If there’s anything I’ve established in my coverage of PAX West 2016 so far, it’s that the RTS genre, while I tend to enjoy it, is definitely not something that I am good at. However, I kept running into them; first Dawn of War III, then Dropzone, and now Auralux: Constellations, from War Drum Studios. Although it doesn’t feel quite right to group Auralux: Constellations with the other two, since it’s a radically different kind of RTS than what you usually see.
Auralux: Constellations is the sequel to the iOS and Android game Auralux, fleshed out with new levels and features, and released on Steam as well as mobile. It’s intended to be a deconstruction of the RTS genre, boiling it down to its base elements as much as possible. Players start out controlling a planet, which produces tiny, glowing units that can then be sent to other planets to take control of them, changing them into the player’s color. A game goes until only one of the up to four players controls any planets. Certain planets can be upgraded, so that they produce more than one unit at a time, and trying to take over enemy-controlled planets leads to fights between units, as one team tries to take control while the other sends their units to maintain their control.
Stages are organized into groups called Constellations, each of which has a different gimmick added to the base gameplay. These new mechanics are the main new feature in Constellations compared to the original Auralux, and include such things as walls that disappear and reappear periodically, shockwaves that kill units but keep planet ownership intact, gamma waves that wipe planet ownership but kill units, minefields that kill 20% of the units in it with every beat of the background music, moving planets, and so on. They add more strategy to the maps as you learn to deal with the assorted hazards and map features, either by forcing players to attack in a certain way, guiding offensive pushes, and so on. The added mechanics make it more complicated, although the base game is pretty simple.
During my demo, we were using controllers, which the developer admits is probably the worst way of playing the game. It’s designed to be played on mobile, by dragging to select units and then tapping to send them. It’s a control scheme that translates well to PC, since the same motions can be easily done with a mouse, but not so well with controllers which use an area select, with relatively slow cursor movement. It’s a cumbersome control system, but fotunately it’s not the only one available. Auralux: Constellations released on Steam, Android and iOS on June 1, so if it looks and sounds interesting to you then you can give it a look.