Achron Review (PC)

Time travel has always captivated us
in the video game
world.  Platformers
like Castlevania stop time
outright and
enable safe passage, or change the layout a castle by shifting to a
era.   Many
RPGs such as Chrono Trigger have
used time travel as
a major plot device or even the whole focus of the game. style="">  Some strategy games have
tried it, but the closest
a Real Time Strategy game has come to proper use of time travel has
always been
the downright silly/awesome plot of the Command
and Conquer : Red Alert
trilogy.  It even gave us href=""
target="_blank">Tim Curry's greatest line of his career,
but I digress.

No one has even actually tried to
implement it as a
gameplay element however. What
if you could move
around in time, not only change the past, but shape the future? style="">  Enter
an indie RTS that takes the time travel concept and
actually makes
it work!


While this game is not rated, the game is more or less fun for all ages. If your young ones want to try this, you’ll need to hold their hand until they get a good grasp of it. Time travel is for adults!

Gameplay - 95 / 100

So how the hell did they make it
work?!  The best way
to explain it to you is through
a few examples.

See this gauge? 
it looks like something they use on you after a heart attack at the
hospital.   Don’t
be intimidated, but
this is the ‘timeline’.  
You have a
Chronoenergy gauge that affects your ability to make moves in the past.   Note that I said
make moves.  You are
free to jump around various points in
time with no cost so long as you do not act.   
It is when you act that you begin spending energy.
Let’s start simple. 
Say you’re walking around with a raiding party and you
waltz right into
your enemy’s defenses/army on accident and your raiding party gets
instagibbed.  Well
shit. Any other RTS
and you would have set yourself back a fair chunk or possibly a fatal
against an equally skilled opponent. 
In Achron, you say
screw this; I’m going to
undo my mistake.   When
combat and losses
happen, you’ll see them show up on the timeline. 
So you can jump back a second before, 15
seconds, or even a minute or two and correct your mistake.
You correct your mistake by reversing
your orders.  Note
that the game still saves every order you made. 
So if you have them moving east, and you give an order in
the past to
move west, they will still try to move east if you were following them
clicking east along the way.  Those
you are that are super active players, Achron
may be your downfall.  But
not!  You can
highlight a unit or group
of units and delete all orders to a certain point the in the past… at a
cost of Chronoenergy, as shown by the yellow consumption portion in my
example.  Every
single unit
you order, including all of those selected in a group, costs additional
Chronoenergy to issue an order to in the past. 
You can limit your costs, but also your flexibility, by
setting platoon
leaders and having units mimic their orders. 
That way, you spend a minimal amount of energy readjusting
army.  However, if
the leader is killed,
all orders are lost!  Guess
who has to go
back to the past and fix everything again!
Fear not, Chronoenergy is an infinite
that merely takes time to replenish. 
say you actually go back in time, and save that army from the previous
example.  Do they
just show up instantly out of thin
air, you might ask?  Not
quite.  Take a look
at the graph here again and note
that it’s marked off into sections by fading color waves, like a sonar
These are Time Ripples. 
If the continuum
is changed and units survive (or are thrown back in time!  Yes, your future army can
go back in time and
save your ass!) you’ll see everything ‘update’ when a ripple hits the
Present.  Time is
still marching forward
when you are in the past, and every minute, the entire game may change.
“Holy shit
that is a
lot to digest!”
Now wait until
you see it all multiplayer!  Time
aside, you have your standard RTS fare of air and ground units, with
sides that have standard builders, one that sacrifices workers to build
buildings, and one that summons multiple buildings at a time if they so
desire.  Gosh that sounds familiar… but
you know, I’m not going to give them shit, because the time system is
the most
innovative RTS idea since squad combat was introduce back in Kohan.  The
units themselves have a lot of unique abilities such as deploying into
factories that can produce different units depending on what other
types of units are doing the same nearby, so you've got some unique
toys to go alongside your flux capacitor. 

Graphics - 45 / 100

The Achilles heel of many indie
games, and perhaps the one thing
keeping Achron from feeling truly
great…. It’s not pretty to look at.   

