Early Access Preview: Space Tyrant

By Martynas Klimas 09 Aug 2017 0

It‘s good to be bad, and it‘s even better to be bad in space. While Stellaris is the undisputed "Space Hitler Simulator" champion, the market is big enough for two evil 4X games, so there’s enough room for Evil Genius-level tongue-in-cheek games, such as Space Tyrant.

As a Space Tyrant, you are a malevolent being with a flaming skull for a head. Your trade is expanding your domain and being all sorts of dickish to the conquered people. Basically, you like evil for the heck of it. Meanwhile, independent systems are joining the galactic senate in an effort to thwart your plans. And who knows, they might even succeed – if you‘re not careful.

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It’s a bunny-shoot-bunny world out there.

Space Tyrant is probably the most campaign oriented of 4X games, yet it‘s a very light game. You can choose from three races to command in the campaign (representing Space Tyrant reaching out to seduce power hungry warlords). Then you‘ll have to finish five increasingly difficult missions for sectors controlled by one of these races (so 15 missions in total) before you‘ll be able to face off against the Senate. After all, just because you control the Hoplite Clan, that doesn't mean all the Space Bunny Marines are under your control!

Yes, the main available faction is made up of hardcore, power-armoured bunnies in rock ships. The game is kinda funny like that.

Your missions starts with a fleet and a planet. The fleet can move to other connected planets via space lanes, and they can only move one planet a turn. Once you arrive to an unconquered place, you will likely innitiate battle against the defender‘s space forces. Following that, you will roll dice hoping to beat or match the planet‘s defence rating. That is because you‘re bombing the world, and as well all know, if violence wasn‘t your last resort, you have failed to resort to enough of it. Even if you fail, the rating will be reduced by the amount rolled, so there‘s only a little grind.

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Once you bomb a planet into submission, exploration missions fire off.

However, there‘s really zero sweat involved in caring for planets, fleets and your economy in general. If you have a fleet, it can buy ships on friendly (because you conquered it) planets and they’re instantly produced. Some planets can have planetary powers that you can use, usually trading one resource for the other. Some, like barracks planets, have passive abilities; in the case of barracks, you roll an additional dice in sieges. The rest of the planets generate money, research and crystals without you doing anything. Your only goal is to keep the conquest train going.

For you have a Tyranny bar and you have to keep it high – you’ll lose if it runs out. Unfortunately, unrest – generated via planetary exploration events or enemy actions – saps Tyranny each turn, so you can‘t turtle; you must always expand. And you gain Tyranny simply by bombing planets, which makes the whole expansion angle even more fun.

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Tyranny can be spent to zap an enemy fleet.

It‘s important, too, since planets can and will be randomly joining the Senate. And those planets start getting more proactive in opposing you. They’ll hack your research, diminishing its income; they’ll rile up agitators to bring higher unrest, they’ll fortify their planets and raise militia fleets to attack your holdings. That‘s why it‘s in your best interest to crush them under you power armoured rabbit foot.

You are aided by cards; they are drawn every turn and used by expending crystals. The cards have various effects, from increasing planetary defence to revealing map to adding ships to the fleets. Cards don‘t really have downsides, besides the fact that you can only keep a few in your hand.

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Does not look like a good place for a fight, guys!

However, they work only on the strategic map. In tactical battle mode, you‘ll be given the choice of three one-use tactical actions, which are random and not always beneficial. Once in battle, you don‘t really control the ships: they stand on a fixed grid and automatically fire at their foes. What you can do is trigger the ship’ the powers (only once per battle) and fire off the powers of your commanders. All of them work off an auto-regenerating energy gauge.

Some ships are more attack oriented. Others – cruisers - provide support. Those powers can be increased during research. Once you hit a research threshold, you are given the choice between two ship upgrades, which have zero downsides. Research makes, say, cruiser‘s regen ability first affect ships adjacent to it on the grid, and then even boost their defense. This makes cruisers crucial in making destroyers and the fragile frigates stay in the game longer. This also makes you think about the way your ships are place on the grid!

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Some abilities affect only certain rows of the grid.

For such a simple game, Space Tyrant has many concise systems working together in fun ways. Unfortunately, the game isn't that good looking in 3D. In fact, the visuals are the thing that made reluctant to try it out. I believe that a game that can get away with 2D should try and do that, like Stars in Shadow, Bedlam and Xenonauts. And judging by the Hoplite portraits, they have a decent artist on the team. They also have a sound designer, though his work isn't really that special here. While still in development, this seems like a fun game that could easily be a mobile game. It‘s also a competent, charming, easy to control PC title that doesn't weigh you down with the minutiae of 4X games or their dreadful endgame slog.

Space Tyrant launched onto Steam Early Access on July 19th, 2017. At the time of writing, there was no concrete information regarding a timeline for the 1.0 release.

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