Tarr Chronicles Review
Tarr Chronicles is not a game about the daily lives of a road repair crew. In fact, where Tarr Chronicles takes place there are no roads. The game is a space shooter that puts you in the cockpit of a small fighter and on the frontlines of a war between humanity and a galaxy-devouring enemy. It's not the second coming of Wing Commander, but it can be enjoyable in its own right.
There is a story in the game, but constructing an engaging narrative is not one of the game's strong points. Come to think of it, there's not really much of a narrative at all as the storyline is difficult to follow through the game's mission briefings and in-mission radio chatter. You'll be left with the distinct feeling that you walked in on the second half of a movie, but that doesn't really have much impact on the gameplay itself. Just fly around space and shoot aliens and you'll be fine.
The controls are mouse-driven and pretty simple. You control your ship's pitch and yaw with the mouse and use the A and D keys for the roll. The throttle can be controlled with the W and S keys, but to lock in a speed you need to use the mouse wheel as your throttle. The left mouse button fires your current laser weapon and the right your missiles. That's basically all there is to the flight controls so it's pretty easy to jump right into the game.
The first thing you'll notice about the game is that it looks pretty nice. Various interstellar objects, large ships and stations, and some nice lighting effects make for some great galactic vistas. The ships designs themselves are a bit boring, but they sure do explode nicely.
The space combat itself is most definitely of the arcade shoot-em-up variety. Most dogfights consist of you picking your target and then using the mouse to keep your aiming reticule on top of the target lead indicator. Keep two circles on top of each other, keep clicking that mouse button, and you're a space ace. Now don't get me wrong; this can be fun in small batches. However the game drains away some of that fun with its rigidly linear mission structure. The game has its own definite idea on when and how each mission objective should be accomplished and if you stray too far off script you'll often find yourself staring at the "Mission Failed" screen. At least the long missions are divided into checkpoints so you don't have to replay an entire mission just because you couldn't resist the urge to go all space cowboy on the mission.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the ship customization feature. There are three basic hulls in the game that have you progressively give up more speed and maneuverability for greater bulk and firepower. There are a fair amount of customization options available beyond simply picking your favorite flavors of lasers and missiles, and you can even scavenge components from missions or breakdown components to reassemble into new ones. It's a tinkerer's dream and will remind you a little of the garage shop feature in street racing games. Too bad you can't do anything about your ship's bland paint job. If you'd rather not mess with the whole thing you can let the game auto-configure your ship for each mission and be done with it.
The pretty spacescapes and ship customization feature can't entirely make up for the fact that the gameplay is pretty simplistic and at times frustrating. It can be enjoyable enough in short doses, but you may not find yourself motivated to stick with the game until the end, especially when you factor in the inevitable frustrations caused by the game's mission design. Tarr Chronicles is certainly not for everyone, but if you're anxious to hop into the seat of a space fighter it will help you scratch that itch well enough.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 66%. Leave this one to the space fighter jockeys.