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Hardwar, a review

By ODiV in Op-Ed
Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 03:25:57 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

I was picking my way through the bargain bin at a local computer shop in 1999, looking for nothing in particular. I happened upon a game that promised me... well it looked cool and was in the bargain bin. How could I refuse?

Developed by Gremlin Interactive and The Software Refinery and released by Interplay in 1998, Hardwar is easily one of my favorite games. It is also one which is tragically overlooked. It seems to have gotten favourable reviews on release from various PC game magazines, but after picking it out of a local bargain bin, no one I've talked to has heard of it. This, I've decided, cannot be allowed to continue.

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"The Future is Greedy"

Hardwar takes place on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Originally a mining colony, Titan has been abandoned by the corporate interests leaving the colonists to fend for themselves. Your world is the city of Misplaced Optimism, a collection of craters connected by tunnels. The city is infested with thieves, bounty hunters, dirty cops, waring factions, and bottom feeders. You're just another low life, flying from crater to crater in your solar powered moth, trying to make ends meet. Maybe, if you're lucky, you might get off this God forsaken rock.

If I had to describe Hardwar in terms of other games, I'd say it's Descent meets Tradewars. Influences of Hardwar include Elite and Privateer. If you've never played these games I'll try to describe it simply and without reference. You're in a ship in which you fly around fighting with other ships and trading in hangers. You can upgrade your ship and purchase new ships. You can also purchase hangers for you to do business out of, or keep to yourself as a hideout.

"There's a war going on out there, and it ain't easy." - Hardwar intro FMV

What you're first confronted with in Hardwar is the full motion video. It's bad. In fact it's so bad it's funny. The intro video is just a taste of what you're going to see for FMV throughout the game. You can skip these sequences if you don't like them, but I enjoy them and they help the plot along.

As long as we're on the subject of plot, let me be honest and say that it's depressingly linear. Thankfully, you're not confined to it. The world of Titan is a complex one. Pirates steal and kill, traders lug their cargo from one crater to another, scavengers hunt for scraps, and the factions go to war whether or not you're actually participating. All of this is happening around you and you decide how you want to interact with it. For about the first month I played, I pretty much ignored the plot. I wandered from crater to crater buying, selling, dogfighting, scavenging, and so on. This is a great interactive world. The plot is there if you want it, but can easily be ignored.

The graphics of Hardwar are decent, and hold up well. The misty surroundings and imposing buildings really help with the atmosphere of the game. The moths look amazing as well, and I often fly up to other moths and check them out.

One complaint I have about the game world is the economy. Maybe this was their intent, but I don't like the fact that it's almost impossible to play the game as an honest trader. The price differences on items are very small. An example of this is that you can haul cargo accross the entire gameworld, braving deadly pirates, and only make about 5% profit. The repairs your ship will need and the missiles you'll use to defend your self will probably eat up the profit you make. Why settle for this when you can just blow up some trader and take his cargo?

Which brings me to my next point. The dogfight AI could be a lot better. The computer controlled pilots have a problem with buildings. I can usually put one between myself and the moth I'm fighting and my enemy wastes all his energy shooting into the building. There are a couple of other exploitable problems with the AI as well. This doesn't mean you won't die, because you will, it just makes the game a little easier where it shouldn't be.

To sum up: Hardwar is an intricate and fun action/simulation/trading game with a couple of unfortunate problems. This game would really rock as a massively multiplayer online game. I would kill for an expanded world and hundreds of human players.

Amazingly the Software Refinery has and will continue to release patches. 4 years later and the game is still improving. That's dedication. Maybe my dream will be realized.

So get your hands on it and try it out. If you can't find it retail, here's a demo to hold you over until you can.


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o Played it, loved it! 9%
o Played it, liked it. 4%
o Played it, didn't like it. 0%
o Heard of it, haven't played it. 10%
o Haven't heard of it 75%

Votes: 73
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Software Refinery
o Interplay
o Hardwar
o patches
o here's a demo
o Also by ODiV

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Hardwar, a review | 34 comments (19 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
h[a]rdwar, wasn't it... (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by jobi on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 07:29:32 AM EST

Yeah, I played it, and loved it.

