An attempt at creating an Elite
for the 90s
, developed by The Software Refinery
and published in the UK
by Gremlin Interactive
on the PC
Players take on the role of a free agent in the city of Misplaced Optimism on the Jovian moon of Titan. The city itself was a prosperous mining colony before the mine companies pulled out, abandoning the workforce to their fate.
Misplaced Optimism has sinced developed its own economy and culture based on trading and limited manufacturing. The only way off Titan lies in the mass drivers in the Port district, and these have been out of action for decades. Meanwhile, several factions have developed out of the maelstrom:
The Lazarus Family and Klamp-G are the remnants of the mining corporations, and they are fighting a constant battle over control of Titan.
The Skinners and the Scubbers are two lesser gangs, which originally formed from the abbatoir and garbage collection divisions of the original colony. They mostly sub-contract to the other two main factions.
The player's aim is become involved in the ongoing struggle (yes, there is a plot) and eventually discover a way to escape Titan.
Misplaced Optimism is a huge city, very much like the Los Angeles seen in Blade Runner. The city is divided into seven sectors: Downtown, Reservoir, Riverside, Alpha, Gamma, Highrise and Mines. These are connected by tunnels, and in the case of the distant Mines crater, caves.
The player pilots a small craft known as a 'moth', which is solar powered. This comes into considerable play as an internal battery powers all the ship's systems. During the day, the system is gradually charged by sunlight. At night or when in need of a faster recharge, the player must go to any of several lightwells scattered throughout the city. A lightwell is a huge, miniature sun under which the craft hovers, taking advantage of the intense light (Titan is very misty) to quickly recharge. Eventually it is possible to acquire a fusion cell which elminates the need for charging and also allows a higher flight ceiling.
To make a living, the player is given a choice of three moths equipped for the three main professions of the game:
The Merchant, who travels buying low and selling high among the various industries and businesses.
The Scavenger, who is like the merchant, except they also get a drone which can recover scrap and dropped cargo from the surface. This is probably the most flexible choice to start with.
The Aggressor, who can either be a bounty hunter or a pirate. The various factions and also the police post lists of people they'd like whacked. These pay healthy bounties, or the player can simply ambush cargo ships and destroy them before stealing their cargo.
The game contained a variety of moths, some suited for combat while others for cargo. These could be customized with new parts and, in an interesting touch, better software, which could lead to more detailed target information or more efficient battery use. System damage could result in the various pieces of software being corrupted and requiring a repurchase.
Players could also purchase a hangar of their own from a real estate agent. This meant free repairs, and also the oppprtunity to open one's own shop and sell the various commodities at a competitive price. The player could then go off on their own business, before returning to collect their profits.
The city itself provided a variety of services, including central trading posts (with lists of supply and demand), moth dealerships, weapons shops, and even taxi and monorail services. Taxi service was meant to be a career option but was dropped at the last minute, nevertheless computer controller taxis can still be used. The ridable monorail was also dropped, but has since be added as part of a patch released by the Software Refinery.
Hardwar was an enjoyable twist on the Elite theme. The plethora of options such as property and the e-mail system (whereby special offers and threats could be received from other entities in the game), together with multiplayer and some very atmospheric graphics make Hardwar a worthy trading game. The combat is slightly simplified, the plot is over a bit too soon but if you're prepared to play it purely as a trading game, Hardwar is a fine and entertaining piece.