Now Blossoming: Eufloria

By Jim Rossignol on October 21st, 2009 at 6:03 pm.


It was called Dyson at the Independent Games Festival, and now it’s called Eufloria. That should have been Euphloria, I reckon, but no matter: it’s a minimalistic “ambient” space strategy game, and it’s out already on Steam or, better still, from the creator’s site. I’ve been playing it for the past couple of days, and my flowery words follow beneath the click.

While it’s purportedly set in space, the actual battlefield of Eufloria is a 2D pastel plane filled with circular “asteroids”. It’s gallery-space abstract, but that doesn’t mean Eufloria doesn’t exhibit extraordinary beauty and complexity. The fundamental process in the game is found within “Dyson Trees”, which grow from the asteroid surface. These come in two varieties: one that defends, and one that grows seedlings. It’s these seedlings that are the heart of your strategies and your actions: they swirl around like insects and can be directed to move between various asteroids. Sometimes you’ll send out just a couple of scouts, other times a vast, seething, conquering mass. Later there are deadly blossoms too: slow moving mega-weapons of the Eufloria universe.

The other asteroids on any given level are populated by enemy swarms, who are growing their own trees, and going about their own business. As you move about your seedlings do battle with the enemy swarms, destroy enemy trees, and capture the asteroids for their own. More often than not your tactic becomes about growing as many seedlings as possible and simply over-whelming your enemy. It’s a kind of formalised tank-rush, only with pastel-seed podlet things… which is a little disappointing. But then there are also times when the game really does hit its stride, and sees you figuring out how to take down an aggressive or heavily-entrenched enemy with some inventive or exploratory play.


Through all this runs a vague story of exploration and redemption: corrupted Dyson tree tribes that must be expunged from the universe have been discovered, while lost outposts of your species need to be rescued. Yes, it’s strangely cute and at the same time austere, but with aesthetic sparsity masks a surprising amount of sophistication. There are several distinct variables to consider, such as the properties of each asteroid. Energy, strength and speed will define the kind of seedlings that are produced, and each type is good for a rather different task. Strong seedlings are good at taking down the defence trees of well-defended asteroids, while high energy seedlings make the task of laying claim to an asteroid much easier. Where the game really demands your tactical attention is often in the layouts of the asteroids themselves: the large the asteroid the more places you can get to. Likewise, when the enemy seedlings have hold of a large asteroid, the range of their attacks is much greater. You have to take such things into account as you begin to manage your swarms in tougher battles. In all honesty though, I only found myself using these subtleties on rare occasions. Perhaps the game’s greatest flaw is that the AI isn’t aggressive enough until the end of the game, and you’re given such an easy ride up that stage that you don’t necessary exploit the tactical possibilities that the game design has set up.


And what of this claim to be “ambient?” Well, it does feature incredibly spacey music, and has a gentle visual style that seems almost unprecedented. As a game experience, however it’s less ambient more like “background”, at least for the first two thirds of the game. The slow pace of things – combined with my own general hyper-activity – meant I was regularly clicking away to read chat windows, or type up some thoughts on another game. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s not been the first time I’ve been engrossed in a game I could play while working. The slow pace I speak of is down to the seedlings taking time to grow. Having enough of them is vital to get through the game, as they’re lost in battles, in capturing asteroids, and in planting new trees for the generation of additional seedlings. You only seem to ever have enough as a critical mass is broken and you over-whelm the level you are playing. A time speed up function would definitely have been welcome, or even a option to set your own pace for the rate at which the game grows, and moves. As it is, the pacing is problematic. Maybe this will be addressed in a later version of the game.

Can I recommend it? Yes, in parts. This finished game is a huge leap onward from the free release – move levels, a fleshed out campaign, skirmish modes, and more. There’s a certain small crowd of gamers I know that will love it unreservedly. The game is as stylish and as soothing as a this kind of game has ever been, and it has a distinctly clean, modern charm, like an Ikea of space strategy. But like the furniture, it’s not going to appeal to everyone. The peculiar pacing will frustrate some, while the abstract presentation will deflect others – it doesn’t always even distinguish well between you and an enemy, giving you similar colours – an added frustration.. I can see why all these things would be problems – hence mentioning them – but my tastes do warm to this odd kind of strategic puzzle-solving. It almost feels healthy, like it’s a good meal of a game, rather than simply another sugary treat. The best litmus test, of course, would be to play the demo, which you should go and do right now.

The best litmus test, of course, would be to play the demo, which you should go and do right now.

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46 Comments »

  1. Schaulustiger says:

    Didn’t play that much but I absolutely love it so far. Can’t exactly say why, but it’s definitely both relaxing and demanding. And the atmosphere drips out of every pixel, great visuals.

