Title: Space Tyrant
Developer: Blue Wizard Digital
Publisher: Blue Wizard Digital
Genre: 4X Strategy
Available On: PC
Version Tested: PC
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Where to Buy it: Steam
Practice your evil cackle and oil up your torture devices: Space Tyrant puts you in control of a budding conqueror of the galaxy, crushing all resistance with a powerful fleet of spaceships. Space Tyrant takes big, world conquering ideas from 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy games and distills them down into bite-sized, 30 minute missions. This makes it easy to jump in and out of, and helps to showcase some of the genre’s best features without getting bogged down in too much intricacy. At the same time, isn’t getting bogged down in intricacy what the 4X strategy genre is all about?
When I play typical 4X games, I tend to outmaneuver myself. I am not the Machiavellian mastermind I think I am – my plot to Game of Thrones my way through things by pitting the other groups against one another and swooping in to clean up the leftovers usually winds up with an angry Mongolian burning my cities to the ground. Space Tyrant avoids those pitfalls by cutting out the ability to negotiate and succeed peacefully. You must crush any resistance: oppress your citizens, blow up entire planets to harvest resources, and annihilate your enemies. Let’s break down just how Space Tyrant works.
A campaign of Space Tyrant is set up a little differently than some of the grand strategy games out there. You choose one of three playable races, and then are put onto a mission selection screen. Choose between a few different locations of randomly generated, increasingly difficult missions, fight off the galactic Senate, and repeat. If the Senate wins too many missions, your campaign for galactic domination is a failure. If you are able to get through several missions in a row without giving up too much ground, victory is yours. It’s a simple formula, but the different mission objectives and options for approaching missions keep things interesting.
Missions play out like fast paced tabletop games, with a certain objective needing to be met to achieve victory: control this many planets, play this many cards, destroy this many enemy ships, etc. Fog of war keeps you from seeing just what is going on out there until you explore, and the Senate is constantly implementing new projects to try to raise rebellions against you and halt your progress. Since you play as a would-be galactic conqueror, your biggest enemy is your “unrest” meter on the right side of the screen. Every turn, you lose galactic power equal to the amount of unrest in your empire: losing battles, failing to squash rebellions, and similar events cause your unrest to grow. If all your power is depleted before accomplishing the mission objective, it’s time to walk on home and regroup.
It is not just the mission structure and layout of Space Tyrant that are simple, everything is essentially boiled down to the bare bone basics. If you move to a planet with a fleet defending it, you enter a battle. If you defeat the enemy fleet, you must invade the planet by rolling dice and achieving a higher number than the planet’s defense. As you conquer more planets, you automatically gain more resources with which to bolster your fleets. It moves quickly, and it frequently had me worried that I was missing little things here and there that were costing me valuable time and resources. However, that’s the vibe Space Tyrant is going for: simple and quick, skipping the time-consuming intricacy of too many strategy games. It frequently works!
And… too often, it doesn’t.
Space Tyrant‘s main issues seem to come from its randomized nature. This can happen in other strategy games as well, but, because they aren’t so simplified, you can often find a way to overcome a bad starting spot or a crushing random event. Here, you can sometimes be dominated right out of the gate through no fault of your own, which can start a sequence events that can easily ruin the mission you are currently on, and even destroy your entire campaign. This can be insanely frustrating: when you lose in a game of Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis, you can often look back and say “I should have done this; that’s why I lost.” (Actually, it’s usually “I shouldn’t have done this.”) Even if your assessment is not 100 percent correct, you still feel the burden of the responsibility.
Space Tyrant usually removes that when you lose. Games should never make you feel powerless, but I usually felt like there was very little I could have done differently when losing a mission or a campaign here. Maybe there was and I just don’t have a grasp on the way different systems interact here, but I felt like the randomness was too much too often, and it often played a bigger role in my losses than me misplaying. In turn, that cheapens your earlier victories as well: did you only succeed on previous campaigns and missions because of favorable draws/drops/rolls? I appreciate what Space Tyrant is going for with its simplification, it just caused more problems than it solved in my experience with the game.
Verdict: Space Tyrant has some good ideas and is a solid simplification of an over complicated genre. It’s quick, generally funny, and carries more weight than it initially seems. However, a big RNG and odd difficulty balance can throw things off kilter, and leave you in no-win situations that can be extremely frustrating.
- Simplified version of a complicated genre
- Colorful and easy to track
- Randomness plays a large roll
- Simplification can lead to helplessness