Eufloria HDwill without a doubt draw comparisons to thatgamecompany’s Flower. And probably even flOw. Honestly, any game that strives for an ambient-like experience will inevitably be grouped with similar brethren.
Downtempo music, simple gameplay and a general air of relaxation all wait for anyone wishing to experience Omni Systems Limited‘s touchscreen, HD version of Eufloria. Given control of a kind of celestial garden, this is a game that puts a different spin on the traditional RTS format. For a genre that traditionally relies on tense resource management, does Eufloria HD’s ambient approach clash too harshly?
Here is Mother Tree tasking players to expand the colonies in servitude of the Growers. In a very loose way, Eufloria has a plot. Yet it is one that mostly gives a method to the eventual gameplay.
Asteroids dot the playing field. Circling around them are seeds capable of flying to other asteroids and colonizing them. These seeds can plant trees that will yield more seeds and so on and so forth. But there are enemy seeds waiting to attack and dominate your garden. This is the basic formula driving Eufloria and the same formula that is at the core of any other RTS game. Resource management is king and these budding saplings are no different.
Players target an asteroid to colonize–like moving troops to establish a secondary base of operations. Back at the home base, more seeds will grow. This cycle applies to most missions but there are often different objectives that give gameplay diversity. Different types of seeds can tackle enemies and asteroids in different ways and mastering their roles becomes important in later stages. Some of the more entertaining missions are the ones that force players to face off against overwhelming odds. Retreating to a distant asteroid, building up an army and then tanking through those opening opponents is very satisfying.
One important thing to note is that the touchscreen controls work incredibly well on the Vita. Players are continuously poking at the screen to select units and pinching the screen to zoom in and out. It never feels awkward and actually makes gameplay that much more fluid. Controlling the game any other way seems almost silly.
Graphics & Sound
In a sense, much of Eufloria‘s visuals are muted. Zooming the view out to gaze at the entire field of asteroids often shows grey circles littering the screen. Backgrounds, much like the sky or space, are one color with tiny shade variations. But unlike the sky, there are no clouds listlessly floating along or stars poking out like bright pinpricks. It seems like a strange choice that more doesn’t actually happen in the background of the game to make it just seem like merely a small garden in a vast, empty space of color.
Despite that, there are unquestionably pretty moments because of the tree and seed aspects. Watching multi-colored dots swim around a grey asteroid is like seeing fireflies in the night. Unlike some RTS experiences, visuals don’t take a hit when zooming in. Where troops often look flimsily detailed, the trees sprout extensive branches that clash well with the color palette. Though it might not fully embrace its “HD” moniker, Eufloria is in no way ugly on the Vita’s screen.
For a game hedging most of its bets on delivering an “ambient” gameplay experience, a suitable soundscape is key. Explosions, voices and all other manner of audible chatter would be a detrimental distraction in Eufloria. Sound effects are mostly unsubstantial, which makes sense considering trees and plants don’t often make that much noise. One enjoyable touch is that seeds and other units usually make muffled noises from a distance. Zooming in to get a closer looks makes them buzz with life.
Much of the game strips away complex instrumentation in favor of a select few notes and beats. Fans of an ambient music auteurs such as Brian Eno will gladly let Eufloria’s soundtrack nestle in their ears. This direction completely makes sense for the game. Even during semi-dramatic or tense moments where players are being invaded or fleeing from danger, the music remains dedicated to the soothing atmosphere established at the onset. The harmony created between both relaxed gameplay and relaxing sound is one of the biggest accomplishments of Eufloria.
Though it was birthed on the PC and later on the PS3, Eufloria HD really clicked on tablets and mobile devices. Here is a relaxing game where taps on a touchscreen translate to scenic and somewhat difficult gameplay. It only makes sense that the game made its way to the PS Vita. It’s a handheld that has already housed many unique games and Euflora HD is no different. Those who want to relax, plug in some headphones and have some fun will enjoy expressing their dominance over this otherworldly garden.