I'm a sucker for Elite-style games, and this one is very well done. Ran like a charm on my PII 350 as well.

Maybe I ought to have a look in my games-closet to see what other gems are in there... As I recall, I had a copy of Tie Fighter somewhere. And a copy of Privateer... Hmm...

Now all I have to do is reinstall some kind of Windows on one of my machines, and it's off to Titan we go :)

There's lots of games out there that has simply been surpassed by time, not necessarily graphics or gameplay, and Hardwar is one of them. Go play!

"[Y]ou can lecture me on bad language when you learn to use a fucking apostrophe."
Hardw[a]r actually (none / 0) (#13)
by ODiV on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 11:24:20 AM EST

second A.

I've never played Elite and Privateer, which is why I personally described Hardwar as Descent meets Tradewars. I'll definately have to give them a shot. Any other suggestions?

I own "Independance War" but haven't gotten around to trying it yet.

How about BattleCruiser 3000AD?

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
Both are good. (none / 0) (#17)
by jobi on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 03:26:32 PM EST

Independence War was good, very difficult but quite rewarding.

Same goes for BC3000AD, which - if you get it to run properly - is quite an experience.

Other suggestions, well, the whole Elite series, of course. X is another elite-style game that sadly went for graphics more than gameplay, but is still ok to play.

There's more, I'll come back with another post when I've thought it over some more.

"[Y]ou can lecture me on bad language when you learn to use a fucking apostrophe."
[ Parent ]
The problem with I-War was the scripting (none / 0) (#26)
by rasilon on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 06:25:25 AM EST

They expected you to stick to the script and it was very obvious when you fell off the end. The bit near the beginning where you go up against he new whizz-bang fighters, it a assumed that you cannot beat them both and the end of episode event is you geting beaten. It took me a while to figure this out 'cos I just rolled out there, switched to manual guns and wasted them both without taking a shot. The other pain in the butt was the bit with the pirates where they use the EMP bomb. It was supposed to disable you for a few minutes, but in reality disabled you until the pirated boarded -- I got a bad feeling about the situation a few seconds before it detonated and hit the pulse drive just before it went off. This left me out of control, but invulnerable si I waited for the effect to wear off, and waited, and waited for it to wear off until I realised it was a scripting bug. So, all in all, I-War was a good sim, the graphics were good, the simulation was good, but the gameplay pissed me off.

[ Parent ]
agree (none / 0) (#32)
by minra on Tue Mar 12, 2002 at 03:18:31 AM EST

Perhaps 'scope of gameplay' too.

Pretty spaceships. Good combat.

And... what.. no choice where I fly next.

Get briefing. Launch. Hit autopilot. Patrol. Attack/Defend. Pick up something/save someone. Fight in Arena.

I gripe against all modern games in this way. They have to hit a budget. They have to appeal to stupid people. Thus they have to be 'plots-on-a-string'.

I *like* to be able to explore vast worlds, stumbling into unproductive territory often, and being genuinely delighted when I discover a rare/precious item/artifact, or alien race.

StarFlight captured this beautifully. Hundreds of fractal star-systems on a couple of floppies.

[ Parent ]
I've shown you mine... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by ODiV on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 01:30:39 PM EST

So what are your favorite games?

What are some really fantastic games that no one else seems to notice? Or great games that were popular, but have been forgotten.

Links to reviews or demos would be greatly appreciated.

[ odiv.net ]
Paradroid (none / 0) (#21)
by levsen on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 07:51:30 PM EST

You need a C64 emulator to run in though.
This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]
re: paradroid (none / 0) (#22)
by Maserati on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 09:22:11 PM EST

It's well worth tracking down Paradroid and an emulator.

You get to fight a rogue AI by using a remote drone to hack into enemy robots and take them over. The game is divided into running around a starship dodging security drones and a minigame of trying to hack the enemy robots.

