Aeon Command really shouldn’t work because there’s very little to it. But if there’s a lesson in Aeon Command’s design, it’s that it’s better to do one thing really well than many things just adequately. On the game’s official website, the developers boast that they wanted “to make a casual strategy game that could be played over a lunch break,” and based on that criteria, Aeon Command is a good game.
Aeon Command is a two-player game that plays out similarly to a MOBA like League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients but without any champions. Each player commands a mothership exploring the aeon nebula. Each mothership launches fighter ships in waves to collect resources, protect their end of the map, and defeat their enemy. Each of the three factions has six types of fighter with strengths and weaknesses, a miner to collect resources and three spells to gain a brief but significant advantage. The goal of the game is to push the tide of battle towards the opponent mothership to destroy it.
The player doesn’t control the movement of the ships, what they target or how fast they move. They release the ships and watch them fight, trying to mix and match the combination that will be best suited to meet the challenge of their opponent. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Ships travel slowly, and players much produce the assets that they will need by the time that reinforcements reach the front, not the ones they need right away. Players also have spells that buff their fighters, disorganize their enemies, or mess with the flight paths of enemies in an area.
The spells are good as a last resort or as a needed push to break through a stalemate, but none are so broken that they change how the game is played. Finally, players are able to invest in upgrades that come at a high cost and take considerable time to complete but improve a fighter class’s attack or defense for the rest of the match. There is just enough to consider to make tactical choices important but not so much as to inundate the player with too many factors.
Even though there is always something to do, Aeon Command is a slow and quiet game. Ships drift through the picturesque purple and blue of space and the soft pew-pew of their lasers over the languid music is almost meditative. It might not fit the tone of the epic space battle that each mothership conducts for the mineral rich asteroid field, but from such a distance, it’s strangely relaxing. The brief matches are just engaging enough to demand attention, but the simplicity of the mechanics and the paradoxically peaceful aesthetic choices make it very relaxing to play.
When I worked in retail, my co-workers and I would get through the slow periods by playing a few hands of Euchre, Uno, or we’d make fun of one another’s Angry Birds scores. Aeon Command is a game that I wish we had back then. It’s quiet, simple, easily paced, and over before it overstays its welcome. It’s not likely to change anyone’s life, the single-player campaign is a glossy tutorial for the multiplayer, and it feels much better suited to a mobile device than to a PC, but Aeon Command is a good bit of fun to share along with someone.