It’s all written in the stars
Auralux: Constellations is the sequel to Auralux, an extremely simplistic real-time strategy game that remains fairly popular on mobile platforms. It retains the same design philosophy as its predecessor: ultra-minimalist presentation with RTS gameplay stripped down to its most fundamental core. This sort of zen-like approach is intriguing, but does it actually work?
In Auralux: Constellations, you begin with a planet (or several planets) that produces units every second. The object is to send these units into space, whereby they’ll either begin attacking rival planets or assimilating neutral planets. Whoever conquers all the planets is crowned the victor. Planets are broken down into sections of constellations as alluded to in the title, with players moving to new constellations as they progress.
This is gameplay in a nutshell. Many typical RTS tropes are absent; forget about complex commands, forget about buildings, and forget about different unit types. It’s all about domination and attacking and it requires a surprising amount of thought despite being so bare-bones.
Still, Auralux: Constellations includes a few mechanics into the mix which simultaneously add complexity and surprise. Planets already under your control may be upgraded into larger celestial bodies which produce more units. This is accomplished by absorbing units, often leaving players with the choice between upgrading an existing planet or annexing other planets. New twists are added later on in the campaign, such as planets locked in orbits which eventually bring them dangerously close to enemy territory. Before long you’ll be dabbling in hazards such as devastating gamma rays which strip planets of life if they happen to be in the way. Players will also be able to trigger supernovas, the closet the game gets to featuring a superweapon.
It’s a load of fun to play and I found myself eager to rope in some mates for some quick multiplayer fun, which thankfully includes a local option where other players will need gamepads. I label it a “popcorn RTS”, featuring a very small learning curve and playable in short bursts. Sadly, not everything is as it should be: the music is minimal but repetitive, the sound effects clash with the music and the visuals are attractive if unremarkable. Nonetheless, the gameplay remains solid and engaging.
Auralux: Constellations remains interesting by presenting players with all manner of different layouts and scenarios. The minimalist theme is milked for all its worth and still feels like a proper RTS despite the simplicity. The reduction of micro-management and stripping gameplay to a single unit doubling as a resource brings out the most satisfying aspects of the genre. I’d recommend it as a gateway game to those who are uncertain about real-time strategy but are open to giving it another chance.
Get the Steam version by navigating to its store page. Android and iOS versions will follow shortly.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: War Drum Studios ; Developer: War Drum Studios, E McNeill ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: 1st of June 2016
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review code provided by the publisher.