  2. Railick says:

    Played this already when it came out for free. I really enjoyed it but after beating one level I didn't feel the need to play it again. There is a flash game similiar to this idea that is much more stream lined where you have to invade cells and as time goes by invaded cells gain more infection or virsuses or whatever you want to call them. You just click the attacking cell and the cell to be invaded and they jump over. It is very fast paced and to me much more enjoyable than this game (Both are a lot of fun but this one for me takes to long and the reward isn't something I'd want to earn twice)

    I would suggest anyone who hasn't played this give it a shot, though I wouldn't pay for it.

    • Ybfelix says:

      Yeah, I’ve played that flash game, in the last few levels enemy numbers in each cell are hidden, that made the game almost feel strategic

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    It’s worth stressing that the full game is a considerably fuller and more complex game than that beta release, whenever it was.

    • The Dark One says:

      That’s good to hear. I had absolutely no idea what to do when I tried the 1.2 version a while back.

    • Schaulustiger says:

      This is one of the reasons why I hold in such high regards. I love how it evolved from some small contest game to a free little gem to a fully grown commercial indie thing. And when I read the official forums I get the impression that they still have tons of ideas to implement, meaning that it will likely get some big patches coming. Plus, it has a LUA-based modding environment, making it likely that there will be great user-generated content.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      It’s fleshed out, but is it more of the same? The one thing I loved about the Dyson demo/free release/whatever is that it was such a relaxing game to play, and I could just sit there listening to the ambient music and waiting for my seedlings to grow. If it ends up being more frantic, I guess I’d be a little less interested.

  4. cowthief skank says:

    What exactly is or are the difference or differences between the free version and the paid-for version? I had version 1.10 if that makes any difference…

  5. Eleven says:

    Played it and loved it.

    The original demo “Dyson” is to “Eufloria” what “Tower of Goo” was to “World of Goo”. There are far more game mechanics, more challenge and lots more polish in the full game.

  6. Railick says:

    From reading the reviewy type thing about the game sounds about the same, the only thing that seems to have changed is that diffrent asteroids give diffrent types of seedlings but that seems kind of pointless to me since you'll have so many it would be pretty hard to organize them as they all just fly around in swarms :P Still it is nice that they added a bit to it idea. Still I wouldn't buy it personally after having played the base game I found it pretty boring (but pretty)

    • user@example.com says:

      If you double-click on an asteroid, you can pick a class (fast, tough, dakka) and your next move order will only move that kind of seedling. It helps when you’re assaulting somewhere well-defended, because your fast seedlings will get there first and could be mown down before the rest arrive.

  7. Kadayi says:

    Heh bought already. I remember back when RPS first featured this and I fell in love with the demo (just very relaxing to play). Good to see it pushed through into a retail release, though I think £15 might be a bit high price wise for most people. £10 I think would garner more interest.

  8. MadMatty says:

    Played the beta, enjoyed it, but never came back to it, as the game mechanics were a bit too simplistic to hold my attention for long. It might be worth a look if they upgraded it a bit.

  9. Railick says:

    Ah, I guess that sorts that problem out very well :) Does it tell you how many of each type you have at that planet so you don't accidently send 4 of them out of a cloud of 400 of types ?

    Sounds more interesting now but I still doubt i'll be able to swing 15 extra dollars atm with all the other games I want coming out right now (Borderlands,Torchlight, that Macharium game I probably spelled the name wrong of . . . )

  10. lumpi says:

    Oh Dyson, I always believed in you!

    I never understood how it didn’t win the TIG Source procedural competition.

  11. Pantsman says:

    This looks good, but how can a game possibly be described as ambient? A game requires attention by definition, it exists in the foreground of the mind or not at all.

  12. Pantsman says:

    On the other hand, maybe you could describe a game as ambient if you’re focusing on something else while ostensibly playing it – like having a conversation over a game of chess.

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    ordteapot says:

    Music for Airports, the game?

    It leaves me wishing there was a feature to auto-send new seedlings to another planet (a production way point, I guess). The enjoyment I got out of it was mostly in watching things, and repeatedly clicking on every single planet to gather the seedlings up (again) didn’t make me feel involved so much as it seemed a nuisance. Maybe I just want the game to play itself.

  14. Chiablo says:

    Did they ever fix the cheating A.I. that was rampant in Dyson?

    I appreciate a strategy game where the AI provides a challenge because it is intelligent. I hate games where the AI cheats in order to increase the difficulty. In Dyson, each planet has a troop range, YOU can’t send troops past this range unless you move them between planets, the AI can, and does so relentlessly.

    Did they fix this in the full version?

  15. Don says:

    Enjoyed the demo, which is much better than the Dyson beta thingy. Regarding the colors; in the settings you can opt for “accessible” colors, or “colours”, I guess depending on your time zone, and it makes things simpler. Good if you are colorblind, like me.

