GAME NAME: Achron
DEVELOPER(S): Christopher Hazard, Michael Resnick
PUBLISHER(S): Hazardous Software
GENRE(S): RTS, Indie
RELEASE DATE(S): 29 August 2011
Watching the clock
Achron is an indie RTS with time travel gimmicks thrown in. It opens up a host of possibilities most notably the ability to move backwards one step in time to undo a bad tactical decision. You can also cause paradoxes, create duplicates of your troops and even go back to choose a different starting species after a multiplayer match has started. While it all sounds awesome, you’ll soon discover that the game, like time travel in general, is bogged down with a multitude of flaws that make it far less enjoyable.
Hour way or the highway
Achron’s interface allows instantaneous jumping to various points in the near future and recent past. However, the actual window of opportunity is constantly shifting, meaning that eventually you will be unable to revisit a specific point in time.Time itself is a resource in Achron, aptly called Chronoenergy. Making any changes to past actions eats away at your Chronoenergy, and the amount of Chronoenergy required is proportionate to how far back the event occurs. This is a source of much frustration, because even though it gradually replenishes, you’ll find that you often don’t have enough Chronoenergy to undo previous commands for all of your troops and they will run blindly, and for a second time, into the very traps you wanted them to avoid.
That’s just scratching the surface, though. Getting your head around the temporal mechanics and all the tricks they afford takes an disconcerting amount of patience and effort. Chances are better that missions will be replayed for better understanding – the real world equivalent of time travel found in every other game. It’s not that time travel in itself is a difficult concept to grasp; Achron’s implementation is simply messy. It’s not helped by a confusing HUD and labyrinthine key-bindings.
More frustrating than the broken time gimmick is atrocious AI. The game’s units frequently get stuck because they’re unable to correctly navigate the landscape. They also have a disturbing tendency to ignore enemy units, even when they’re close by. Nevertheless, it’s all just dressing over a fundamentally broken system.
Getting ticked off
To add fuel to the fail; the graphics are also something of a let-down. They largely serve their function and are by no means terrible, but they’re grossly uninspired. It’s occasionally difficult to tell your troops apart from your heroes as the models and textures are not very well defined. The environments too, are mainly bland and unremarkable. The music and sound effects are almost completely forgettable.
The game includes cutscenes which are an ambitious attempt to give Achron more colour, but this too falls flat. They largely consist of character cutouts fading in and out with dialogue dubbed over. The voice acting is actually pretty decent but it gets a bit drawn-out and overly verbose, making the “skip” button the popular vote.
A temporal setback
Achron is a fantastic concept with a mediocre game backing it up. The temporal mechanics, fascinating though they are, simply don’t make up for the lacklustre graphics, broken AI and sharp learning curve. The game could have been destined for great things but it needs to mature, be streamlined and develop significantly before it can honestly be called “good”.