Achron is one of the more interesting titles released in 2011. Apparently a real-time strategy game, this title will have you thinking it's more of the same for the first segment of play. However, not long after beginning the game, a crucial twist comes into play: the bending of the space/time continuum. Not only can players teleport around the environments, they can also travel through time to rectify errors in the past. This redefines the genre altogether, and presents a tactics-based experience capable of standing up to Starcraft (2) in terms of competition.
The story begins with some incredibly dull and boring voice acting, which informs you of an incoming alien attack. Stories unfold of how even the most well-planned human attacks were countered, with humanity on the brink of receiving a blow from which it may not recover. It is here that the player discovers the ability to build certain structures and travel through time and space. Actions which have been re-made in the past have a direct influence on how things are at present, and so learning to master time travel becomes a huge part of the game.
More importantly than the creativity of the concept which drives this game is the seamless integration of it. A timeline scrolls across the bottom of the screen and gives the player all the information he needs about what attacks have happened and when, and even which side of the battle came out on top. Understanding the importance of this bar and learning how to use it in general play is the key to winning.
The time travel offers something innovative and unique - however the list of great things about Achron does not extend much further. Gameplay can be quite dull at times, especially once one has fully come to grips with the time travel system - many maps seem a little dull and unimaginative. While vast, desert maps may act as an appropriate setting for the story, it does not do a lot to inspire players in terms of strategy and tactics.
This issue reaches into the array of units - across three races, only the expected units come into play. While some do contain special abilities such as teleporting around maps, the game's time and space travel is not well-integrated with the units. As such, Achron does little to stand out in front of the monsters of this genre, where an almost-endless amount of strategies is possible. Even within the multiplayer of this title, only a few variations on the same basic attack plan seem to exist.
Other than the game's included units, it's hard to pinpoint a reason for why this title just seems a little "off". The pathfinding of units is absolutely hideous, and sometimes you'll have to re-send orders to your squads just to get around a wall of rocks. This makes play frustrating and can have a hefty impact on the end-result of a game, and so largely detracts from the experience, which is otherwise robust at all times.
There are a few more issues which will stop Achron from being the next indie smash hit. As previously mentioned, the voice acting is terrible. The visuals in all areas - from menus, to 'cutscenes', to the playing field itself - lack polish, doing little to bring any flair to a game which just can't seem to stand tall despite the twists and turns it brings to a tiring genre.
Overall, it seems that the flaws which will stop Achron from becoming huge amount RTS fans can all be fixed with a patch or two. Should this happen, and the terrible pathfinding and sub-par visuals be upgraded, this is a title which will very much be worth your money, despite its high asking price for an indie title.
The Final Verdict
Achron is an innovative strategy title which does its best to reinvent the wheel and give RTS fans some new gameplay elements to mess with. While it will certainly raise eyebrows with its unique and efficient time travelling system, potential players may be turned away by the terrible pathfinding, sub-par visuals and unimaginative maps.
By Harry Hughes