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 640px; height: 360px;" alt=""

of the less inspiring settings.  Note the complete lack of
projectiles--very few units actually shoot anything at all, and you
just see impact effects on your target.  Booooring.

game has an extremely dull color scheme and minimal effects. style="">  You can barely tell when
units are attacking
and being attacked due to the lack of particles or animation. style="">  The
game could really freakin’
from some lighting effects in combat, building, or
otherwise.   These
flaws are pretty serious and you can’t
go back in time to fix these.  Also, the characters in the
single player cutscenes
look like DeviantArt fanfiction drawings.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 640px; height: 295px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;"> style="font-style: italic;">Riveting
dialogue punctuated by amazing sprites, right?  Fortunately,
you can skip all of these quickly when you're done laughing at them. style="">

Sound - 77 / 100

While the characters of the campaign are voiced, at first it sounds like a bunch of high schoolers having a Skype conversation. Eventually they get into their characters and get some more enthusiasm, but there are some amazingly deadpan lines, which is a good thing if you’re like me and find a lot of humor in the Playstation 1-era of terrible voice acting. The music isn’t half bad though, but has some ridiculously loud tracks mixed in. Think about how some commercials sound 50% louder than the rest of the stuff on your TV—kind of like that. The sounds of combat are just as boring to listen to as the combat is to look at.

Multiplayer - 90 / 100

Take everything I said before about
time travel, and now
imagine that you have someone else with the exact same powers you do.  The
tricky tactics you can do are off the charts!

Imagine a huge fight breaking
out in your territory, and two seconds later the offensive is not only
gone, but at your back door!  Welcome to Achron.

To give a traditional Starcraft 1
example turned upside down,
imagine someone sends a light unit at you early on to scout.  You’re going for an all-in
rush of
Zerglings.  The
worker shows up, sees the
early Spawning Pool, and immediately knows what is going on and leaves.  Your rush is expected and
will likely fail.
Not today,
dirt bag.  I’m
going to go back in time, cancel that
worker’s order to build that building, and put up a Hydralisk Den
instead in
the exact same place.  The
map will still
show a building there, but if the enemy isn’t careful and scouts again,
have the entirely wrong unit composition to deal with what you’re about
to hit
them with.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg,
but I’ll let you use
your imagination from there.  The
multiplayer is solid, but finding a match can be a little problematic.  Goes with the indie
territory, I suppose.

Value - 60 / 100

29.99 for an indie title is a pretty decent chunk of change, but you get two copies of the game for that. That said, this game is not for everyone—the single player is solid if a little unforgiving, and the multiplayer takes a new way of thinking that will take many defeats and a whole lot of ‘WTF’ moments before you start achieving victory. You might have more trouble pawning off that second copy than you think, and with the relatively low production values (except in music) I cannot recommend a purchase except to the RTS fans at heart at this price point.

Lasting Appeal - 95 / 100

Achron is
wonderful proof of concept that makes me pray for a sequel with an
budget.  The time
travel mechanics are
amazing once you get used to them, and the same situation never plays
out the
same, since you can go back in time and alter the situation entirely
on your new orders.  If
anything, the
lack of RTS games lately make this even more of a breath of fresh air,
and it
deserves a place in the hearts of die-hard RTS fanatics for years to
come.  Does the
actual content warrant that kind of
memory?  Yes, if you
can get into the
multiplayer… otherwise, you’ll be done with this in a month.  The AI simply doesn’t make
the most of time
travel.  I can’t
blame the game for
that.  It’s hard
enough to program an RTS
AI that isn’t terrible, and programming one that can react to attacks
from all
sides at different timelines is friggin’ impossible.

Pros and Cons


  • Absolutely brilliant use of time
  • Lots of cool unit abilities and
  • Sending units from the future
    into the past to kick ass is a
    great feeling


  • Abysmal graphics, it should have
    taken a strictly
    utilitarian take ala AI War: Fleet
  • High price for an indie RTS
  • Could use better tutorials and
    explanation of typical time
    travel tactics for new players


Achron is a game that words really don’t do justice. You have to get in there and give it a try. For the tactician who has always wanted to go into that fourth dimension, well, here is your calling. It may have its fair share of flaws, such as low production values and a high learning curve, but those do not affect the gameplay at heart. Major kudos to Hazardous Software Inc. for making a game like this, especially during a lull in the genre! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back in time 5 minutes before I posted this and finish my game…

Overall 78/100 - Good


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