I agree with Kevin on the review, however keep in mind this was made by one man, and he did say that susequent updates would update things like graphics, and the audio. So even though it's been operationally released, the developer said he is far from done on improving the game. -AE
Achron's time-traveling brilliance is marred by some critical flaws.
- Time manipulation opens up a dizzying array of tactical possibilities
- Three factions with distinct play styles
- Long campaign and plenty of multiplayer maps make for good value.
- Abysmal pathfinding
- Units look too much alike
- Bad visuals and sound effects
- A variety of sloppy details and missing features.
Have you ever really sat down and tried to make sense of time travel logistics? The more you try to make sense of the inevitable paradoxes that arise, the more your brain threatens to turn to jelly. Developer Hazardous Entertainment has tackled the problem--and come up with some creative solutions--with its real-time strategy game Achron. In Achron, time is fluid; you can issue orders to your units not just in the present, but also in the past and in the future. The time travel mechanics add an intriguing strategic dimension to the standard RTS formula and lead to some occasionally mind-blowing moments. It's a pity that Achron's fundamentals don't do justice to its innovations. The pathfinding is terrible, leading to uncomfortable micromanagement just so you can get a single unit around a rock. And Achron is just plain ugly, which isn't only an aesthetic concern: many of the unattractive units look so similar, you can't differentiate one from another. If you hunger for inventiveness, you'll find it in Achron--a game that requires you to think outside of the usual three dimensions. But this budget-priced RTS is also a reminder that innovation needs the support of rock-solid fundamentals.
Achron's basics are those of a typical science-fiction strategy game. As one of three factions, you collect resources, research technology, build structures, and produce battle units in order to wipe your opponent off the map. But Achron adds a mind-boggling layer of time-traveling complexity to the mix, starting with the timeline that spans the bottom of your screen. Here, the events of the past, the present, and even the future are summarized--and your orders and grand strategic plans aren't limited to the present. By clicking somewhere on the timeline, you are immediately taken there, and your real-life present becomes the in-game past (or future). Mind you, this doesn't change the time in which your opponents might be strategizing. Each player works with his or her own personal timelines within this complex structure in which a portion of the past and a portion of the future are a single click away. But while you get access to view any portion of the ever-progressing timeline, you can't issue endless orders willy-nilly. Your ability to command units is limited by an energy bar; the further back you venture into the past, the less control you have over the proceedings.
At first, the whole concept is absolutely baffling. New players would do well to familiarize themselves with these mechanics in the campaign before venturing into multiplayer. But even then, you might need to replay a mission two or three times before you fully grasp what it's trying to teach you. Achron does an OK job of relaying the basics, but without ever showing you how it all fits together. So expect to struggle with the flexible chronology. But the "aha!" moments come, and when they do, they might make your mind explode. A simple scenario: Battle doesn't go the way you intend. And so you move back in time and issue a different set of orders. A more involved scenario: Confuse your opponent by skipping into the future and issuing orders, and then undoing them when that future turns into the present. Convolute events even further by using the chronoporter structure to send your robots into the immediate past, and watch as the current version of those robots and their past selves participate in the same skirmish. Thanks to time manipulation, you've just cloned an army.
You also must pay attention to the timewave that periodically washes across the screen, implementing all the changes made to the past so that they impact the present. And don't forget about other mechanics, such as teleporting and group hierarchies. Even after hours and hours of play, you'll see things that alternately blow your mind and make you wonder what the heck is happening, and how the heck you're supposed to stop it. Enemies appear out of nowhere. Skirmishes dissipate into an eerie peace. Annihilated structures spring back to life. Achron is for RTS veterans only--those who can conceive of time as a deep and dangerous ocean of calamity and conquest. And if you are such a veteran, the thrills are undeniable. Chrono-clone a fleet of airships and teleport them into your opponent's base. Watch with held breath as the chaos unfolds, even as you put new plans into motion. Despair as your opponent dips into the past to prepare for the future, and the timeline mops away your joy. You won't see anything like this in another strategy game--and it's exhilarating.
The differences among the three factions add even more variety to this brilliant confusion. The human faction is the most approachable, though they have their fun toys, such as a slingshot to propel units into other regions. The alien factions--the Grekim and the Vecgir--are more unusual. As the Vecgir, you produce pilots and, in turn, assign them to vehicles. When the vehicles are destroyed, you're still left with troops willing to fight to the death. Furthermore, these aliens come with the benefit of speed: with the proper upgrade, they can teleport without needing to be in range of a teleporter. Swooping about the map and forcing your opponent to wonder where and when your airships might emerge is a blast. The Grekim are all about self-replication. Troops and troop-producing structures are one and the same; planting two different units near each other (that is, activating their progeneration mode) lets them produce units of a different type. They are an adaptable race thanks to their ability to propagate almost anywhere, and many of their troops can chronoport without the use of a chronoporter.