This is the fourth in a series of analysis I’m doing on the IGF Finalists. Dyson has been around for a while, but it’s still very good, if very, very hard. I’m going to start this article with a disclaimer: I’m pretty pap at strategy games. The only ones I’ve ever been any good at were things like Company of Heroes, and even then I only work well when I’ve got two friends covering my sides. The problem with me is I like to watch the battles, and for a commander that’s a bit… dangerous. While you’re watching your men rip the enemy apart, the rest of them could be flanking you or decimating your weak flanks or.. whatever battle speak there is for being outmaneuvered majestically.
So when I was presented with Dyson, and what appeared to be quite a simple ‘grow some trees on an asteroid’ game (why that’s not a genre already I don’t know), I assumed it would be a rather nice soothing ambient game, much like Osmos. The first level is pretty much exactly that; you plant your trees, build up a large, silent swarm of lazer shooting plant seeds (pew pew?) and then send them to other planets/asteroids to oust the current inhabitants (if there are any) and build another set of trees. It all, however, gets a bit more complicated in the second level.
The number of trees you can plant is reduced. The planet powers make much more difference.. and the enemies are far, far more aggressive. This means, if you’re like me, you’re constantly under attack and, if you are like me, you sit there watching your asteroid being taken apart by a swarm of angry purple seeds. What you don’t notice is that all your other asteroids are having the same attack, and if I’d been a bit more perceptive I could’ve saved at least one or two. This is the point where, if you’re like me, you stop, acknowledge that it’s a very well made game, with beautiful aesthetics and wonderful music, and then go cry in a corner because you’ll never be the battle commander you always wanted to be.
There are a few issues I found mildly frustrating, like not being able to drag the camera around with my mouse or replant trees when you realise you’ve done something idiotic, but the game manages to make those minor worries, rather than major annoyances. The problem I find, is that I’m just rather bad at it. Hopefully you may have better luck.