Real-time strategy games have a fairly basic gameplay model:
Acquire resources, build units, swarm the enemy. Dyson, a freeware
game from Dyson Games, strips the model to the very basics. No cut
scenes, no tech trees, no micromanaging miners or farmers. Dyson
very deliberately steers away from much of the classic imagery to
focus purely on gameplay.
The premise: You control semi-autonomous robots mining an
asteroid belt. Beginning with a single world, you direct your
swarms to either build “Dyson Trees” (which produce more units),
“Defensive Trees”, which can help blow up attackers, or explore
other worlds. Each world is unexplored until your units get there,
and this is where strategy comes in. Each world is rated for speed,
power, and strength–and all units built on that world (there is
only one basic unit) mimic those attributes. Want fast flyers?
Build on a world with a high Speed value. Want tough tanks? Build
on a world with a high Strength value. It takes 15 units to begin a
tree, and each world can only have 5 trees, split over offense and
defense, so build wisely. While there’s only one “unit” in the
game, the visual appearance is indicative of the overall strengths
and weaknesses–fast units have bigger wings, for example.
Further, each world has a radius which limits how far units from
it can be sent. Some worlds form, in effect, dead ends–no new
worlds can be reached from them. This can force you to begin
development in another direction. In Dyson, you tend to spread in a
fractal fashion, with each world becoming productive and then
sending probes to the worlds nearest to it, and so on.
Of course, there are enemies to fight. Some worlds are inhabited
by your unnamed foe. In Dyson, there is no real management of units
beyond “point them at the world.” Once they’re engaged, all units
fight independently, destroying enemy units and taking down their
trees (which keep them from spawning more units). Pretty much,
whoever can arrive with overwhelming force, wins. There is no way I
have found to intercept enemy units on the march.. er… fly… ,
so you need to watch the map for signs of conflict and hastily send
in supporting troops. On large maps, you can find your attention
diverted all over the place — while you’re marshalling forces for
an assault on one world, you will find worlds on the other side of
the map succumbing to the enemy.
Dyson is a much simpler game than Warcraft or Command and
Conquer, but it does not lack for replayability, and it is being
actively developed with new features. Gameplay is quick, making
Dyson a perfect “lunch hour” game.