Review: Tachyon the Fringe

Screenshot: Bruce Campbell’s Character in Tachyon, Jake Logan.
Written by: Elijah Moon Blackwell

Mark Hamill, Master Luke Skywalker himself, appeared in Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger and it was awesome.

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Mark Hamill always gave intense stares in Wing Commander III

Back when full motion video (FMV) scenes were implemented in video games, Mark Hamill and Malcom McDowell had to be the biggest actors to appear side by side in a game.

Sure, you got Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 which probably has the largest cast of celebrities, but those FMV scenes were comedic and almost an ode to how cringeworthy FMV could be. Red Alert 3 did not have the seriousness, the tone and the movie like quality of Wing Commander III.

If we pretend the FMV games didn’t exist, you also get a ton of celebrities who voiced video game characters. John Goodman, one of my personal favorite actors, voiced Dan Hagar in Rage.

However, celebrities sometimes don’t make the history books for their voice over work, no matter how popular they are. Timothy Olyphant acted in a slew of movies. He was 47 in that horrible Hitman movie. No not the most recent one, the first Hitman movie they made. He is probably most known for the show Justified where he plays as an angry US Marshal.

Timothy Olyphant voiced Grinch in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I don’t know how many people actually realize this. Most people know Gary Oldman for voicing Viktor Reznov who was in World at War and Black Ops.

Well what happens when you have an obscure actor voice acting the main character in an obscure game made by a company most people have no idea exists? You get this week’s game.

Tachyon: the Fringe is a game I had no idea existed till I read Bruce Campbell’s Wikipedia page. Bruce Campbell is the lead protagonist in one of the biggest cult film franchises of all time, Evil Dead.

Today, Bruce Campbell’s popularity sort of bounces. With the Starz series Ash vs the Evil Dead I see ol’ Bruce on TV a little more. But then April of 2018 rolled around and the show was cancelled. So yeah, Bruce Campbell’s screen time is touch and go.

Bruce Campbell is super popular if compared to someone like Paul Bettany. Who is Paul Bettany? He is the voice of Jarvis in all three Iron Man movies and Avengers movies.

Even in that comparison, Bruce Campbell is no Mark Hamill. Ask a thousand people on the street if they know Luke Skywalker then ask them if they know Ash Williams. They’d probably think you are referring to Ash from Pokémon.

The reason I make this comparison is the fact that Tachyon: the Fringe is a space combat simulator just like Wing Commander. They are different games in terms of control and features but the genre remains the same. It blew my mind when I saw that the protagonist has an uncanny resemblance to Bruce Campbell himself.

But again, no one knows this game exists. On GOG, a computer client that sales digital copies of classic video games, Tachyon has 90 reviews. Wing Commander III has over a thousand.

Obscure actor, obscure game, obscure experience. That should be the slogan for a Tachyon: the Fringe Remastered Edition.

Tachyon came out in 2000, six years after Wing Commander III.

It was developed by Novalogic.

Novalogic isn’t a company that makes a lot of headlines. Today they are not super popular.

In 1983 the great North American video game crash was in full effect. To make a long disaster short, over saturation killed the industry. The saturation in the current day market does not even compare. Gamers point to Paladins, Battleborn and Overwatch as examples of an over saturated market, but the ‘83 crash was a million times worse.

Revenues went from the billions, to the hundred millions and eventually bankrupting companies such as I Magic and Games by Apollo. It made Magnavox leave gaming entirely. Magnavox was the company behind the Odyssey, the first home commercial console. The company survived the crash but never returned to the gaming scene.

Gaming historians agree that the recession ended roughly 2 years after it began. During this period, video game masterpieces rose from the ashes. The industry saw a new and improved product from the likes of Nintendo and Sega. The Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System released in ‘85, beginning the long drawn out console war.

Computer gaming was seen as a hobby at this point. During the crash there was a price war between IBM and other manufacturers. You had to have a computer and the knowledge to optimize said computer for whatever game you stuck in it. On top of all this you had to not be dissuaded from jumping to home computers after getting shafted during the crash.

Thus comes in Novalogic, a company dedicated to creating computer games for a, at the time, small market.

Novalogic brought arcade classics to DOS, Apple 2 and other home computers. Bubble Bobble, Arkanoid and Rastan are among the notable arcade games they ported to home machines.

They are even the ones who tried to make a Mario game for the Phillips CD-I, a console maybe 20 people know about. Novalogic did everything.

Somewhere down the line however, Novalogic took a turn. Military games. They made so many military games that before writing this I thought that was just all they made, nothing else.

They made tank, helicopter and plane simulators. They even had the guts to sue Activision over the use of Delta Force in Modern Warfare 3.

Novalogic’s last game was in 2009. Delta Force Extreme 2 was the game and it is subpar. Novalogic couldn’t keep up with Call of Duty and other shooters that captivated the masses.

Due to this, Novalogic’s sales fell at an alarming rate. THQ Nordic came in and bought the company. Since then, the studio has been dormant.