    • Premium User Badge

      ordteapot says:

      Yeah, colorblind accessibility is always appreciated by us genetic failures. World in Conflict was another recent (well, for me) title I noticed had this. It’s nice to actually be able to use the minimap.

  16. Nero says:

    I’ve played quite a few Dyson versions and was almost waiting for a chance to support these guys. I’ve finished 10 campaign levels and there are some nice changes here from the earlier versions. Indeed the pace can be really slow, I do alt tab away at times while waiting for troops to build but I still enjoy it very much. I’ve noticed that listening to the music from Machinarium fits while playing it.

  17. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Looks nice, but it’s just a pretty version of Galcon with a slower pace where you have to create production facilities on planets. Which I don’t mind. But while I found the premise and the presentation nice, the controls were a bit awkward (the scrolling, and I don’t know if it’s possible to select different asteroids at a time but it should be because managing your seedlings can become a pain otherwise).

    But no, I wouldn’t pay for this when there’s better (for gameplay purposes) available in flash. In my opinion, of course. That, and it’s not the kind of game I’m likely to buy since for me these are the object of short temporary bouts of gameplay.

    • Maniac11919 says:

      exactly what i was thinking. this is identical to galcon, just with a different interface and perhaps a bit more depth… galcon with flowers and a slow place is still galcon though…

    • Tei says:

      Galcon, and all Galcon clones are broken, I say. The faster win, or the one that can mass more units win. Is like a big game of Tic Tac Toe in real-time.

      Could be that this Eufloria is adding more gameplay elements to un-broken the Galcon gameplay? I ask for a demo! :-)

  18. Urthman says:

    it’s called Eufloria. That should have been Euphloria, I reckon

    Oh, come on. It’s an obvious pun on flora, good-plants-ia.

  19. GammaRay says:

    Amen! I’m tired of playing games in which I can’t distinguish good guys from bad guys…..

    • GammaRay says:

      And….. that was supposed to be a response to Don/ordteapot. How do I indent?

    • GammaRay says:

      Hey! It happened on accident! I wonder what else I can do without trying.

    • Tei says:

      You could play any game Postal style, where you are evil, and everybody is good. Or you can buy a “B&W” moral monitor, that only paint two colores: White and Black. But I have read that people get tired of the monocolorism really fast and ask for grey.

  20. Matosh says:

    Honestly, I preferred it being called ‘Dyson’. It’s just a far cooler name, ‘Eufloria’ is too… cutesy.

    • cowthief skank says:

      Me too. But I supposed the big vacuum cleaner people would treat them as a money-tap if they did that.

  21. Tei says:

    If we have “Abstract shotters”, I think this sould be called “Abstract rts”.

    The sci-fi fanboy on me ask why we are soo near, but still can’t, make a game about von Newman drones.

    The story could be like this:

    “Radiation, wars, incompatibility of the human body with long periods in the space… the humans were forced to stay in Earth, Venus and Mars. So the 3 overpopulated worlds created a project to create ‘self replicate von Newman drones’ to mine the oort ring”

    “After 150 years all contact with the drones is lost, and automatic ships send to the area are …destroyes, …and canivalized”.

    “You are a very smart AI send to the oort ring, with the mission to take control a von Newman hive, and fight all other hives to restore control of the drones for the 3 Worlds.”

  22. GibletHead2000 says:

    I played this a little last night, and found it quite enjoyable. Felt to me a little like a very basic prototype of Sins of a Solar Empire. :-)

    Also, is it just me or does this game bring on Tetris Effect very quickly for everyone? I was seeing orbiting dots after about 20 minutes of play. But could have been because I was tired…

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    Stense says:

    From what I’ve seen of this, its pacing and minimilistic style reminds me, in passing, somewhat of Defcon. Which is no bad thing in my opinion. I’m probably wrong in such a comparison, but that was my initial thought upon seeing the game.

  24. GreatUncleBaal says:

    I really like this game and will pick it up in the next couple of weeks. I still find it vaguely sinister though – this silent swarm descending on worlds and claiming them – it reminds me of the end of the short story “Galactic North” by Alastair Reynolds.

  25. Alexander Norris says:

    Soooo… Guess who just made the Eufloria newspost on Steam as the primary review quote?

    Here’s a hint: it may have something to do with the blog post I’m commenting on.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    The demo was a great time waster for an hour or so but I’m not inclined to buy the game.

    I just find the pacing problems mentioned by kieron to put me off a bit. It’s slow to get going at the start of a level, about spot on in the middle and then all too quick and easy at the end.

  27. Anonymous Coward says:

    Finished it. The perfect game to get you to sleep at night. I mean that in the nicest possible way.

