Review: Space Tyrant22 Mar 2018 2
Review: Space Tyrant
Released 27 Feb 2018
One of the most entertaining films I watched when I was a child was Toy Story. We all know that to Tim Allen’s character Buzz Lightyear, the big villain was Zurg, for 5-year-old me, he was the epitome of all evil. Who’d have thought that all these years later I would become Zurg as I played through tyrannical 4x strategy title Space Tyrant. As you can imagine, you are at the helm of an evil space empire where you set off on a course to conquer the universe.
The game is a single player 4x turn based strategy game with Masters of Orion elements. Space Tyrant uses multiple win objectives in missions and has different difficulty settings to make the campaign feel harder the longer it goes on for. For those that have played X-COM, this grand campaign will feel similar. The objectives are to secure the 3 different galaxies in a session. The senate has its own galaxy that you cannot touch, and it continues to expand into the same universes you want to conquer. Each galaxy will have 4 different blocks that the senate will try to control whilst each galaxy will have 4 missions you need to win. When succeeding in a mission, you will cause a loss of control for the senate in that galaxy. The senate will then send reinforcements to other galaxies to continue their goal at gaining control over that galaxy. When a galaxy is fully controlled by the senate, your evil mission will end. So, keep hammering away at each galaxy until they have been hindered.
The variance on the missions is enough to keep you on your toes throughout the campaign. The main missions you will encounter are conquer missions, which is typical map domination where you need to control 60% of all planets in the mission. There are science missions where you need to research 12 technologies, with bonus missions to fully research 2 ship types. And there are crystal game modes, which require spending 50 crystals on hand cards, or using 5 different cards in the same turn. Each game mode offers its own unique challenges in taking the sector over, as they can be races against time as you draw closer to that 12th research as your overall tyranny looks to run out the turn later. I found myself in that position a couple of times in the research and crystal missions. This means you really need to think about where your fleets are, maintaining tyranny levels, knowing how much more science or crystal planets to conquer etc.
Each mission also has its own rewards. These are different for every conquest you commit to, and it’ll tell you before accepting it. Some missions, if successful, will provide your emperor with different gear. The armour you equip at the start of the mission will offer several starting bonuses for that mission, such as more tyranny from capturing planets, bonus science from science planets, etc. Other such rewards you can get provide different battle tactics that are generated in the pre-fleet battle phase. While some of the other benefits can unlock new ships.
When completing a mission, you gain a talent that will be used throughout your space crusade. There is a total of 12 talents you can get for your empire, and every mission success offers a choice from 3 different perks. Choose wisely at this stage as these abilities will benefit you in diverse ways. You can see the talents in the top of the screen when in space tyrant command (mission select screen), by expanding the empire benefits.
Although, failing a mission will result in that leader becoming wounded. A wounded leader will enter battle with their ships on 75% hp, and some of the passive benefits of that leader will be stopped, making your campaign significantly harder. This was one of the primary factors as to why I ended up losing my first campaign, as I lost those benefits quite early on.
Even after finishing my first campaign in failure, there are now more ways to succeed on my second attempt. At the end game screen, I was briefed with my campaign statistics and achievements. Even with my terrible failure I managed to unlock the 2nd general for the Hoplite Dynasty, which will make losing my first battle in the next campaign less disastrous. When you win a game, you can unlock things like new empires (provided you conquered their respective galaxy, or larger ships if you win enough battles. This feature is a fantastic way to keep players interested in continuing with that faction, before moving onto dominating the universe with a different empire. All of these can then be used in the skirmish mode, for those shorter playthroughs, which is enjoyable way of saying ‘congratulations you earned this forever’.
The game uses classic board game mechanics by having a hand of cards to use in player turns. At the start of every turn, the player will receive a new card from their deck. These cards do different things like increase income for a few turns, boost science, grant fleet commanders xp, draw more cards, etc. Each card has a different cost which limits spamming to some degree. Normally, there is a max cap of 4 cards in a player's hand, but you can draw more cards by exploiting crystal planets you control and have a fleet stationed in. These are crucial mechanics for winning in the crystal game mode, but normally offer other strategical bonuses in other game modes.
I really like the continued character development of your overlord. Some of the random events you get offer distinctive characteristics for your tyrant. These qualities continue over to future missions when unlocked, which will offer different responses in other planetary events, leading to different outcomes to those events. One of my favourite examples is when I abducted a several limbed creatures of unknown origin as my pet early in the crusade, which then served useful when my space mistress did not take too kindly to my evil actions… oops!
The combat systems leave much to be desired. The combat in this game is built by structuring a fleet into available tiles. This organises the fleet in that formation and is how they enter combat. Then you select your randomly generated 1 time use ability in the pre-battle phase and start the fight. In combat, your commander generates fleet power every few seconds which you can spend on ship’s special abilities. Healing for cruisers, volleys for destroyers and frigates, huge blast from battleships and ship invasions from carriers. Each ship will then have a cooldown for their next ability use, but some ships are randomly inspired which will make the cooldown reduce quicker.
When the ships in your fleet have all used their special ability, the main way of spending that power is on your commander's ability. Named generals have unique abilities, like hurl meteors at random enemy ships, whilst regular commanders tend to have damage mitigation effects. Now this is a nice feature to have because it means using the abilities at the right time and at specific targets leaves a better strategic impact on the board. However, ships target another ship randomly in regular combat volleys, and the special ability will also choose the same target in the case of destroyers and frigates. To top it off hurling meteors at random targets can sometimes waste a terrific opportunity for taking down bigger ships.
This RNG feature continues into planetary sieges where a planet has x amount of defence and you roll a D6 (and an additional D3 if you control a barracks planet or used a siege card) to see how much of a dint you did to that planet. Sometimes these RNG effects do not go your way when that roll of 1 comes in a on planet with 2 defence, which can completely ruin your momentum or even throw your game if it is a race to maintain tyranny levels.
I am never the one to normally comment on the art style of a game but today I make that exception. I feel that Space Tyrant is made by the art style and the music, as you reap and exploit the universe in so many ways. It creates that atmosphere that this game is a great casual experience in the most light-hearted evil manner I can imagine. I used the example of Zurg earlier because of its dramatic evil sci-fi cartoony music along with the image of an alien with a big brain doing harmful stuff in a light hearted evil manner.
Space Tyrant is an amazing Single Player 4X strategy game that offers a reason to keep playing through its campaigns. It constantly rewards your successes and its variance in skirmishes has enough variety and ways to encourage you to think about winning differently. To top it off, the game has a great art style and theme to keep it exciting and laughable throughout those sessions.
I feel that the game is let down by its RNG combat mechanics: Perhaps if it adopted a more interactive combat model like what other Masters of Orion style games have done it would make this game near enough perfect for what it is worth. If you do not mind a simpler more RNG combat experience in your 4x games though, then I could not recommend this game anymore for how much it costs. When you are stuck inside on that rainy weekend, grab yourself some snacks and have a laugh by becoming that evil space tyrant you always dreamed of being.