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Achron Review

Justin Clouse | 2 Sep 2011 20:35
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You can, for example, pause the action and individually micromanage your troops without needing the actions per minutes of a professional Starcraft player. Or surprise your opponent with a sneak attack in the past using units from the future. Even something as trivial in any other game as race selection takes on a new meaning with Achron's time travel, in multiplayer or quickplay matches choosing your race occurs during the match so it's an action you can go back to and change with time travel like any other. Things like this really takes Achron's strategy depth beyond rock, paper and scissor units.

There was one aspect to time travel that I found rather vexing though. If you go back in time, your units will continue to follow your orders as they are given in the future unless you use the undo command to clear them, which requires you to select the unit and then select on the timeline where you want commands deleted from. Maybe I'm not seeing the broader picture, but when all I want to do is keep my hero unit from dying by moving him slightly away from the front line, it would be so much more intuitive if he simply ignored future orders once I started commanding him in the past.

My only other issue with the game is the lack of polish in several areas. This isn't simply an issue of indie developer versus triple AAA as we've seen plenty of "count-on-one-hand" sized teams deliver high quality. I mentioned the voice acting earlier, but other areas like the UI could use a bit of an overhaul. While the game needs to dedicate a good deal of space to the timeline, the rest feels crowded and makes it less intuitive to find information. The graphics from the game itself to the voiceover cutscenes could likewise use some visuals that actually live up to the gameplay. We have seen some truly stunning indie games lately, so it's a shame that Achron's brilliant mechanics are tied to game that compares graphically to its genre a decade ago. The biggest problem though is the AI's pathfinding which can be particularly frustrating almost to the point of being game breaking. I want to be playing the game and bending time to my will, not babysitting my tanks around a corner because their too dumb to do anything but rub up against that wall endlessly.

Bottom line: Achron will probably be the most unique RTS you'll play this year. The implementation of free-form time manipulation really takes the genre in some new and interesting directions, but only if you're willing to work through some flaws.

Recommendation: If the mere promise of true time travel gameplay intrigues you and you're forgiving enough to overlook other areas than Archon is worth a look. We are not likely to see something similar any time soon, but if the $30 price tag seems high to you, the devs have promised a demo in the near future.

What our review scores mean.

Justin Clouse would probably just use time manipulation to continually roll 20s in D&D.

Game: Achron
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Hazardous Software
Publisher: Hazardous Software
Platform(s): PC
Available from: Steam and Achrongame.com

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