I miss the days of Descent: Freespace and Freespace II. Of X-Wing Vs. Tie Fighter and of decent space sim games in general. So I'm always interested to see if a new one pops up on my scanners. Tarr Chronicles did and it's a bitter-sweet symphony that's playing on my monitor and speakers.
Ok, let's cut to the chase. Tarr Chronicles is a space sim in the traditions of the aforementioned sim-greats that tries to ape those games and fails miserably in certain areas. It's not that it's a bad game; it's just not a very good game either. It falls between the two in some kind of semi-happy balance.
The story is a typical science fiction military one, big ship catapulted into the far reaches of space but devoid of nosey, nasal Captain Janeway thankfully and packed with state of the art military hardware. The ship must fight a Universe Threatening big-bad so everyone can go home to happy fluffy bunny-land for tea and cake time. (Note: there is no happy fluffy bunny-land and the cake is a lie)
The problem with the story is that it makes very little sense, along with the horribly written dialogue and characters that are about as three dimensional as a squirrel that's been run over by a big lorry, sorry, truck for all the Americans out there. Tarr Chronicles tells the story through briefings, journals and sometimes in-mission exposition that isn't so easy to follow due to the previously mentioned horrid writing.
I could write a better story about the squirrel's day at work before his life is cut short by a tragic vehicle related accident.
There's also no characterisation in the game, its card-board cut-out generic. Your character just seems to be one big excuse to sit you down in a first person view and say: LOOK, we have cockpits in our game, see the shiny pretty lights and dials!
That aside, we're not out of the woods yet Flyboy! Oh no, because the game is linear, it's so linear that if you happen to sneeze in the wrong place in a mission you end up failing the objective and the mission. Overshoot a marker by too much, fail. You will find that you have to complete objectives in a certain order; the game won't let you shoot those targets until it's TIME to do SO!
On one hand it's nice to see a return to simpler times, but perhaps I've been spoiled by the free-roaming space games of late that stress a sandbox environment. There are nine of these linear levels, fairly long too and broken up into checkpoints where the game replenishes your stock of ammo and so on. The objectives are the usual run of the mill, patrol, escort and 'shoot the bad guy' types.
The AI is fairly decent, it reminds me of the Freespace days where some of the enemy ships zip around so quickly and have sharp AI that they're a real challenge, this is one of the reasons the game's not in the 'bored with it yet' pile. Your wingman AI isn't bad either and they can sometimes net a couple of kills, the main focus of these guys to me was to draw the enemies' fire and keep me safe however.
Yes, I know, that's not very nice of me but tough.