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Early in Eufloria you’re told that you need to serve the MOTHER TREE (note the caps) and her desire to appease mythical beings THE GROWERS. At some point before your arrival, their formerly vast empire of asteroids has been somehow lost. They need someone to step in and repopulate the world. Like wildfire, you and your army of Seedlings begin spreading across a multitude of procedurally generated asteroid fields, planting Seedling-spawning trees along the way to build a bigger and bigger family. You don’t get to ask questions as to why - all you know is that you need to invade every last asteroid.
You’re not alone in this vast universe, though. Enemy Seedlings, simply called greys, have already taken hold in many of the asteroid fields and set up their defenses. They’ve amassed huge armies or simply created strongholds on their asteroids with turret-like trees. They don’t seem to have any other objective than to keep their hold on their little corner of the universe, and maybe to take over yours. In the end, that’s your goal as well.
Unlike many RTS games, you only have the capability to create one type of unit. There are no heavy units or flying units, only Seedlings. The only difference between them is the stats they receive from the asteroids they were spawned on. An asteroid with a high Speed stat will spawn fast Seedlings, while a strong Strength stat will spawn beefier ones, and so forth. Once they’re on the battlefield, there’s no way to check where they came from.
This creates an interesting feeling of anonymity. All of your soldiers are identical, only differing from their opponents in the most base of aesthetic differences - color. Sending them to their deaths doesn’t mean too much, as you can simply spawn more after a wait. A new fast-forward button in the PS3 version lessens that little inconvenience, only adding to the expendability of your Seedlings.
A traditional RTS matches the brutal violence of its gameplay with gritty or stylized visuals. Eufloria abandons that concept for a streamlined, colorful look. Seedlings float around the pastel palette in seemingly dreamlike patterns. On easier modes, it could even be called relaxing. Even the dreaded defense trees release mines that explode like calm fireworks while Seedlings fly in and zap them with harmless sounding lasers.
This all contrasts with the authoritarian and militaristic rule of the MOTHER TREE. The reason for committing what essentially comes down to the genocide of the entire grey race of Seedlings is ostensibly to appease the mystical GROWERS and expedite their return to the universe. After a single unprovoked attack from the “diseased” greys, the MOTHER TREE sells us on the idea that they are a threat to our own well-being, and must be destroyed entirely, thus sending us on our mission of utter destruction.
By simplifying the gameplay, simplifying the looks, and THE MOTHER’s own simplified message, Eufloria creates a message about the danger of unquestioned authority. By simply accepting your orders and crushing the enemy under you heel (something you have no choice but to do), you are wiping out something beautiful and very similar to yourself. Both sides create life, yet you must destroy the other half, simply because you are told they are diseased by the only authority figure you know.
It may look unassuming, but beneath its well-crafted RTS-lite design, Eufloria speaks to a much more powerful message than many games attempt. It subtly explores the very basic themes that RTSes take for granted, and asks players to find that meaning. In that, it’s extremely successful.
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