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Auralux

In the deep pockets of space, solar systems provide a breeding ground for flecks of light that cast off of the formations of planets and suns. Production of the dots is seemingly fueled by the beat of reverberating ambient noise that washes in and out in waves. With every pulsating note, a soldier is born.

There are three squadrons of dots, differentiated only by color. They share a common purpose: to obtain complete control of each solar system in the Auralux galaxy. Commanding the blue squad, it’s your job to stop your red and green colored opponents from expanding their control over the remaining territories and with any luck, to overthrow the ones they’ve captured.

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Whole waves of the opposing computer-controlled armies are directed from planet-to-planet, although your troops can venture off the grid, helping to formalize an attack when each side seems to be pushing a steady stream of dots toward the center of the map and the battle is in a deadlock. This gives you plenty of opportunities to capitalize on openings in your opponents defenses. But by the time you get there, those openings have often been resupplied by a new squadron of units.

The dots move along ploddingly through space, in no special hurry. Sometimes continuing to click and drag units, then waiting for them to reach their destination becomes tedious. You’ll want them to pick up the pace, and this leads to feelings that the length of this experience has been padded superficially, or just wasn’t well thought out. After about 4 or 5 hours, you’ll have completed the 18 included maps, unlocking a Speed option which exaggerates the speed of the game to the point where it’s almost unplayable. Not much of a reward for completion, then.

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There’s no multiplayer present. Although it seems like it’d be a good fit, there’s just not enough structure behind the game’s design for that to really work. It would likely reveal more of the games shortcomings. One of them is that the two A.I. colors you play against follow the same strategies on every map, so after the first few maps, you’ll have a pretty good idea how they’ll respond and how to use that against them.

Auralux gets confused in its pursuit of minimalism, which reveals exactly what makes the style so dangerous. If there’s barely anything there, what is presented needs to be something new and worthwhile. Otherwise, in removing all the things that attract people to a game’s content (like the conventions of the Real Time Strategy genre), there’s the potential of losing anyone who would be interested in the first place. Despite being almost entirely derivative (think Galcon Fusion’s gameplay blended with the visuals and ambience of Osmos), there’s still something there. Auralux is still worth playing for the broken down core mechanics that make Real Time Strategy games good, even if some of the structure’s gone missing in the process.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

Gentle persuasion

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