Platform: PC, Mac
Release Date: April 14th, 2016
Developer: Immersive Games
Tyto Ecology is one of those games that is completely unexpected. It’s barely a game, with graphics that are objectively below par, imperfect optimisation (jittering along nicely when too much is on screen) and a slightly irritating interface. But, that said, it’s also really rather fun.
The game revolves around biomes, of which at the moment there are three, in which you construct an environment filled with plants and animals. Those currently available are desert, grassland and rainforest. Whilst hardly the most inspired choices (where is Antarctica; I really wanted to have a penguin colony!) it has succeeded in creating three unique environments with starkly different aesthetics for you to design.
The idea is to ultimately create a functioning ecosystem; you’ll want herbivores, plants for them to eat, decomposers to ensure that your environment doesn’t become too cluttered with the corpses of the deceased and, of course, predators.
Whilst you could get away with limiting yourself to this small and basic list, there is a surprising amount of depth to the game. You can throw in pollinators to allow plants to be pollinated and spread, insects for your insectivores to eat, and a wide range of predators that take apparently far too much pleasure in eating each other.
I also discovered, much to my horror (and also delight) that reproduction is included in the game, and that if you do not have predators to consume your small squeaky friends you can accidentally create a sea of rodents which swarm the landscape in small furry bodies, stripping it bare. It’s usually around this point that starvation steps in and causes your small mammals and other herbivores to die off, triggering a mass extinction. Whoops.
Whilst there is an unlocking process for most species, with the ability to speed up time, the in-game currency comes flooding in, and over the course of a couple of hours you can easily accrue sufficient currency to fill the map with a range of animals and plants. Even better, since you’ll be wanting to leave the game to its own devices for a while to see what happens to your ecosystem after a couple of months, it’s really not much hassle for the player.
It’s not a game where you will likely spend hours clicking frantically (so a far cry from my usual haunts of Total War: Attila and Silent Hunter 4), but instead it provides a calm environment in which you play God for a whole biodome of animal, plants and insects. It’s far from the prettiest game in existence, but as an idle game to have running in the background, it’s perfect. It can be oddly refreshing to fly around your biodome after an hour or two of revision and just watch the (often brutal) interactions of your exceptionally hungry predators and poor defenceless herbivores.
At only £4.99, if you enjoy idle games and constructing a painfully realist world where baby animals are just fluffy mouthfuls for hungry predators, then this is the game for you. It’s far from the best game ever, but makes for an interesting experience. I guess you could say the game has found its niche.