Dyson: colonize the universe in this “ambient” strategy game

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Dyson is a free cross-platform real time strategy game with abstract visuals. It manages to be simple and elegant even as it combines elements such as the emergence of life, a Darwinian “sperm wars” motif, and intra-species competition with your standard world-domination game concept.

This is an award title that has been nominated as a finalist at the 11th Annual Independent Game Festival. Dyson is really a wargame, and a terrific one at that.

You start off with a single “seed” placed on a lone asteroid, which blooms into a sort of tree that generates more seeds (initially I was going to title this posting “Dyson: spread your seed across the universe” but decided against it 😉 ).

Your objective: to colonize the entire section of the universe/asteroid belt that you inhabit, driving off your competition.

Dyson Screenshot

There are many reasons why this is an excellent game:

  • It is EXTREMELY easy to learn and get into. You can get to grips with the basic concepts when you are finished with the tutorial, which took me a mere 10 minutes (if that).
  • It’s originality. By which I do not only mean such concepts as trees shedding seeds like dandelions, the notion of colonizing asteroids, etc, or the whole emergence of life thing. I also mean the game mechanics, which are simple yet innovative.
  • It’s production qualities. Simple, economical, understated, for both visuals and sound.

More notes on this game:

  • Your seeds: are simultaneously your soldiers that do the fighting (with enemy seeds), as well as the currency you use to buy (or I should say plant) trees to colonize asteroids. Seeds have different qualities depending on the asteroids where they were born (energy/strength/speed). You are able to simply look at seeds and get an idea as to how powerful they are (more powerful seeds are generally bigger).
  • The asteroids: each has a different genes, I mean energy/strength/speed characteristics, which the seeds produced on that asteroid will inherit. The fertility, I mean number of trees that each asteroid can support varies according to the level being played (higher levels = less trees).
  • Trees: there are two kinds. A defence tree is exactly that. When it’s asteroid is attacked, it releases bombs into the atmosphere that follow enemy seeds and explode. Dyson trees on the other hand release seeds. The frequency that your Dyson trees bear fruit seems to depend on the mother, I mean asteroid’s “speed” factor as well as the maturity of the tree (old trees = bigger and faster). A lot of this I am guessing so please correct me if you know better.
  • Dyson Screenshot - zooming outGeography: there is a RISK-like element in terms of the location of your asteroids. Ones on the periphery of the asteroid belt may be out of range of your enemy’s seeds and will require less defending than ones in the middle, but may lag in terms of being able to quickly deliver seed armies to where you need them most.
  • Exploration: until you send a seed to scout, you will not know what an asteroid’s characteristics are (and therefore how desirable it is to colonize). My advice is to explore early using a single seed for each neighboring asteroid. This will (a) give an idea of enemies that are near and (b) will help you decide on your colonization priorities.

The verdict: two take-home messages here; (a) this game is fairly easy to learn and get into, and (b) it is ADDICTIVE. Dyson can be quite difficult especially on the higher levels but not impossible (a lot can depend on the luck of the draw in terms of the qualities of your home and adjacent planets).

Version Tested: 1.08

Compatibility: Windows, Linux.

Download here (approx 17.08 megs). More info here and here.