    The graphics are simple and well-done for what they are. My 2 year old computer had no problem running with upwards of 5000 seedlings in play. I’ll step out and say that I actually enjoyed the control scheme; I wound up navigating almost entirely by rolling the mouse wheel down, which didn’t bother me. The music is formless but fluid, and fitting for such a slow game. The randomness factor wasn’t severe, but it occasionally sent a pretty strong windfall to the player, especially by placing high-quality poorly-guarded asteroids near the starting location, and it occasionally did the opposite, pinning a weak start location between heavily fortified large asteroids; however, I never encountered anything close to a no-win situation. The big difference between the old Dyson versions I played and Eufloria was the addition of “flowers,” which allowed you to either upgrade the seedlings produced by one tree or to force one defensive tree to produce a movable anti-seedling laser-flower thingy (I forget its name) — basically, slow-moving destroyers that annihilate seeds but cannot fire at trees.

    The chief complaint I have is the meagre difficulty of 95% of the game. First, the engine supported scripted events, but the functionality was almost never used to any meaningful effect. On one level, a beefed-up invading fleet shows up and attacks the rest of the cluster; that was the first time I had to restart, but that was a good thing. Mostly, the script simply put up messages when certain asteroids were touched, but to no effect. Second, the engine allows for relatively aggressive AI play, but this toughness doesn’t show up until the very last campaign level. That was the second and last time I had to restart the level. Limits on total seed count (say, only 30-40 seeds total per asteroid controlled) would have added a tricky dimension to the game, instead of making it a game of a quick early expansion followed by massive turtling. Plus, it would have made the power differences on the various asteroids more meaningful; after the first 100 seeds, there was really little point in paying attention to which ones were stronger or faster. Additionally, while the flower upgrades were kind of fun, they were universally overkill; a laser flower with any backup whatsoever could take on many, MANY seedlings, since the AI wasn’t exceptionally prone to target the flower first, and enhanced seedlings were fairly beefy themselves, especially if produced from a good asteroid.

    This is not to say that Eufloria wasn’t enjoyable. It’s a great play-while-you-relax game, whether relaxation includes chatting, reading something light, or watching a video. The interface is clean and intuitive, and the gameplay is quietly entertaining for awhile. Don’t go in expecting the moon, and it’ll probably entertain a casual gamer for at least a single playthrough.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    I totally agree with the anonymous guy. I also played it at night before going to bed and it was relaxing in an absolutely wonderful way. Would have wished for a more aggressive AI, too, it was way too passive for most of the campaign. And when the AI plays a bit better, the game is quite strategic. Btw, how did you finish the last mission? It's the only one that I can't get a foothold in. Those grey dudes from their superplanets destroy me wherever they go, even if I have an army three or four times the size of theirs.

    • Anonymous Coward says:

      As a rule, you can’t beat the grey juggernaut. The gigantic grey swarm in that level is made up of stronger-than-normal seeds, and it will easily chew up regular groups thrice its own size. Just leave it alone, hope that it attacks the colored teams, and keep conquering little planets. Any time that you don’t see a likely candidate for takeover, upgrade your planets, starting with the best ones — try to use wimpy seeds for this, but don’t waste lots of time this way. You can definitely take planets faster than the AI can — once you have one band of 100-150, you can start carefully taking out the colored enemies. When the big gray cloud shows up, just leave and go take another planet (say, an undefended gray planet). It stinks if they happen to take your prize planet, but that part’s just about luck. Once you’ve taken 2/3 or so of the map, you can think about trying to take one of the big planets; just keep in mind that gray is going to swarm to defend it, and the planet’s own defenses are much more formidable than any others in the game; even without defenders, it can take several hundred average seeds to weather the defensive trees’ onslaught and whittle down the planets’ 500+ hit points. Dealing with the swarm comes near the end, when you’ve got 750-1000 seeds to send at it. Grey’s weakness as compared to the colored enemies is that it doesn’t regenerate seeds quickly; any time you see a group of 20-30 grays floating by themselves, kill it if you can spare the time; even if you have to retreat from the planet, that’s 20-30 seeds that AREN’T reinforcing the juggernaut. Those defensive laser flowers are very good for fighting off smaller groups of enemies, by the way. I’d build at least one defensive tree on your best planet just to get a fast, strong laser flower. Just don’t waste time deploying it against planets with numerous defense trees; it doesn’t attack the bombs, and it’s quite likely to get killed in a random explosion.

      In short, A) take little planets, B) don’t fight the big gray swarm, C) only think about finishing off the big planets and swarm when the rest of the map is under control.

  29. lalahsghost says:

    I can’t imagine paying $20 for a polished flash game. I’m sorry. I could buy like three good/great SNES cartridges for that price….

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    Schaulustiger says:

    Wow, that was an extensive write-up, thank you Mr. Anonymous! :) I'm gonna give it another try tonight. I guess the problem was my impatience, so I always engaged the grey masses too early.