Theres a new RTS in development, known only as Achron. Looking at the screenshots may not do it justice, it comes across as a fairly generic Total Annihilation clone. However, it has the twin pulsating hearts of a TimeLord behind it, because this is the first RTS that uses Time Travel and Manipulation as its primary tactical mechanic. I’m so intrigued by it, I have to buy it (you can pre-order it, and get the demo as it evolves).
I am merely two steps into the tutorial missions with the demo campaign, and I am totally in awe, bewitched and yet befuddled. I’m having a mental block dealing with the simplest time fiddling concepts on offer here. I understand basic RTS unit movement, tactics and combat. However, applying these to the complexity of working with not only a timeline you can dip in and out of, both past, present and future, but the Timewave concept, where your actions are updated along the timeline in waved pulses. So your units can blink in and out of existence depending upon when you commit the order they follow, and whether the current Timewave has refreshed the Timeline with that order.
I have positively fallen in love with the concept, but in a way where you put it on a pedestal and admire it longingly from afar. I feel like my clumsy fat fingers are unable to pick their way through this delicate and cerebral time-weaving. My head starts to cloud over when the tutorial asks me to jump 15 seconds into the past, move a unit, and then drop back to the present, and wait and see the Timewave roll in and make the changes. I marvel at my Tank disappearing into the ether of nothingness, for a total of 15 seconds, and suddenly wink into being, in a different place ready for battle, because the Time tide has rolled over the beach of here and now. As a mere mortal trapped in the straightjacket of the Present, I’m struggling to comprehend the tactical benefits of this ability to surf the Timewaves of the Universe.
I think this game could change the RTS genre for ever, in a similar way Braid shook the world of 2d platform puzzlers. I just wish I could apply my mind enough to be able to grasp it, without boggling at the complexity of it all. I think I need a teacher, to train me in the ways of manipulating these Time Tricks and once mastered, the drudgery of the normal RTS will forever seem banal beyond comprehension.
I’ve been entranced by Time shifting games before, but they have been action orientated games, such as TimeShift a shooter that give you a small amount of control over the flow of time, to enable more killing, or less misfortune. You could even stop time, snatch the weapon out of your enemies hands, point it at them, and then start time again, and shoot the startled individual in the face. All good fun. But Achron is much more strategic and needs a lot more thought invested in it.
Keep an eye on this one.