All this history I’m writing is mainly due to the fact that Tachyon is almost non-existent. Its Wikipedia page has one reference and Bruce Campbell’s Wikipedia page barely mentions it.

This might be due to the fact that modern day video game media outlets seem to shame Tachyon. An example would be Destructoid’s article Games Time Forgot: Tachyon the Fringe. The article makes fun of Tachyon by mentioning how it is a “Wing Commander rip-off at best.” Read more here: https://www.destructoid.com/games-time-forgot-tachyon-the-fringe-124819.phtml

So what it is? Well, I’ve played it for a little while and I’ve contemplated playing it for the channel but for now here is my summary.

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Always satisfying to watch my enemies burn before blowing up in Tachyon

 

I’ve played a lot of space simulators. It was a genre that peaked in popularity in the 90s. Sure we got newer games such as the X series. We also got Elite Dangerous that I used to stream in college. Then we have Star Citizen in development limbo which is story in itself. Point is, today there is a small selection for good space simulators, back then they were everywhere.

This is where we can piece together the reason why that Destructoid article is so critical of Tachyon. The game came out during a time of space sims. During this period of space sim war, some games rose from the ashes to be fossilized in history. I talk about Wing Commander III all the time for example. Another big game is Freelancer or Freespace 2. These games are remembered for being the best. So if time doesn’t remember Tachyon then it’s bad right?

Not hardly.

Tachyon is a humble game. It doesn’t advertise itself as a new innovative product. There is no slogan saying that you’ve never played anything better.

Tachyon definitely borrows from other space sims but doesn’t call them its own. However, before I dig deep into why the game is good I will appease the haters with the negative drawbacks.

  • Other than Bruce Campbell, the voice acting is pretty bad.

Every single voice is sort of overblown. I feel like everyone is screaming with the mic in their mouth. I try to rationalize this with the fact that they are pilots with a helmet. The mic is close to their mouth and they are screaming because of the crisis at hand. Still, even with that rationality I find myself turning down the volume. Some voice actors sound like they are reading off a script instead of performing the script.

  • The game looks like a copy/paste project.

Ever copy your friends work but change it enough to try and fool the teacher? Well that’s what Novalogic did here. Very little things separate Tachyon from other games of its time. The ships look generic and the world itself feels familiar. Evening the differences I bring up later are from older space sims. For example, you can slide. Using reverse thrust and the slide feature you can sort of “drift”, for lack of a better term, while in a dog fight. However, this is a feature that was present in Wing Commander III. Most games didn’t use it, but Tachyon definitely isn’t the first.

  • Nothing but merc work.

Jake Logan, the protagonist, is a mercenary. This restricts your missions. No trading, no mining and no real reason to explore. Sure Wing Commander III didn’t have a bunch of trades, but it had movie-like cut scenes and a deep story to keep you intrigued. In Tachyon the charm wears off really fast.

There is some modern day issues, such as Windows 10 compatibility, but that is fairly common with older games.

So what is so good about this game? The main reason is Bruce Campbell. Putting my fangirl nature aside, Bruce Campbell brought Jake Logan to life. Novalogic must have told him to be himself and have fun with it because that is exactly what it sounds like.

As you fly and fight, Campbell is making a bunch of little comments. For example, when your hull health gets low he will say “Well it looks like I might die here in a couple seconds.”

This is surprisingly refreshing. I’m usually an advocate for silent protagonists, I want to put myself in the game and usually a voice protagonist keeps me from doing that. But there is characters out there who I dream of being, like Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or they make the game more enjoyable, like Jake Logan in Tachyon.

Next big thumbs up from me is the flight time. I hate space sims that make me fly forever to get to my next objective. Sure, this is realistic as the term “sim” implies but usually I get bored. I like a mix, an option, of long flights or short ones. With Tachyon there is an auto-pilot mode. Definitely speeds up gameplay. But if I want a space road trip I can fly there normally.

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Some of the stations look different than other games. This seems to be one of the few times Tachyon deviates from their counterparts.

Decent game and while on sale it makes it a super cheap game for a long time of enjoyment. Definitely worth a look for anyone into space combat.

I covered a lot of intense topics today without going deep into detail. I suggest starting here for more information on the 1983 video game crash as well as Bruce Campbell himself. I also included some links on the info I got on Novalogic.

https://www.pcgamer.com/thq-nordic-buys-delta-force-and-the-rest-of-novalogics-back-catalogue/

http://www.ign.com/articles/2002/12/18/an-interview-with-bruce-campbell?page=1

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/arts/television/14rhod.html?_r=0

http://novalogic.com/corp_history.asp

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1320&dat=19821212&id=L2tWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=q-kDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1609,4274079&hl=en

https://archive.org/stream/1986-07-compute-magazine/Compute_Issue_074_1986_Jul#page/n7/mode/2up

https://archive.org/stream/Video_Games_Volume_1_Number_12_1983-09_Pumpkin_Press_US#page/n17/mode/2up

https://www.destructoid.com/games-time-forgot-tachyon-the-fringe-124819.phtml

Got a  game you’d like to see reviewed? Leave a comment or email me at cdromfossil@gmail.com

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