Asteroids.  By sacrificing 15 of your Seedlings a new Dyson tree can be planted in any Asteroid you control, which itself possesses three inherent qualities: Energy, Strength and Speed.  Once the Dyson tree sprouts it will slowly begin releasing new Seedlings, all of whom now possess the the qualities of the Asteroid (think DNA).  Since the level of Energy, Strength and Speed varies greatly the strategy lies in which Asteroids you’re able to control and colonize.  For example, a group of Seedlings from an Asteroid with a high Speed attribute will move fast but may not have much health or firepower.  Or you could end up with an extremely powerful group of fighters that also happen to move excruciatingly slow.  What’s neat about this feature is the strengths & weaknesses of your Seedlings are reflected in the way they look.  So you can tell at a glance (and by the way they move) what their chances are in an upcoming battle.  If you’ve got a force of fleet-footed, but weak, Seedlings you’d better use overwhelming force against a well established colony.

A helpful tutorial introduces the basic play mechanics, of which there are really only a handful.  I assure you this game, even for newcomers to the genre, is very easy to pick up and play.  Don’t rule it out just because you haven’t played an RTS before. Also, It’s worth noting there are actually two types of trees you can plant.  The previously mentioned Dyson tree, as you know, produces new Seedlings.  The larger it grows the faster it’ll produce them.  You can also plant a “Defense” tree.  This type, when fully sprouted, tries to protect the Asteroid from enemy Seedlings by launching plant-like missiles at them (friendly Seedlings will also defend incoming attacks).  The trick is to balance the trees as each Asteroid supports no more than five total.  You’ll also have to consider when to plant as sacrificing Seedlings leaves the Asteroid vulnerable to attack.

Taking over other Asteroids is all about wearing down enemy colonies and destroying their Dyson & Defense trees.  Victorious Seedlings will automatically begin the process of taking over the Asteroid by drilling down to the core.  You can watch as each penetration slowly reduces the core energy.  When it reaches zero the Asteroid is yours.

The unique visual style and nice ambient music work well, as does the highly intuitive control scheme.  Everything is done with the mouse and feels natural.  For example, begin right-clicking on a home Asteroid to select a specific number of Seedlings, then left-click on wherever you want them to go.  Or just left-click and drag to send all available Seedlings.  The mouse wheel lets you quickly zoom in and out, which is essential for keeping a perspective on your progress and colonies.  The current version of the game comes with 6 levels.  But the beauty is that each time a level is started the Asteroid belt and starting point are randomly generated, offering plenty of replay value.  Conspicuously absent from the latest release is a save option, but the game can be paused and left running in the background by selecting the Menu button.  I should also like to mention my personal preference for the original attribute meter, the one that used a single bar with weighted proportions for Energy, Strength & Speed, rather than the current version using a separate bar for each.

As the game progresses the size and scope of battles will definitely increase (sometimes involving hundreds of Seedlings).  But it never gets to the point of feeling frantic.  It’s quite possible that traditionally non-gamers, or those new to the genre will have just as much fun with this one as seasoned gamers.  And since the earlier levels start out slow there’s plenty of time to get accustomed to the way the game works before any real battles begin.  Dyson is a great piece of work and I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

Designer: Alex May, Rudolf Kremers
Type: Original
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Format: Installer
File Size: 25 MB
Control Scheme: Mouse, Keyboard
Portable: I’m not sure
Version Played: 1.10

Visit the Official Homepage

Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 11:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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