Achron review

Hazardous Software injects time travel into the standard real-time strategy genre with Achron, a new PC title available now. Shacknews leaps through time to bring you this review.

7

Hazardous Software's Achron takes the real-time strategy (RTS) games and adds a whole new dimension: time travel. Set in the 37th century, starship commander Captain Holloway leads a troop of dispersed humans on a mission to fend off an alien invasion across over 30 levels.

RTS novices need not apply when considering Achron, anyone who has trouble with RTS mechanics like resource management and unit building will find the game's learning curve to be wildly steep. The tutorial doesn't come across as helpful, as many of the new concepts the game introduces take several sessions to even comprehend, much less master. However, RTS aficionados will feel right at home with Achron, especially once they learn the various uses of the time travel system.

The time traveling mechanic can be accessed at any point during the game, provided enough resources are available. Players manage the ability to time travel through the Chronoenergy bar at the top of the HUD. This allows players to replay certain scenarios to avoid obstacles and ambushes, but also allows for other cooler features, such as sending future reinforcements into the past to help clear out enemy strongholds.

Throughout many of the campaign levels, I couldn't fully comprehend the time travel mechanic. I mostly made it through campaign levels by using the time travel mechanic as a safety net. If I walked into an ambush, I could simply rewind time and try again. If a battle didn't go my way, I'd retrace an errant command and erase it from the timeline.

However, erasing commands didn't feel like an intuitive process. This isn't a simple matter of going back in time and starting with a clean slate. In order to erase commands from the timeline, players must double-press the Undo command (defaulted to the Z key) after going back in time. Otherwise, history is doomed to repeat itself and units will walk right back into any traps. I found several points where the Undo command did not respond and I had to frantically issue new commands to prevent my forces from walking into the exact same ambush they did before. This problem only intensified in later campaign levels, once I was managing multiple units in multiple timelines. I quickly lost track of who was doing what and what orders I was supposed to undo.

Even with those misadventures under my belt, I didn't realize the full potential and chaotic nature of the time travel mechanic until I went into multiplayer. Multiplayer unfolds like any other RTS; however, the additional element of traveling into the past and future made for some truly wild battles. Time waves indicating changes in history run rampant in multiplayer matches and it's amusing to watch units appear and disappear from the battlefield. Several matches devolved into games of cat and mouse, with my few remaining units jumping across the timeline in an effort to escape the large number of opposing forces that remained. It was entertaining, but ultimately a futile gesture on my part.

Achron's temporal experience is difficult to describe in words, just because of the number of variables the time travel mechanic introduces. For RTS fans, it's the kind of thing that needs to be experienced firsthand in order to have a chance of understanding. Players that love this type of game will like what Achron has to offer, a decent RTS experience enhanced by a new concept.

Achron's normal RTS game mechanics are solid enough on their own, compared to some of the other RTS games currently available. Hazardous Software should be commended for taking a chance and rolling the dice the way they did. It's a big risk to introduce a huge variable like time travel to this type of game, something never before attempted. Hazardous did it in the name of creating something unique and entertaining. For the most part, Hazardous Software succeeded.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 6, 2011 2:30 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Achron review.

    Hazardous Software injects time travel into the standard real-time strategy genre with Achron, a new PC title available now. Shacknews leaps through time to bring you this review.

    • reply
      September 6, 2011 2:34 PM

      I read this review last week. It was great.

      • reply
        September 6, 2011 2:47 PM

        I read this review next week. It was great.

        • reply
          September 6, 2011 4:13 PM

          I read this review in real time. it was great.

          • reply
            September 7, 2011 2:55 PM

            I read this review just now, didn't like it, re-read it again last week and decided it was great.

    • reply
      September 6, 2011 2:48 PM

      I was hoping this was a new Archon =(

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      September 6, 2011 2:57 PM

      Anyway, I started playing the campaign, but even the normal RTS controls are somehow hard. Clicking on a moving unit to set him as the commander seems more difficult than it should be, and I'm stumbling over myself when organizing units into groups. And this is while I'm trying to pay attention to what it's telling me about how to move through time. I think I spent half an hour replaying the same 2 minutes in mission 2 where I had to sneak a squad past two patrolling units.

      The game is a great idea, and I'd love to play it online. Even as a spectator game, it would be as interesting as Starcraft, if not more. But it does expect you to learn a lot of concepts pretty quickly and could be more rewarding in how it does it. The campaign is almost painful to get through due to the failed attempt at telling a story.

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        September 7, 2011 5:43 AM

        Agreed. Love the time mechanic, it works surprisingly well, but the regular RTS parts are so clunky that the actual gameplay outside of timetravel, isn't fun and I found to be mostly annoying/boring.

        I hate to criticize an indy, but these game/idea/studio seems like it'd be best gobbled up by a larger studio and incorporated into a "real" RTS game.