"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.