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  • HardWar: The Future Is Greedy

  • The thunder roared outside. It was unmistakable amidst the growling of the hangar's machinery; a constant reminder of the maelstrom that surrounds us. I looked back down at the hangar's computer and continued dredging through the list of most wanted pilots, marking down each name as I went. Finally, I reached the end of the list. It was time to depart from the safety of the police station. It was risky, of course - my Silver-Y was ill-equipped for bounty hunting. But it was as honest as any other job on Titan. I headed towards the nearest Light Well and waited patiently for my power cells to recharge. Just another long and dangerous day in Misplaced Optimism.

    Inside the Downtown Munitions hangar

    HardWar: The Future Is Greedy (sometimes stylized as HardW[a]r) is a 1998 PC game created by The Software Refinery and published by Gremlin Interactive (in Europe) or Interplay (in the US). It's a science-fiction flight simulator game that takes place on Saturn's moon, Titan, in a former mining outpost known as Misplaced Optimism. The corporations that ran the mining operations are long gone, and with them, they took the mining colony's only means of interplanetary travel. HardWar puts you in the shoes of a freelance pilot whose primary objective is to escape Titan. But with warring corporations, looming threats of piracy, and an unabashedly corrupt police force, that's easier said than done.

    Most of the game will take place in the pilot seat of your moth; a small, low-altitude aircraft that will be your primary means of travel between Misplaced Optimism's eight different craters. There are several flavors of moths, and each one comes with its tradeoffs. The Silver-Y is a great beginner's moth, as it's small and maneuverable, though it's slow and does not perform well in dogfights. The larger Neo Tiger is fast and has many weapon hardpoints, but is not nearly as maneuverable. The Hawk is a great all-rounder and is the moth of choice for traders, scavengers and pirates alike. That's not all, of course, but the depth of HardWar's economy and gameplay is remarkable for a game that's almost exactly 20 years old.

    Scavenging some scrap metal in the Downtown district

    The game is primarily story-driven, with escaping Titan as your primary objective. However, the mass drivers used to get off-world are nonfunctional, so it's not as easy as coughing up the cash for a ticket. You're free to take the story at your own pace, which means that at any given point, Misplaced Optimism is a large sandbox packed to the brim with things to do. I'm not kidding. You can do any of the following:

    • Pirate traders and scavengers for their valuable cargo
    • Take up bounty hunting
    • Scavenge valuable goods
    • Trade valuable goods
    • Work as an enforcer for one of the two large corporations
    • Buy your own hangars to store moths and cargo

    And that's just barely scraping the surface. The AI is fairly rough around the edges, but that's not unexpected for an old game. And despite its quirks, the AI really gives Misplaced Optimism a dynamic, living feel. The two main corporations, Lazarus and Klamp-G, really are warring and will get into spats. The police force will track you down if you become too infamous (though killing another pirate will clear your record). You can install manufacturing equipment in your hangars to produce goods.

    As for the gameplay, make no mistake - HardWar is a flight simulator first, so you'll want to use a joystick if possible. I personally use the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro - it's inexpensive and has all the controls you'll ever need to play HardWar. You do have the option to fly with the keyboard or mouse if you don't have a joystick, but your experience with the game will be less than optimal, since the climate on Titan is very cutthroat and you'll make a few enemies along the way.

    Flying through a tunnel in a Moon Moth

    Combat in HardWar is visceral and fast-paced. Whoever initiates an attack typically has the upper hand, as you can do a lot of damage in the first pass of your target. With some careful Plasma Kannon shots, you can typically shred enemy shields on the first pass, then use a Laser or Laser Turret to whittle down their hull afterwards. Missiles, of course, are quite powerful, but they can be difficult to use effectively in the heat of a fight.

    Engaging Old Sid Rustback with a Plasma Kannon

    As for everything else you can do in Misplaced Optimism, let's just say I'm not the manufacturing and trading type. It's certainly possible to make a respectble income that way, but I have too much fun bounty hunting and pirating.

    HardWar is and continues to be one of my favorite games of all time. And the best part is - it's free! A lot of great resources can be found on Captain Zedo's website.