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 previous era. Many RPGs such as Chrono Trigger have used time travel as a major plot device or even the whole focus of the game. 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 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? Enter Acheron, an indie RTS that takes the time travel concept and actually makes it work!
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
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.
Lets start simple.
Say youre walking around with a raiding party and you
waltz right into
your enemys defenses/army on accident and your raiding party gets
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; Im going to
undo my mistake. When
combat and losses
happen, youll 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
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
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 its 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!) youll 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.
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, Im not going to give them shit, because the time system is
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.
The Achilles heel of many indie games, and perhaps the one thing keeping Achron from feeling truly great . Its not pretty to look at.
One 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.
The game has an extremely dull color scheme and minimal effects. You can barely tell when units are attacking and being attacked due to the lack of particles or animation. The game could really freakin benefit from some lighting effects in combat, building, or otherwise. These flaws are pretty serious and you cant go back in time to fix these. Also, the characters in the single player cutscenes look like DeviantArt fanfiction drawings.
Riveting dialogue punctuated by amazing sprites, right? Fortunately, you can skip all of these quickly when you're done laughing at them.