Tachyon: The Fringe Review

Nebojsa Radakovic
Tachyon: The Fringe Info

genre

  • N/A

players

  • 1

Publisher

  • NovaLogic

Developer

  • NovaLogic

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PC

rating

No fringe benefits.

I’ll just come right out and say it: Bruce Campbell is The Man. Not only has

he defeated countless hordes of pearly-eyed, slogan-quipping deadites in the

classic Evil Dead movies, but he has also single-handedly managed

to do something usually impossible – make a mediocre game fun, even inciting.

The game is Tachyon: The Fringe. Tachyon is a space combat,

freewheeling, Han Solo sort of experience in which you take on the role of Jake

Logan (voice of Bruce Campbell), a respected contract pilot in Sol sector. Without

much warning, Logan finds himself framed for the horrific destruction of a hospital

facility and is exiled from the relative civilization of Sol out into the wilds

of The Fringe, a newly colonized region of space run by madmen. It is in this

region of guile, treachery and conflict that Logan must rebuild his life, make

a new fortune, and discover the secrets behind the atrocity that landed him

there.

The principal authorities in the region are GalSpan, an unscrupulous mining

conglomerate, the Bora, a group of colonists fighting dispossession at the hands

of GalSpan, and the Star Patrol, a ubiquitous police force. After getting your

feet wet in The Fringe, you have to decide how to cast your lot – Bora or GalSpan.

Gameplay is sort of a cross between Privateer and StarLancer.

While you have freedom to take side missions not provided by GalSpan or Bora,

the major missions play out in a linear fashion and you only have as much freedom

as is convenient for the plot. The Fringe has several large regions, each of

which has various locales. You initially have very little access, though by

the end you can cruise all over the place.

Time goes by at your own pace. Missions hang around until you do them, no

matter how time-sensitive their briefings might make them seem. To compound

matters, some Bora and Galspan missions are non-essential, so you might find

yourself at the end of the campaign but still able to play one or two of the

first few missions. It’s a pity, because this eliminates much of the feeling

of progress you normally expect from a space combat game.

Speaking of which, the way that Tachyon handles upgrades is severely

flawed. Instead of showing you almost everything available so that you have

a goal to work towards, Tachyon only makes advanced hardware available

after the completion of certain missions. You don’t know what you’ll unlock

with each mission unless you have a strategy guide. While this provides incentive

to play the independent missions, it eliminates much of the freedom. You can’t

even see all the ships until the last couple missions. This basically curtails

the privateering, freewheeling feeling that is the basis for most non-military

space combat games. There is no elite-style trading either – you’re just a mercenary.

You’re also a very curt mercenary. Often, just when things are heating up in a mission (like when you take out a few fighters but two capitol ships hyper-space in), your contract is completed and you don’t have to stick around for the drama, nor are you rewarded if you do. But that really doesn’t matter much, because fighting and flying in Tachyon isn’t much fun.

The ships you fly handle decently, but not very smoothly. It doesn’t feel

natural, especially after the realism of StarLancer. On the bright side,

there are a few cool advanced features, such as reverse thrust and a slide option

that keeps your direction vector constant while you can pivot (an old feature

from Wing Commander 3 and 4).

Still, enemy AI is plain. Enemies don’t maneuver enough. Weapon energy and

afterburners are on short supply and take very long to recharge, which results

in slow space-flight and fairly lethargic combat.

The ships are modeled well, with the GalSpan being sleek and technological

and the Bora looking slapped together from old rusty parts. Space stations are

massive, spanning miles of complex pipe-work. Just on size alone, they are very

impressive.

The texturing, however, is crippled by the old Glide (native 3DFX 3D acceleration

API) limit of 256×256 texture resolution that makes everything lack sharp definition.

D3D or OpenGl would have worked better, or even a detail texture system like

Unreal and Unreal Tournament.

Also, there are a lot of 2D sprite based effects that were rendered at low resolution

only and look blocky and cartoonish at higher resolutions. Landing lights, shield

effects, and even the nebula representation lack detail or realism. Weapons

are fairly plain, except for the railgun, which looks great. Explosions are

decent, although abrupt and lacking variety.

Overall, Tachyon looks good enough to just barely get by, but its dated

appearance is a dead giveaway to the engine’s origins in NovaLogic’s flight

simulations like F22-Lighning 3, F-16

Multi-Role Fighter
, and MiG-29 Fulcrum.

This is also a buggy game. NovaLogic has already released two patches, but there is a very annoying and unpredictable crash bug which freezes up your computer and necessitates a hardware restart.

Sounds are also fairly bad. Weapon effects, ships sounds, and the rest all are grainy and unconvincing.

In an odd twist, voice acting is what saves the game. Bruce Campbell does such a good job of creating the Jake Logan character and making you care about him that despite the failings and halfway successes of the game, you are drawn into the stories and compelled to see how things turn out. Bruce Campbell takes a fair game and makes it fun.

Despite Tachyon‘s various problems, it is a fun ride. It even includes

an innovative team-based multi-player option called Base Wars, which is something

like a real-time strategy game with everyone playing a role. But if you want

good space combat, look elsewhere to StarLancer, FreeSpace

2
, or X-Wing

Alliance
.



REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

Rating4
Bruce Campbell!
Cool "Base Wars" Concept
Mediocre Graphics
Mediocre Space Combat
Half-Assed Privateering
Lets You Leave Missions Too Soon