My evil empire expanded swiftly and mercilessly, no civilisation dare to stand against me. I have enslaved countless worlds, they shower me with offerings in hope that I do not destroy their planets. My rule is absolute, I am the destroyer, the judicator, the Space Tyrant!
Resembling an early 90’s cartoon in style, Space Tyrant is packed full of character, vibrant colours and particle effects that light up the screen, bringing life to a universe ripe for exploiting—I mean exploring. Offering fast paced tactical combat and a plethora of planets to conquer and explore, Space Tyrant is a game that can be played for hours at a time. Simplistic in its design this roguelite, and self proclaimed 5X (eXplore, eXploit, eXpand, eXterminate and eXsanguinate?) title is easy to pick up and play. After a short tutorial mission I was managing my fleets, destroying my foes, and exploring captured planets. Do not mistake the simplicity of this game for being easy, overextending fleets and poor management of resources can lead to a savage defeat. I failed a campaign on one of the easiest missions for not protecting my homeworld. Becoming too greedy with invading other planets I had failed to realise just how close the enemy fleet was to my homeworld and thus my reign ended in humiliation.
Tyranny points are the main resource for each major action per turn (moving fleets and invading planets). Running out of of tyranny points will result in automatically losing the mission, what good is an evil dictator without respect? Optionally, a full tyranny gauge allows for the option of using the Death Laser. This handy laser can be targeted at any visible enemy fleet, destroying up to 1-3 of their ships, at the cost of a small percentage of the tyranny gauge. Utilising this can help to turn the tide of an upcoming battle, I found myself relying on it to chip away at fleets larger than my own. Just because I am an all-powerful ruler doesn’t mean I have to play fair.
Battles are fast and furious, each ship type has its own unique ability and cost; from small frigates that fire volleys, to large carrier vessels that can send boarding teams to destroy a ship from the inside. To activate these abilities a power resource is required which, depending on the ability, will determine the amount of power required; a charged laser shot from a carrier might cost four points of power while a frigate firing a volley might cost just one point. Learning each ship’s ability and when to use them is just as important as fleet formation and fleet build. A healthy mix of heavy and light vessels help to make a fleet adaptable to any situation. I became a fan of placing small destroyers at the front to absorb incoming fire while my carriers and larger vessels could charge their heavy lasers or boarding crews.
Each fleet is lead by a commander, each commander has a unique ability to use during combat. My commander being a large space marine bunny that hurls meteors at people I do not like. Commanders occasionally inspire a vessel in the fleet, once inspired that ship’s ability will recharge quickly and be available for use.
At the beginning of each battle a choice of one of three abilities may be chosen by the player and the enemy fleet. These range from summoning additional ships, crippling enemy shields, or applying a status effect and even a laser to rip through enemy ship hulls. With no resource requirement, these abilities may be activated at any time and can easily turn the tide of a battle. During one conflict, as victory was in sight, it instead ended in disaster as the enemy summoned additional vessels, outnumbered and my fleet was destroyed. Once a fleet is destroyed it will take a number of turns to respawn dependant on the commander's level. Once the fleet has respawned it will appear at the homeworld with far less ships than before. In order to replace lost ships gold must be spent to purchase new ships at the shipyard. Shipyards are only accessible at planets that have been successfully invaded. Extra fleets may be purchased at the homeworld at a high gold cost and provide a level 1 random commander with a small fleet.
Every planet has a defense rating, to invade a planet I roll my diabolical dice. A roll higher than the world's defense rating will result in successfully taking control of that world. Failing to invade a world will damage the defense rating but then will require another turn to roll the dice again. Some planets will generate resources such as gold or technology points, others offer unique rewards. My favourite planets to control are prison planets that, once under my control allow me to recruit the prisoners as an extra fleet.
Each invaded planet undergoes an exploration, occasionally triggering a short story with dialogue options. These short stories help to break up the gameplay by providing comical moments and choices that can hold significant consequences or rewards. On one planet I had discovered a mysterious altar, one of my blundering minions accidentally touched the altar and was granted god-like powers. I could have chosen to flee, trick this new demi-god into doing my bidding but, as an unwavering evil leader I ordered my former minion to assist me. This was a mistake, insulted by my insolence I was rewarded with my entire fleet being destroyed by an angry former employee. Although these stories become repetitive each choice may result in a different response, the next minion that became a god-like being instead of destroying my fleet was instead impressed with my confidence and rewarded me with a tech upgrade. To further reward the player for trying different options it is possible to unlock traits, these traits can be used in future dialogue choices. Using a trait instead of a standard dialogue option will yield greater rewards.
Missions vary in their objectives, most require a percentage of the map to be controlled by the player or certain high value planets that need to be captured and held. Other objectives may include reaching a certain amount of technology points or by playing different types of cards. Cards are drawn each turn and may provide additional moves for fleets, extra ships, or a second attempt at an invasion. Depending on the mission type each map would drastically change. Capturing and holding maps would often have poor value worlds making it difficult to replace lost ships and the NPC fleets will behave much more aggressively than in a tech race mission. Additionally, discord might erupt among planets creating rebels on owned planets, if left unchecked after a number of turns the planet will be lost and a rebel fleet will orbit the reclaimed planet.
Populating the maps are three different factions: the Senate, do gooders out to prevent my new world order, neutral fleets that may ally themselves with the Senate and terrifying giant Space Sharks or enormous grotesque Slugs. It is possible that all neutral fleets on the map will join with the Senate, once this happens the NPCs become much more aggressive, taking back planets that I had invaded and reinforcing their own planets with higher defense ratings or additional fleets. Space monsters on the other hand will attack any faction that share an orbit with them. Difficult to defeat, space monsters will require a near full fleet with a significant amount of upgrades and a healthy mix of ships to even stand a chance against.
Space Tyrant has boundless charm and is a perfect introduction game to the 4X genre. With quick pick up and play mechanics and challenging difficulty this title will keep new and experienced players of the 4X crowd engaged and entertained for hours at a time.
TLDR: A quirky game full of comical adventures, easy to pick up and start playing immediately Space Tyrant is a perfect addition to any game library.