Making the RTS work on iOS
Eufloria is an indie game that appeared on other platforms before making its way to the iPhone and iPad. As is sometimes the case, Eufloria is a game that makes a graceful transition to the iOS platform. The implementation of touch control seems to make Eufloria uniquely tailored for iOS, something that many titles originally designed for Apple’s devices cannot manage.
Real-time strategy games are a genre that many assume would work beautifully for touchscreen devices. After all, one mostly needs to point and click – right? After playing a few iOS real-time strategy (RTS) titles, I can say that there are complexities that aren’t quite best suited for the iPad or iPhone. The absence of a second mouse button immediately requires the use of multi-touch gestures- which only complicates the pinch to zoom mechanics required by an RTS game. Unit grouping, attacking, and even just moving about the map can be a hassle. There are titles that do manage to bring traditional RTS gameplay to iOS with little compromise, but Eufloria’s gameplay manages to skirt around many of the traps of RTS on mobile without feeling like any less of a game.
Eufloria, much like Galcon, is what I would describe as a node, or capture point based RTS. Control of the map is measured by the amount of capture points held by each competitor, and these capture points can often be conquered by attacking with a greater number of units than what currently occupies the node. Typically there are multiple nodes, or in Eufloria’s case ‘asteroids,’ that fall within each-others’ range. The distribution and spacing of nodes creates choke points and weaknesses by which one can outmaneuver their foe.
While in many of these capture point RTSs victory is simply a matter of paying attention to numbers of units, Eufloria adds several layers of strategy to the mix, all without overstepping its bounds in terms of complexity and control. On each asteroid, the player can plant seedlings (the game’s main unit) to create a tree. Some trees create more seedlings, while others can provide the player with further strategic options. Each asteroid will create different kinds of seedlings- some more oriented towards battle, others speed, and still others towards energy gathering.
All of these options give the player the opportunity to form a unique play style, and this is made more manageable with the game’s control system. Zooming and panning works as expected, but by having unit movements restricted to a node-to-node level, the player doesn’t have to worry about drawing boxes to group units. In fact, Eufloria makes it easy to send precisely the amount of units you would like to exactly where you want them to go. I did find, however; that the iPhone version of Eufloria can feel cramped. If one were to only have the iPhone version it would still be easy to control, but if the iPad is an option I wouldn’t hesitate to play this on a larger screen.
The game’s thematic elements run through the visuals, the story and the sound. The whole vibe reminds me of electroplankton, a Nintendo DS title that I still pick up and play. It is minimalistic in its use of art, but what little there is conveys a surprising amount of detail and character.
Eufloria is a great implementation of real time strategy on iOS devices. The art will relax you, and the challenge can keep you at the edge of your seat (the game does include a more relaxed mode). Don’t hesitate to give Eufloria a shot.