Achron Hands-On Preview

Written by Joe Martin

January 20, 2010 | 08:29

Tags: #achron #acron #archon #hands-on #hazardous #preview #rts #strategy #time-travel

Companies: #hazardous-software #indie

Do The Timewarp

Here’s an example of how timewaves work. You start a game with a small collection of robots in the present. You haven’t given any orders, so the game assumes that it’s stayed that way for the preset length of the match – so in the future your units are patrolling the same path over and over, just as they are in the present. The same rule applies to the past, where your units are also patrolling.

You decide to change this by undertaking some retroactive recon, so you journey two minutes into the past and tell one of your units to move to the furthest corner of the map, then you return to the present. There, you see that nothing has happened – your unit is still patrolling the original position, the map is unexplored.

That is until a timewave pulses forth, starting in the past and moving forwards. It passes the two minute point where you issued your order and moves forwards. If you went back to a time that timewave had already passed then you’d see your unit moving as you told him to, the event incorporated into history. If you wait in the present for the timewave to catch you then you’ll see the change happen the moment it hits - the unit will vanish before you eyes and reappear where you told it go, the route explored.

Achron Hands-On Preview Back to the Future!
Using teleporters you can move units through time...and space!

That is, as simply as possible, how time travel works in Achron and, for those of you wondering how the game stops you from just wiping enemies out in the past to win, there’s your answer. Remember: players can see where each other are on the timeline, so if an opponent looks at the timeline then they can see when you are. If you’re attacking them and the unit AI isn’t up to the task then they can journey back to defend themselves – they just have to do it before the timewave runs the length of the match.

Hell, if they wanted they could pull off some seriously clever stunts. Say, for example, I saw you were destroying my base in the past and didn’t want to simply defend in a direct battle with you on the timeline. What I could do is look at where you’re attacking me and then journey even further back to try and fortify that point. Then, when the timewave hits, your victory could become your defeat. Or I could pre-empt your attack with a raid of my own, targeting specific units that I’d know you’d need. Or I could use a chrono-porter to teleport my future units back in time as reinforcements.

Or, because there’s not just one timewave but a dozen of them on the timeline as a whole (but only one at any one time, haha) I could try to battle you in the future while you are waging war in past. I’d just have to make sure I won the future battle before the timewave which catches your battle reaches me – so that a timewave that’s already in the future can carry my changes forwards.

At least, I think that’s how it works. If your head is spinning from trying to keep track of all this then don’t imagine I’m faring much better! Just be grateful I’ve decided not to delve too deeply into how the game handles grandfather paradoxes – that’s when a unit prevents itself from ever being created. If you’re interested in that then it’s best to have the developers themselves explain it with video footage.

Achron Hands-On Preview Back to the Future!
We still have no idea of plot for the full game

As far as time travel goes in terms of the wider game mechanics, such as multiplayer, it’s hard to judge. Again, this is merely an alpha version of the game and it isn’t even totally stable at the moment let alone feature complete – there’s only five singleplayer levels which slowly, crudely introduce you to the idea of how to play the game. There’s very little in Achron’s alpha version which isn’t likely to change, from graphics to balancing. The only certainty is, ironically, time travel.

That state of flux shouldn’t reflect on the quality of the game however as, even in the state we played it, Achron still seems to be a pretty decent game. It’s hard to praise it any more than that when there’s no proper balancing or AI, but then at the same time there’s nothing to hate about it either, as the usual motions of moving units, setting orders, patrols and hierarchies seem well implemented if not stunningly original.

There’s the crux of the matter though; originality. Expectations are now sky high for Achron to deliver something nobody has ever attempted to do in a game before – multiplayer time travel. It sounds complex and even though I’ve tried our best to distil what you need to know into as simple a form as possible I still wouldn’t be surprised if you were scratching your head. Rest assured though that, while there’s no getting around the mind-bending complexity of time travel, it looks like it will be well worth the effort and just because it sounds unusual and intimidating doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing by any means.

Achron is being developed by Hazardous Software as a PC exclusive and is currently available for pre-order at the official Achron website.
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