When I woke up in my pod this morning, and took my daily glance out of the window at the stars, I felt differently than any other day. I felt oddly authoritarian for some reason. “Today” I realized, “is the day to become a Space Tyrant!”. “But, how would I start?” I pondered. It quickly became clear that I will start with one planet and one fleet of ships.
Space Tyrant is not your ‘usual’ 4X space strategy game. Most of the micro-management has been eliminated. Your job is to conquer planets and other celestial objects, defend what you already own, and quell any prospective revolutions. As your empire expands, so does your fleet, as well as opportunities to add more commanders and fleets under them. The Senate are the enemies and will do everything they can to stop you at all possible opportunities.
When you begin Space Tyrant, you have a single commander, a small fleet, and a home planet. You are taken to a mission screen to select your first mission (of two options, at the beginning of the game anyway). Missions generally have two components, but you only have to fulfill one to clear the sector. It is an either/or situation. By completing one of them, that will grant you a victory for that sector of space. (e.g. reach a research production level, conquer a certain amount of planets, etc.) Then you go to the map where you will slowly conquer planets, asteroids, etc. until reaching one of the goals.
Once on the map, only the reachable celestial items adjacent to your Homeworld will be shown. The rest of the map is covered in a heavy fog of war, slowly revealing itself as you (try to) expand outward. Capturing an undefended asteroid is simply a matter of a successful Invasion. Each planet, asteroid, etc. has a certain defense rating. Once in orbit, you roll the die (later and deeper: dice). If the die is higher than the defense, you instantly capture it. If it is lower than the defense, you are merely chipping away at it until the turn that your die roll is higher.
However, most of the planets are not so easy to take—they are defended by at least one fleet of enemy ships. When you take your fleet into their orbit, a battle immediately commences. There will be a pop-up of three options before it begins. You must pick the one that you believe will be the most beneficial for you during this confrontation, then use it at your discretion, if at all (sometimes, they all may be too risky to actually use! depending upon your propensity for gambling).
Each side and their ships have certain abilities that are based upon power being constantly generated throughout the fight. These conflicts happen in pausable real-time. Smaller ships’ abilities use less power; larger ones, more power. As the battle is unfolding then, do you use up the power early and often for single-shot abilities or do you wait for the power level to build up more, while you are taking damage(s), to try to inflict more carnage as the scrap progresses? Will the ships even survive long enough to use their powers? Also, other than the command ship, the fleet ships can (usually) only use their special shot once. Each contest is, more often than not, intense
Once the small clash is over, and you are (hopefully) victorious, then you can proceed with invading the planet as described before. Once the invasion is successful, there is an Exploration of the planet which (usually) results in finding ‘something’ that forces you to make an immediate decision. No, there are no clues as to what each choice will result in. It is entirely up to you to pick the option that you think will cause the most good, as well as no harm. The writing in excellent in Space Tyrant and all of the decisions you have to make along the way are quite engaging, whether beneficial or detrimental. Every item you conquer is advantageous in some way, whether it be gold per turn, research per turn, etc. Once the battle is over and, at least the attempt to invade, the turn ends. Each fleet can only move once per turn.
Along the right side of the map is your Tyranny Meter. This determines your strength of control for this map. You add tyranny by exploring, destroying ships and capturing planets. However, at the bottom of the meter is the Unrest. The unrest takes away from your tyranny level at the end of each turn. Your goal obviously then, is to always have more tyranny than unrest. If there is ever more unrest, then everyone not under your control rebels—and you lose.
Another huge part of the game are the Cards that you earn and have in your hand. Some cards are played instantly, while for others, you will have to target a fleet or planet (some for your own, others for enemy’s). Cards’ playability are determined by how many crystals you control. Just like gold and research, certain entities that you control produce crystals. Space Tyrant has a wide variety of cards as well as differing costs to play each one. As with other perks, more cards are added to the deck the further along you progress.
Also as you progress, more missions become available. However, the Senate is also moving forward, making some missions more critical than others. (You never want the Senate to completely take over a mission line or, once again, you lose). After each successful mission, you are taken back to the mission screen to decide the next one from multiple choices. Each perk and the various cards that you collect along the way become available as you move forward. Be aware though, that as you get stronger, so does the Senate.
Space Tyrant is very approachable for a beginning player. It eases you into each new situation and every novel component is explained. If there is something that you forgot along the way, or there is a need for a concept refresher, the title screen always has the tutorials that will explain each part. And, yes, I have been intentionally vague about a LOT of pieces of various parts of the game, so that you may run across them spoiler-free. (but not humor free, as I will now point out that they have gone to great strides to make tyranny amusing).
Space Tyrant is already a very fun and witty game, even in Early Access. Blue Wizard Digital has tons of additional assets planned to embellish this already very enjoyable game experience. I have already had a tyrannical blast playing it and look forward to many more hours to come.
This preview was done on v0.5.6423.22577 of Space Tyrant