Tarr Chronicles was one of the rare titles which attracted my attention. Mostly because it’s a space-sim, a genre which I hold in the highest esteem. Elite was one of the games which marked my adolescence, and the Wing Commander, Privateer, Descent Freespace and I-War series only increased my appetite for space sims. X3: Reunion, Halcyon Sun, Freelancer and Darkstar One were decent titles, managing to keep players interested in a dying genre, if we consider the number of games released. Drift: When Worlds Collide and Spaceforce: Rogue Universe however were disappointing, either due to the poor implementation of gameplay concept or the large number of bugs which plagued them on launch day. Tarr Chronicles, I’m sad to say, fits in the latter category.
The first bad omen comes right after you install the game. You don’t even get to see the main menu, because the mouse pointer is visible, which means that something’s wrong. Hitting Alt-Tab won’t do much good. Has it crashed? Hmm, restarting the PC isn’t really an option, but just for the sake of it, I’ll go down the Ctrl+Alt+Del route. Oh, works. But it looks like there’s an error regarding a playvideo.dll file. Should I install the codecs that come on the game’s DVD? I didn’t had any problems until now, but what the heck, let’s be sure.
After installing the codecs I restarted the PC, just to be sure that I won’t have the same problem twice. I start the game again and… the mouse cursor shows up again on the desktop. What the… ?! Yes, I could uninstall it right there and then, but like I said earlier, I’m a space-sim fan, so I’ll give it a third shot. Much to my surprise, after I forcibly close the error message and click the game’s taskbar icon I’m presented with the intro movie. Seems that the game works after all… well, sort of, because after the intro the now infamous error message pops-up again. Ctrl+Alt+Del, close and finally I’m in the main menu.
After creating a profile and firing up the single-player campaign, I hit another “snag”. The mouse sensitivity is extremely low, I have to move it all over the place to decently maneuver the ship. Did I forget to set the sensitivity before starting the game? Hmm, I don’t recall seeing such an option. After pausing the game and taking a trip to the Options menu, my fears are confirmed: there is no sensitivity option. And unfortunately for me, changing it from the Windows Control Panel doesn’t have any effect either. There is of course the option to use a joystick, but Freelancer proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a space-sim can be played very well with a mouse, and if Tarr offers me this control scheme, why can’t I use it to its full potential?
Anyway… I’m on the first mission now… the first two sections were easy, but in the last stint everything goes sideways and I die. Oh, look, how nice, the game doesn’t save between missions but between each section, so I don’t have to do everything all over again. The fact that you can’t skip any of the cut-scenes during a mission is annoying, especially since starting with the forth mission, I had to replay the second section at least six times. So, if you had enough of seeing the same scenes and hearing the same conversations, you might as well go and grab a glass of water or a soda from the fridge, because some cut-scenes last more than just a minute.
On the other hand, Tarr Chronicles is (or wants to be) a more action oriented space-sim. The first end result is that you have to make a serious effort to pay minimum attention to the story. It isn’t something to write home about, but introducing some interesting characters might have fixed this problem. However, beside the cinematic films’ debatable quality, the game story is presented only through these cut-scenes. The in-game conversations on the other hand are generic, though the voices are OK. And why should their fate matter if the game is not at all sold on doing that?