WAY cool. I really ought to track down the copyright holder, this game is much too cool to linger as abandonware.


For the wise a hint, for the fool a stick.
[ Parent ]

Paradroid now available for linux =) (none / 0) (#33)
by Jel on Tue Mar 12, 2002 at 05:47:46 AM EST

In the form of Nighthawk.

[ Parent ]
L.E.D. wars (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous American on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 01:23:25 AM EST

"It's a struggle for LED, LED, LED."

LED wars is another RTS Command and Conquer clone. I found this one at the dollar store and paid (surprise) one dollar for it. I wish I had bought the entire box as this game it my favorite b-title ever. Aside from the pretty funny music the game actors are amazing ... well if you are running 98 (I haven't been successful running it under 2000 or wine) find out for yourself:


[ Parent ]
Star Control 2 (none / 0) (#30)
by DJBongHit on Tue Mar 12, 2002 at 12:31:41 AM EST

'nuff said. I still play that game.


GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Freespace II (none / 0) (#34)
by Crono on Sat Mar 01, 2003 at 11:58:01 AM EST

Game RAWKS hardcore, man. And I believe the studio is dead or something... Grab the game off www.the-underdogs.org and the source code is out there somewhere too. ^_^

[ Parent ]
Cool! Another Hardw[a]r fan. (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by Raventail on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 04:35:30 PM EST

Great game. The guy at Electronics Boutique gave it to me for free, since it was marked down to $0.01. Can't beat that price. :)
Getting it to run at first was a pain. It took me a little while to figure out what setting on my Voodoo3 card was causing it to choke. I think it was geometry acceleration.
I found a neat tip from one of the fan sites. If you set up a repair hangar in the right place(s), not only do you get free repairs, the AI ships will dock there for repairs. All you have to do is stop by your repair hangars occasionally and pick up the cash. :)

DOH (none / 0) (#25)
by Danse on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 02:49:17 AM EST

I happened to read this article this morning. Then I happened to see the game at Half-Price Books this afternoon for $4. So I'm the proud new owner of HardW[a]r :) (ok, so the brackets should be on the top and bottom instead). As soon as I finish what some work tonight I'm gonna load it up.

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Hardwar Rocks (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by taerom on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 05:32:29 PM EST

Hardwar is one of my favorite games of all time. I even used to have a pretty decent web site about it, when the game was in its prime. I gave it up when I moved to Linux, though, and my efforts thus far to get the game running in WineX have been less than successful. :-\

like minded souls (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by Fuzzwah on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 07:01:53 PM EST

I was forced into playing Hardwar by my crazy housemate during one of his "all the current games suck, they were better back in the day". He played it after digging it out of a bargin bin some time in 99, and there we were in 01 enthralled in this classic.

The weird thing is that there was patch released just before we got back into it, and there was a TCP/IP muiltiplayer hack that someone was working on.

Pretty the graphics up a bit, add massively multiplayer, fix the fact there is no missions available in multiplayer and you've got the perfect game.

Or you can go and drool like me over Eve.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris

This is too funny (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by Anonymous 242 on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 11:39:55 PM EST

One complaint I have about the game world is the economy. Maybe this was their intent, but I don't like the fact that it's almost impossible to play the game as an honest trader.
I would kill for an expanded world and hundreds of human players.

You've lost me. (none / 0) (#27)
by ODiV on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 06:27:52 PM EST

I'm afraid I'm not following you Lee.

Are you saying it'd be pretty tough to play against hundreds of human players who are all cutthroats? Or are you saying that I wouldn't want a massively multiplayer version because I find fault with the game?

Help me out here.

[ odiv.net ]
[ Parent ]
irony (none / 0) (#29)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Mar 11, 2002 at 09:38:14 PM EST

You don't like being forced to kill to while playing the game, but you're willing to kill for features.

If you don't see the humor just chalk it up to my twisted sense of humor.



[ Parent ]

Hardwar, a review | 34 comments (19 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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