Aurora (now known as Auralux) is an ambient Real-Time Strategy game that simplifies, abstracts, and condenses the genre into pure fun. It’s similar to most RTS games in that you build structures and units, gather resources, and try to destroy your enemy. Except that in Aurora, there is only one type of structure, one type of unit, and one order you can give them. You can’t win with quick reflexes. Only smart choices and clever maneuvers will put you on top.
What We Think:
Moving to the beat of its own drum machine
Auralux, does exactly what it sets out to do. It takes all of the standard concepts for what is usually supposed to exist in an RTS game and then implodes them into one compact little RTS galaxy. With no interface, no living world or no quirky characters to do your bidding, does Auralux’s galaxy shine bright, or is just a matter of time before it goes supernova?
Go towards the light
As Auralux has attempted to simplify how an RTS is to be played, it has also succeeded quite admirably in shedding unnecessary layers in its presentation as well. The majesty of space has been boiled down to the bare minimum of planets and little particles of light. Each of these emanates a beautiful iridescent glow that comes in three flavours: Red, Blue and Green. Any selectable objects will pulse with a brilliant solar flare when you hover over them with your cursor and all in all, though this has to be one of the universes tinier galaxies, it is a very serene and eye-catching one at that.
The menus are slick, and are so self explanatory that you don’t even need words to know what you’re selecting, just simple diagrams of which level it is you want to choose. For those who don’t like to read, this is the game for you. That’s not to say that there’s no depth, it’s just that Auralux’s presentation is so streamlined that you can tell the developer didn’t wish to clutter it up with anything more than was necessary and it fully succeeds in being one of the cleanest and most efficient titles I’ve come across in a long time.
The music and sound effects are also wonderfully handled as a light techno soundtrack hums persistently but quietly in the background at all times, keeping you hypnotized, yet engaged in the ongoing galactic warfare. As well a beautiful xylophonic symphony is conducted as opposing particles clash… not at all like the UFC.
First off I’d like to say that this is my type of RTS. When they say simplified, they MEAN simplified. For those looking for epic scale warfare that forces you to build bigger and better units and weaponry you will have to look elsewhere. In Auralux you have two things; a base, and a unit (light particle) that gets produced from said base. The best part is you don’t even have to tell the base to produce these units, this function is automatic and perpetual. All you have to do is decide what you wish to do with these particles.
Strategic options in Auralux are limited in number, yet still satisfyingly deep enough to keep the game from ever being too easy or boring. You can choose to reinforce your current base (reinvesting your particles into your base can cause it to grow and thereby produce units at an even faster pace), you can send your loyal light specs to adjacent/empty stars in order to inhabit and thereby create subsequent bases, or you can simply send them off to war with the other star colors (can’t they all just get along).
Though this is may come across as overtly simple, and hardcore RTS players may feel like they need more, Auralux does a fantastic job of keeping you on your toes with its crafty and at times unrelenting enemy AI. Choosing to push forward and smite an enemy territory, or simply hang back and amass an army of light to strike at just the right time can create all the different and one wrong move can turn your Aurorean empire, into a house of cards. With a total of 6 different levels as well, each bringing an entirely different strategic approach and varying difficulty levels, there is probably enough to give even hardcore RTS junkies a much-appreciated fix.
Aurora succeeds in doing just what it intends to do. It brings to the table a simple, accessible, compact experience, and does it all without sacrificing the fun, or excitement of a true RTS. It truly boils the genre down to its roots, and I could see a game like this being a gateway game for anyone who has ever been unsure about the RTS genre, or even an excellent pass-time for those who are actively seeking a fresh new RTS experience. A $5 dollar price tag may be a little steep, but I can still comfortably recommend it to those willing to take on the higher difficulty levels. Here’s to hoping that this universe just keeps expanding.
Auralux is available from the iTunes App Store, from Amazon or directly from the developer.