Stress relief can come in many forms. Virtual explosive fusterclucks featuring gouts of blood and slow motion shots of bodyparts sailing through the air are all good to a certain extent, it might make you feel better for a short while, but why not take a different option? Why not gently spread a race of nanobots accross the universe until all of space is yours? The satisfaction is less immediate, but somehow more fulfilling. Tipped off by Rock Paper Shotgun, I settled down for what I thought would be 5 minutes of idle amusement; several hours of quiet fascination later I surfaced and decided that I’d better write something about this. Enter Dyson.
Having nothing to do with a certain household applicance, Dyson is about a species of self replicating robots working to colonise an asteroid belt – not that you can really tell at a glance, grey circles on a calming cream background provides a pleasingly clutter-free representation of space. Though initially daunting, it doesn’t take long for Dyson’s somewhat abstract concepts to sink in thanks to the essential simplicity of the gameplay. It boils down to this: once you’ve conquered an asteroid you can build a Dyson tree that will replenish your numbers, or a defensive tree which will launch bombs at incoming foes, then it’s simply a matter of distributing your Dyson bots to deal with the incoming threat and, when possible, counterattacking to seize more asteroids. The simplicity of the rules and the presentation work together to mask what is in fact a complex game of resource managment. Success will depend on which asteroids you back up when, and how you respond to incoming threats. The opposition AI does a good job of seeking out your weak points, forcing you to redistribute your bots constantly.
The game advances at a slow and engrossing pace, allowing for the act that on later levels you’ll be under threat almost constantly from every direction. It’s gorgeous looks, ambient soundtrack and hypnotic pacing makes for an experience which, while never completely addictive in the way that Desktop Tower Defense might be, has sucked me back in several evenings in a row. It’s perfect for blowing off some steam after work. Actually, just skip work and play Dyson. It’ll make you feel better, it really will.