Preview: Space Tyrant - Being Evil is so Much Fun
Just when I think the roguelike genre is beginning to slow down after an almighty month Blue Wizard Digital decide to join the mix with their latest in-development title Space Tyrant. Space Tyrant is a turn-based strategy, 5X (eXplore, eXploit, eXpand, eXterminate and eXsanguinate) game where the player controls an evil overlord embarking on a campaign of galactic domination.
Despite its early stage of development, with its addicting fast-paced strategic gameplay, dark humour, a multitude of sci-fi pop culture references and hours of content, it is shaping up to becoming a cracker of a title.
Push back the Galactic Senate at all costs
At the beginning of the game, you get to choose the race that you want to lead to victory. In my build, only one of the three were unlocked and so I chose to lead the Hoplite Dynasty, a race of buff, no-nonsense space marine bunnies in their quest for galactic domination.
Your sole purpose is to overthrow the Galactic Senate. only then will you be the crowned overlord of the galaxy. To do this you must prevent the Senate from gaining control of any of the three races sectors of space.
If they gain control. your reign of terror is over. Before embarking on a mission, the Senate will advance in a particular sector. Each sector has four squares in it with the fourth one having a skull and crossed bones as shown in the image above. If these boxes fill up with Senate ships, you will lose the sector and ultimately the game.
To prevent this from happening you must complete missions in the sector they are advancing into forcing them to retreat. On the bottom of the map screen is your commanders. You will only have one available to you, to begin with, but you can unlock more as you progress.
If you happen to fail a mission, the commander you chose will be executed. If you lose all your commanders, it will also be game over. Due to the game also being a roguelike it features permadeath resulting in death being permanent and the player will need to start from the beginning again.
Having permadeath in a strategy game may sound more of a burden that a positive feature but the fast-paced gameplay of the game stops this from being the case. It is a unique approach to a strategy game and one that is quite exhilarating as every mission and every turn within that mission is important. Just one deadly mistake can screw over your entire campaign if you are not careful.
As someone who isn't a very tactical or strategic individual, I know this will worry those in the same boat as me. But unlike most strategy games which can be merciless on difficulty at times, Space Tyrant is rather lenient in that regard.
While it has its challenges to overcome, you don't need to be a strategic mastermind to conquer what the game has in store for you. You just need a basic understanding of strategy and an aggressive playstyle. If you can be aggressive, in your tactics, then you should be able to manage rather well with the game.
A grand mixture of elements that create addicting gameplay
Any fan of strategic video games will immediately see the many influences that Space Tyrant inspires from. Such influences include Sins of a Solar Empire and the Total War series just to name the two most obvious of them.
There isn't much that Space Tyrant doesn't have in it, from fast-paced turn-based combat to playable cards that give bonuses and additional abilities to equipable items for your commander at the start of each mission to unit upgrades and commander level ups. Blue Wizard Digital have really crammed the game with as much content as possible.
As for the core gameplay, you start each mission with your commander and his fleet of ships and your homeworld as you embark on your objective to victory. Each turn you can move your fleet to a new area and begin invading planets, research labs and so on to take them over to increase your financial and research income each turn.
Most areas will be guarded by other fleets be it one belonging to the race who own the sector or the Senate. Before you can invade and take over a location, you must first defeat the fleet. After the defending fleet is destroyed, you can then begin invading.
Invading takes the form of a dice roll, where the number of the dice represents how much damage you do to the defences. Only once the defences reach zero, will the planet be under your control. Any planet or lab you own can be oppressed by the fleet in its area at the cost of a turn to increase the income from it. This is useful in times of financial or research emergency. You can also buy new ships for your fleet at any place under your rule.
After capturing a planet or base, your troops will explore it where a random event sometimes takes place. During these events, you will be given multiple options to choose from, some of which are unlocked until you gain traits from other events. The outcome of your decision is also random, and can sometimes lead to a good consequence, a bad one or at times a neutral one.
As for actual battles, they are automatic, though the player does have control over the fleets powers, with each unit having its own unique abilities. At the beginning of each battle, you get to choose from three special abilities options, that can be used only once in the battle. Using it and your units abilities at the right time can really turn the table of a battle.
At the end of each turn, the player is automatically drawn a card from the deck. These cards come in all shapes, forms and powers that grant you an advantage. They require crystals to use and how many you have are determined by how many crystals you own on the map.
So yes, there is a whole bunch of features and elements involved with the gameplay. Indeed when a developer attempts to cram in so much content it can easily backfire on them, but here it isn't the case. Every little feature of Space Tyrant has been so carefully planned, designed and executed, that all its elements join together in harmony to create an amazingly addicting experience.
The combat is simple yet very effective and fast paced. Each of the cards offers a distinctive advantage and are well balanced in both power and their cost to use them. The equipable items for your commander at the start of each level adds a whole new level of tactics as which items you should use depends on what is available to you and the objective and circumstances of the mission.
While invading may seem based on luck due to the dice roll there is a certain amount of strategy behind it thanks to the cards and being able to capture barracks that add an extra dice to your invading roll. It is a game that packed fun of content, but even in this early stage of development, is well balanced, fun and most of all fair.
Even the most inexperienced strategy gamers can easily get into Space Tyrant, thanks to its short yet effective tutorial screens and slow climb in difficulty.
A love letter to everything sci-fi culture
Blue Wizard Digitals previous title Slayaway Camp was very much a love letter to slasher movies, particularly those of the 80s. Space Tyrant follows this trend but this time it is a love letter to everything sci-fi. Throughout the game, those familiar with sci-fi pop culture will begin to see the many references, parodies and inspirations the game contains.
To name a few, there is without a doubt influence from Futurama with the Techno Slugs having a similar design to the Slurm slugs, the Hoplite Dynasty are very similar to the space marines from Starcraft except they are rabbits and my favourite the two Scutter droids from the Red Dwarf series also make an appearance.
And no doubt there are much more than I simply just having noticed with the sci-fi genre not being my most knowledgeable. If you are a fan of everything sci-fi particularly pop culture, you are bound to find your fair share of humorous moments.
Being Evil has never been so much fun
While there are a fair few games where you play an evil overlord hell-bent on absolute conquest, I honestly haven't had this much fun since the days of Dungeon Keeper. Space Tyrant is such an over the top game that really doesn't take itself seriously leading to there being plenty of humorous and chuckle filled moments.
Few games that have so many elements to them and execute them with the elegance that Space Tyrant does. It is a game that is brimming with personality, charm and most of all utter love. If this is the quality that Blue Wizard Digital are presenting at such an early stage of development, I can't wait to see what more they have in store as the game progresses.
The game is scheduled to release on Steam Early Access at some point next month. If you are a fan of turn-based strategy games or simply love the sci-fi genre, then Space Tyrant is definitely a game you need to keep an eye out for.
Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this preview.