Review: Achron

achron screenshot - bugs everywhere
Review: Achron

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Achron

Publisher: Hazardous Software Inc.

Developer: Hazardous Software Inc.

Genre: RTS (Real-Time Strategy)

Release Date: Aug 29, 2011

Developer Summary

Achron is the world’s first meta-time strategy game, allowing you to dynamically alter your past and future actions, send your units back and forth through time, even engineer temporal paradoxes that work to your advantage. Play through four single player campaigns, or then go online to face off against your friends in a fully dynamic temporal environment!

What We Think

At first glance Achron is a fairly standard RTS: there are three races that each have different styles of building their respective bases and advancements, and your fairly standard map layouts with “crystals” and “gas.” It’s all appears like an indie-flavored iteration StarCraft. You could sit down behind someone playing and wonder, “Hey guy, why not just play StarCraft?” but as you watched, you’d begin to notice something unusual: “Didn’t you just do that? Hey, I thought you took out that base a minute ago. What’s going on?”

achron screenshot - rts

Time travel. That, is what’s going on, friends. This RTS is built around the concept of being able to go back into the past and change your actions, take back assults, and to call do’s-overs on battles that left you without a single unit left. But that’s not all! Beyond the ability to manipulate events in the past, you can also send units from the present into the past to help out the younger versions of themselves in a decisive battle.

But, what would a game that focuses on time travel be without time paradoxes? You could send a unit into the past and have it destroy the very factory that made it, before it was made. Now this would not cause the unit to vanish immediately, rather, there are ripples in the timeline that propagate forward into the present.

The timeline is represented as a part of the HUD along the bottom middle of the screen and the waves are shown as differently colored markers moving forward to the present. In the above case, as each wave passes by the factory, the unit will alternate back and forth in and out of existence.

The HUD does a fairly good job of keeping track of events in the timeline, and showing you important information; damage received is demarcated by red bars, units you’ve sent back in time appear with yellow markers, flashing markers signify that something has happened, but you were not there to witness it. The Timeline is one of the best concepts I’ve seen in any game, and it makes keeping track of what could have been a headache-inducing feature, into something simple and intuitive.

achron screenshot - grid

The three races at play are highly comparable to Blizzard’s creatures, but still different. Of course you have the standard humans, in which case everything should feel quite familiar. Tanks, Mecha, Bombers, etc. But the Humans have a third resource – personnel – which they gain from a farm-like building that warps in troops, used to train, or pilot ships for their units.

There is a race that is highly advanced, with units that have the ability to self-teleport over short distances. They build their bases like a beehive, starting from a single hex foundation and expanding outward until they have a large honeycomb of structures.

The third is a squid-like alien race whose units can self “chronoport,” that is, warp themselves into the past. Their propagation stems off of having three genders of units sitting next to each other in an incubation mode and breeding new units with each other. A trio of these aliens can rebuild their entire army if left alone, or given enough time…time, of which they have plenty in this game.

achron screenshot - bugs everywhere

The strategy is deep, and the time travel is probably the best we will ever see in a game now, or ever. But sadly, Achron is not without its flaws, and that is why we at IGR work so hard to bring you the data that resists the marketing blurbs: the biggest problem in Achron, is its path-finding.

My units would get hung up on an obstacle or a wall, in an attempt to find the shortest path to their destination, but failed to consider that in order to get to the top of a hill, they may have to go up a nearby ramp. So instead, they would stare at the wall helplessly until I noticed a minute later that they were not where they were supposed to be. The units will also bump into each other if packed too close, which can cause a larger migraine than comprehending time travel paradoxes ever could. Add to which, the response times are a little bit sluggish, though that was more of a nuance than a game-breaking problem.

In Achron, game matches last 20-30 minutes apiece, which is a really perfect time frame for quick-in, quick-out battles. A match will never take longer than it needs, for example to the point where players just get bored and throw in the towel, and not so short that “zerging” is never a problem. The tech tree is simple enough that you can see powerful units and use them in enough time still to get the job done in a short, fun, time period. In the breadth of an hour you and a friend could have a best-of-three match, with each round being a full experience.

In all, if you like strategy games, you really must try this one out. In a land where indie RTSes are almost non-existent, Achron may be the best you’ll find, especially since what most of us that are looking for in an indie title is something unique that a big publisher would never go near because it’s not safe or proven.

Achron is available on Steam for $30 (maybe a bit excessive but that $30 gets you a gift copy for a friend as well, so either give a gift or go halvsies as multiplayer is what this game is all about). It does make us wonder, however, why not just price the game at $15 to begin with, because, maybe my only Steam-powered friend already has Achron…

Get Achron on Steam

Visit the official Achron site

[xrr rating=”3.5/5″]

3 thoughts on “Review: Achron

  1. I’m curious if you reviewed with v1.0.0.0 or v1.0.1.0, as the latter fixed the more egregious pathfinding issues. There are still some lingering problems, but almost all multiplayer maps are or soon will be completely playable.

    Also, the $30 price point apparently has to do with some legal obligations Hazardous Software has relating to when they started exposing this in 2009. They aren’t forthcoming on the details, but it isn’t something they have total control over.

    Lastly, for multiplayer, there isn’t an in-game global chat lobby yet, but we do have an IRC channel #achron on, which is basically the hub for games and discussion on Achron. Come there anyone if you want to play

    1. Well if one of my major complaints was pathfinding, and it’s been fixed, then I’m pretty sure it was 1.0 I reviewed. And as well, if it’s been fixed you can give Achron an effective 4 Stars.

      You do have to admit that $30 is a bit much for the current metagame of indie game sales. =D And sorry I forgot to mention the IRC, I was going to but I forgot. An in-game lobby would be nice, even if it just tunneled to the IRC. To let players know people are there. Because of the price, there’s just not many people there except for the ones who pre-ordered 2 years ago like I did.

      It’s a great game! I’d like to see more people playing though.

      1. I’m not sure about totally “fixed”. It isn’t flawless, as the primary parameter is map-based and not all maps are up-to-date, but since v1.0.1.0 that parameter can basically be boosted to the point that units will pretty much navigate all cliffs properly for the same CPU time cost as the pathfinding in v1.0.0.0.

        I’d also like to see more people playing, and I hope a lot of people go for the 2-for-1 deal as halfsies. More people means a better community, and for me, more varied shoutcasts to make.

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