Space Tyrant from Blue Wizard Digital
The 4X genre, though a successful niche, is sometimes known for its inaccessible nature; whether it be due to the numerous systems for new players to grasp or the considerable time investment necessary to complete a campaign, 4X games can be overwhelming for those who aren’t willing or able to dedicate whole evenings to them. Space Tyrant strives to overcome this perceived weakness by providing a stripped-down, fast-paced 4X experience with a punchier rhythm.
Space Tyrant is as close to an action game as a 4X strategy title is likely to get. It sets aside the various systems we’ve come to expect from Civilization and other 4X experiences and replaces them with some luck-based dice roll mechanics and a choice-based encounter system that feels reminiscent of adventure games.
This all comes together to form a strategy that is speedy whilst still requiring the player to make key decisions that impact the growth of their empire. For the most part, this formula works very well, but some compromises have been made.
The main game is split across three large-scale campaigns – with the latter two unlocked sequentially – each featuring their own bemusing alien race. It feels like the first of the three is the most charming, being formed of aggressive, cybernetically-enhanced, bipedal rabbit warriors. Later on, Space Tyrant offers the chance to play as an insectoid species and finally space-faring slugs. These campaigns are broken into numerous missions that are effectively miniature 4X campaigns running at a much faster pace.
Each mission comes with particular rewards that carry across to later battles. I was initially impressed with the dynamic and engaging challenge of these missions; the pace is solid, and there were many interesting choices to make as my empire unlocked new research and spread across the stars.
Space battles themselves have their own mini-game that feels explosive and vibrant, although they do feel a little automated at times; the game offers only a few small interactions when it comes to blowing away enemy ships. Of interest is the timer for different ship sizes and their respective attack types.
The difficulty facing Space Tyrant is the question of how to minimize the complexity of the 4X genre, and here is where the aforementioned compromises emerge. Space Tyrant relies heavily on RNG systems to replace the more complicated aspects of games like Civ. Conquering a planet means rolling a die to reduce its defense value. Unlucky rolls can mean a fleet wasting precious time sitting in orbit while it whittles down this number. To compound this problem, each campaign mission has a “tyranny meter” that reduces each round and normally only rises when you conquer a new planet. If this meter empties, the mission is failed.
I found that poor rolls of the dice, coupled with the tyranny mechanic, could cause entire missions to fail. This in turn could knock the momentum out of a campaign and force a full restart (it’s rather telling that the campaign screen has a large surrender button for just these situations). This domino effect feels prevalent throughout Space Tyrant, and small luck-based hiccups quickly spiral into campaign-level disasters. Even the otherwise enjoyable story decisions that pop up after a planetary conquest can cause a cascade of problems that fail a mission (mostly when they interact with the problematic tyranny meter).
The aesthetics of Space Tyrant are quirky, comedic and colorful; the interface, character art and ship designs are all fantastic (I was particularly taken with the grumpy space-flower alien which took control of one of my fleets). The music is also ideal for the game’s light-hearted take on interstellar conquest; aggressive, over-the-top themes bounce along with a kind of self-aware melodrama that perfectly supports Space Tyrant’s tongue-in-cheek attitude.
Space Tyrant is a bold idea, well executed; I just wish that idea had spent a little more time on the drawing board before said execution. It feels like too much relies on chance here, and whilst the game is quick to show off its fun-loving style, it soon begins to frustrate. That being said, there is a lot of fun to be had in Space Tyrant, and with or without tweaks to its RNG-based systems, the game can certainly provide an enjoyable – albeit sometimes frustrating – bite-sized 4X experience.
Space Tyrant is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Space Tyrant below: