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Video Game / Tachyon: The Fringe

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It is the 26th Century. Peace prevails in the Earth's solar system. Tachyon gates allow us to travel tremendous distances in mere seconds. This is the Golden Age of space exploration...
But there is trouble on the fringe of civilized space: Large corporations, desperate for new resources, threaten to overtake distant colonies. The colonists, fearing for their independence, respond with violence...
Life is anything but peaceful in the Fringe.

Tachyon: The Fringe is a Space Flight Simulator made by NovaLogic in the year 2000, developed by Randy Casey (the maker of F-22 Lightning II). It follows the story of a 26th-century expert pilot Jake Logan, who lived a great contractor's career in our Solar System, flying freelance and fighting other people's fights.

That was of course, until something goes horribly wrong. An emergency escort mission goes south as a hospital gets destroyed, and Jake ends up being the fall guy. He is subsequently exiled from Sol (with a very short trial) to a colonized region of space called the Fringe. Eventually, Jake gets a new life together, and the player controlling him has to pick a side, which is either the Galactic Spanning Corporation, or the Bora Mining Guilds, who are in a war of territorial claims. One does it all for the sake of money, the other does it to protect their territorial rights.

Tachyon is unique, not like the other games by NovaLogic, because it takes place in space, does not have a sequel, and is the only game that does not have to do with anything by the United States Military. Not to mention a definitive storyline.

There is a remake of this game in progress, based on the FreeSpace 2 Open Source Project. (Don't get your hopes up; as with most such hobby projects, it's been going on for a while and the implementers don't seem to have any time to spend on it.) Fortunately, unlike a certain other space dog-fighting game, you won't have much trouble installing the real thing anyhow.

Tachyon: The Fringe contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: One of the cheat codes in the game is "BOOM STICK".
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Pretty much the whole point of the GalSpan-Bora conflict in the Fringe.
    • Two examples to be more specific...
      • Withdraw From or Taking Away Independence. GalSpan initiates the takeover. One pilot said that "The Independence Base is now the legal property of the Galactic Spanning Corporation. You will surrender your ships immediately." Which side Jake flies for in this mission decides his allegiance for the rest of the game.
      • In the Bora mission The Attack, GalSpan launches an onslaught on Bora space, and manages to destroy an EW Station and take over some shipyards. Jake is immediately sent to prevent any further damage.
  • Animal Theme Naming: A lot of independent ship designs use the names of predatory fish (e.g. Mako, Piranha).
  • Arms and Armor Theme Naming: Bora fighters are named for weapons (e.g. Cutlass, Battleaxe).
  • Artificial Stupidity: Friendly AI has no reservations about trying to shoot an enemy through the player's ship.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Present in several sectors, some of which have lost cargo hidden in an asteroid. You can get a small reward for returning it, although it's usually not worth the time spent looking for it.
  • A Taste of Power: Act 1 in Sol, technically.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Capital ships have destroyable subsystems. Take out the powerplant, it can't move. Destroy the weapons generator, it can't shoot. Blow up the shield generator, and its deflector shields won't regenerate. There are occasions where time constraints make this mode of attack inadvisable, but they're rare.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Bora pulsar laser does more damage than any other Bora energy weapon, has by far the fastest rate of fire, and is just generally super nifty. It also drains weapon energy at an enormous rate, which forces a pilot who equips it to choose between starving shields and engines in order to get the most out of the weapon, or maintaining a balanced energy distribution profile and only firing in two- or three-second bursts separated by long recharge times.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Demon pirates.
  • Bad Boss: Baron Hajod, natch.
    Anna Highfall: (Starting Recovery in good faith) Out of all the Frontier Barons, Hajod is the worst. I hear he whips his servants with an electron whip for his own sick enjoyment.
    Baron Hajod: (After his servants and Jake kidnap Baroness Onrald's son) Quickly now, load him on to the Manacle. FASTER! OR YOU'RE MEAT FOR MY ANIMALS!
  • The Battlestar: Star Patrol cruisers are a combination of frigate, cruiser, and carrier. Too bad we never see them in action.
    • GalSpan and Bora carriers can also count, since they have a decent turret armament besides their ability to launch waves of fighters (which they almost never do in-game, since most fighters travel through TCG gates). Notably, the Zeus, Director Atkins's flagship, is a carrier but manager to blow away an advanced Bora warship with a single volley.
  • Betting Mini-Game: At New Vegas Starbase, appropriately enough.
  • Big "NO!": Dr. Randall Cassitor in Final Retribution, when Demon Pirates start to destroy his station, thanks to Jake and a pilot that was recovered from the Twilight by the League of Scientists.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Boron Medium Laser, the go-to weapon for Bora pilots. Its qualities are all largely endearing ones—cheap, decent rate of fire, decent damage to hulls and shields, and relatively modest energy consumption. It's also just a laser, and substantially less flashy than later offerings like the Pulsar laser or Railgun...while being boatloads more efficient than either of those guns.
    • Similarly, the Flare Medium Laser, the GalSpan equivalent of the Boron. Simple and effective, even if it isn't as useful against hulls as the Boron, but also not as punishingly energy-intensive or slow as the Deimos heavy laser nor as expensive to keep stocked as missiles.
    • The EMP Projector. This weapon fires fast-moving EMP bolts that don't do any damage against a ship directly, but will quickly cripple their engines and reactors. It doesn't do anything interesting beyond that, but due to the fact that it draws from your reactor rather than an ammo stock like the Tesla missile, it's possible to quickly shut down entire enemy squadrons and come back later to clean them up at your leisure.
    • System cards. These provide simple passive boosts to your ship, but the boosts they provide are also invaluable, such as aim assisted crosshairs, target information, afterburners, or spare energy reserves.
    • The ring training courses quickly become repetitive but completing all 20 is worth over a hundred thousand credits, and can be completed early enough that newly unlocked equipment can be purchased immediately. The only downside is that because the courses only become available after choosing between GalSpan and Bora, they have to be completed twice.
  • Bounty Hunter: Jake in the mission to capture Redship Rory. Although, to be fair, Jake is working with Star Patrol on this one. It doesn't help when Rory's crew jams Jake's transmissions to Star Patrol, forcing him to go alone.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Demon Pirates, because of the Twilight Fog.
  • Brick Joke / Inverted Chekhov's News: During the Justified Tutorial (see below), a group of target drones go haywire and attack you. After your exile, the news reports that the flight instructor you evaluated saves her students from a similar encounter.
  • Butt-Monkey: Baron Hajod is a boorish brute who whips his slaves for personal amusement and takes adversity with all the grace of a five-year old. With the exception of a single GalsSpan mission all your dealings with him involve defeating and humiliating him in various ways, and it is delightful.
  • Charged Attack: The GalSpan Solaris Torpedo is capable of this. Due to its dumbfire nature, it's best reserved for taking down capital-sized ships.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Bora ships and stations come in earth and rust tones, GalSpan's wear silver and light blue. Neutral factions are variants of gray, but the Demon pirates will wear red.
  • Competitive Balance:
    • Fragile Speedster: The Pegasus. Spectacular acceleration and speed but a small weapons array and an extremely thin hull; if its shields go down, it's done for, but while it's up, it's a lightning-fast little terror.
    • Jack of All Stats: The Mace and the Orion. Good do-anything ships that have decent speed and shields, but also some weapons to their names. Can pick their battles with other single-crew craft, but while not stellar they are definitely good all-rounders. The Mace is supposed to be a Fragile Speedster and the Bora answer to the Pegasus, but it is actually as tough as an Orion.
    • Joke Character: The Mako. As fragile as a Pegasus, but not nearly as fast or well armed. To add insult to injury, you're stuck with this thing for a while in Act 2. What did you expect when you were cast into exile, keeping those lovely fighters you had in Act 1?
    • Lightning Bruiser: The Battleaxe and the Archangel. Tough, well armed, and still agile, making them excellent fighters, good anti-capital-ship bombers, and generally the pick of the litter if you have the money. To sweeten the deal, the Battleaxe has the best reactor and the Archangel the best shields of all the playable ships in the game.
    • Master of None: The Cutlass and the Poseidon, the two 'starter' ships that you get after picking a side in the Fringe War. Not spectacular, and neither fast enough to dodge nor powerful enough to take that many hits. The Cutlass in particular is notable for having 5's across the board in its ratings, but no way to take advantage of its balanced stats.
    • Mighty Glacier: The Claymore, the Warhammer, and the Phoenix. Not particularly fast or agile, but don't get in front of any of them. A single ship of any of these classes can turn a lesser vessel into dust with one or two salvos. The Claymore in particular is an enormous fist-shaped slab of missile launchers and lasers with armor so thick that its rating literally goes up to eleven for hull durability—the HUD only has enough spaces to count to 10, which incidentally is the hull rating of the Warhammer.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Naturally, you can collide with structures like space stations and the like, but AI-controlled craft have no such collision detection. Thus, it's possible to be chasing a ship that ends up flying inside a solid object, preventing you from following, firing on it, etc.
  • Consequence Combo: During the final confrontation against GalSpan, as the battle grows more desperate on both sides, Director Atkins offers increasing cash incentives for the pilots who take down Bora fighters, and contract terminations for those who don't.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The Rail Gun seems wonderful on paper. A ton of damage delivered via hitscan - which is a boon in the Tachyon world, where every other weapon has painfully slow projectiles that require lots of leading. But the firing rate is very slow, and most importantly every shot eats a ton of energy, so it's impossible to resort to Rail Guns as your only weapon. And even using them with other guns, it doesn't take long before you figure out you'd almost always do more damage by shooting continuously with something else instead of waiting for the Rail Gun(s) to recharge.
    • This also falls under Crippling Overspecialization. The Rail Gun takes too many hits to go through even fighter or bomber shields to be worth it, most of the time...but it destroys capital ship powerplants with a single shot. While useless against shields, against the hull it'll only need one hit.
    • The Bora Pulsar Laser is a lot of fun and will chew up a target with ease. Unfortunately, it drains your reactor's energy like no one's you need to share with your shields or engines.
    • The Helios Rocket. Big boom. Nice explosive radius. Slower than molasses and expensive to is also an anti-capital-ship weapon, but there are better choices for both factions.
      • Except for multiplayer, where it's the only weapon capable of taking out a starbase.
    • The Corona Device that temporarily turns your ship into a Blast Torpedo and deals damage to any ship in immediate vicinity, while also draining your shields. Unfortunately, most of the time the enemy will be too far away for the device to be of much use. And if someone's firing at you, the last thing you want is to have your shields drain.
    • The Deimos Heavy Laser is one of the biggest lasers available to a GalSpan player. It takes a chunk out of even capital ship shields (to say nothing of the far weaker fighter shields), but it takes a lot of your available energy reserve to fire just one shot, and its rate of fire is almost criminally low. If you miss, expect to wait more than a few seconds before getting off the next one.
    • Sappers. They're devastatingly effective when they work, since they can completely drain enemy targets' engines, shields, or power reserves, or simply blow them up with remote explosives. The problem is that they're hard to aim and almost impossible to track once fired, and the most destructive variety, remote explosive sappers, are criminally under-stocked, as you can only carry two of them per launcher.
    • Torpedo launchers. These are extremely powerful explosives that draw from your power supply rather than having limited ammo. While in theory this is great—since energy can be regenerated infinitely, this means infinite numbers of torpedoes available versus just six to eight missiles on a rack in a mission—you're drawing large amounts of energy from the same pool that powers your lasers, shields, and engines, and many torpedo launchers have very lengthy reload times. They are not particularly fast, several are also unguided, and all of them can be shot down by enemy weapons fire.
  • Cool Ship: The Deliverance. Too bad it gets blown away by a single volley from the Zeus.
  • Corporate Warfare: Each Mega-Corp maintains a private Navy, ostensibly to protect their supply chains from piracy. They're also sometimes put to use in inter-company squabbles, which generally isn't a good idea because it makes Star Patrol grumpy.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: GalSpan Regional Director Gustav Atkins.
  • Creepy Monotone: The Demon Pirates do this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Logan gets a lot of this, but the queen of snark in this game is Baroness Onrald. One of her voice-overs layers the sarcasm on so thickly that Baron Hajod doesn't realize that he's been insulted until she lets the other shoe drop.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Averted with Straw Feminist Lakita Ramos. The only reason she's available as a wingman is because her supervisor told her to be, and she never forgives you for being male or, more to the point, for showing her up.
  • Deflector Shields: Nearly all ships have them. The ones you pilot have two: fore and aft. You can transfer power between then. For capital ships, critical systems that can be destroyed are not shielded.
  • Determinator: The Bora are portrayed as this in both timelines, best summed up in the final battle when the frigate Courageous is going to explode.
    Courageous's captain: We can't hold the Courageous together, she's gonna break up! Don't let us die for nothing!
(cue Earth-Shattering Kaboom)
Bora: The Courageous is gone...keep pressing the attack. WE MUST NOT FAIL!
  • Diverting Power: The player can divert power between forward and aft shields, engines, recharging shields, guns, and afterburners. Excess power to a fully charged system is automatically diverted to other systems.
  • Do a Barrel Roll: Jake does a totally gratuitous barrel roll upon leaving New Vegas station.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Not quite Earth-shattering, but capital ship explosions are quite spectacular.
  • EMP: Each side has an EMP weapon that does no damage to the hull (but is still capable of damaging shields) but capable of temporarily disabling an enemy without shields. The Bora have the EMP Projector, which uses normal laser energy. GalSpan has the EMP missiles, which are guided and individually more powerful but limited in supply. They are mostly useful for certain missions that require someone to be captured instead of killed. Some wingmen are equipped with EMP weapons and can be ordered to use them on a target.
  • Escort Mission: Boy oh boy, there are a LOT of these. It's hard enough to get some of the escortees alive in one piece.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Baron Hajod and Doctor Randall Cassitor are by far the two most vile individuals you encounter, and both are very hammy. Hajod shouts out threats, makes bellowing Evil Laughs and descends to tantrums when things do not go his way. Cassitor meanwhile oozes arrogance and contempt from his every pore.
  • Foreshadowing: What Jake says before being thrown past the gate to the Hub: The Fringe is a lawless region, controlled by corrupt corporations, fanatical colonials, pirates... and well, madmen. Corresponds to GalSpan, Bora, any of the Frontier pirate groups, and take any insane person, such as Baron Hajod, Randall Cassitor or the Demon Pirates.
  • The Exile: Jake Logan. Depending on the player's choice, he finds a new home amongst the Bora or is allowed to return to the Sol system.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: The Bora's motivation.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Redship Rory, the most fearsome pirate in the Fringe. He doesn't like people making fun of the name.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Whichever side you pick wins; therefore, the entire war depends on the decision of a single fighter pilot.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Normally, mega-gates cannot be targeted and, therefore, opened using a cheat code. There is one, however, near Neptune that is selectable (and openable) but will deposit the player in empty space without stars, planets, or a way out. The gate was used in the exile cutscene.
  • Game Mod: The "Bloodstar Mod" would add a bunch of 3rd party ships to multiplayer, at the cost of replacing all the Bora or Galspan ships and breaking the single-player campaign.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: On the surface this looks like a typical 'evil corporation' plot, but after playing through both sides you find that either faction has their share of evils. In one of the GalSpan escort missions you learn that the Bora commonly raid GalSpan shipping, even if it's not war-related, as well as preying on GalSpan-related civilian shipping. GalSpan destroy several non-military starbases in Bora space as well as associating with the criminal Barons and blow up the Haley medical station in Sol, causing Jake's exile. Bora actively deal with terrorists and madmen. Both sides have valid reasons for fighting; GalSpan has legitimate claim to the territory the Bora occupies, and the Bora of course are fighting for their homes. Unfortunately, it is also stated in a news broadcast that should GalSpan fall, the huge redundancies that will follow will wreck the entire Fringe economy, making you, as the destroyer of GalSpan...
  • Guide Dang It!: There's a bunch of extra opportunities to make money that you'll only find by wandering around the regions. This FAQ lists most of them.
  • The Hedonist: Baron Hajod.
  • Hitscan: The Rail Gun. Every other weapon has moving projectiles, but the railgun is instant-hit.
  • Hub Level: Not exactly, but after Jake gets banished from Sol, this is where he can access multiple regions via megagates after choosing a career.
  • I Choose to Stay: If Jake sides with the Bora, he decides to settle down with Anna after the war (whereas he returns to Sol in the Galspan ending).
  • Justified Tutorial: And a pretty clever one at that. Since Jake Logan is already supposed to be an established fighter pilot, Novalogic framed the tutorial as an evaluation of a newly hired flight instructor.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: In the Bora mission The Attack, the lead technician from the New Dawn EW Station ends up with this.
  • La Résistance: Bora's hat. They started as a political group after the formation of One World Order and decided to leave the Sol sector through a one-way gate. Obviously, they didn't bother to get permission to settle a region of space far from Sol from a government they hated. Now this has come back to bite them in the ass, as this fact is used by GalSpan to lay claim to their area of space. Naturally, this doesn't endear the Sol government to the Bora, who already assume it's corrupt as hell.
  • Large Ham: Damn it all Hajod, your Narm Charm in the Sistine Chapel scene (Recovery in good faith) makes this even more rich.
    • Need remembering? I will not turn over this pretty ceiling, it is mine now! MINE MINE MINE! You will die for such a flagrant intrusion!
    • This is particularly notable because his voice actor manages to out-ham Bruce Campbell himself, a man whose chin overacts. Sadly, Hajod's voice actor only ever did work on Tachyon and does not appear to have surfaced in any other projects.
    • Logan himself only seems to alternate between making snarky asides to himself and loudly taking up the entire communication channel in response to the rest of the cast.
    • The Arena commentator: JAAAAKE LOOGAN!
      • When isn't an arena commentator a large ham?
  • Laughing Mad: Baron Hajod again.
  • Lead the Target: A must for most weapons, even lasers, which should realistically be hitting nearly instantly. Luckily, one of the earliest systems you can buy and install on your ship adds a targeting reticle that aids in this regard.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One newscast mentions that Saturn's NovaWorld Arena is expanding. NovaWorld is the game's multiplayer hosting service.
  • Left Hanging: The only clue we had for a possible sequel was in a news report later in the game that implied there was a faster-than-Tachyon travel system possible. But seeing as Nova pulled the plug on this game, well...
  • MacGuffin: The five core components for the Hephaestus Module or Project Deliverance.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Swarm Missile Launcher, which effectively fires four cluster missiles each time you pull the trigger. Alternately, find a ship that has lots of firing ports for Spire Rockets, which come 40 to a rack and reload in a fraction of a second.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Randall Cassitor, because of his acts of human experimentation (which got him banned from the League of Scientists). All because he claimed it was For Science! and the betterment of humanity.
  • Magnetic Hero: Susan Bradley.
  • Meaningful Name: The game is full of those, especially the names of ships for GalSpan.
    • Zeus: Director Atkins' flagship and the most powerful ship in GalSpan fleet, since it blew up Bora's latest ship with a single salvo.
    • Olympus: Atkins' headquarters.
    • Orpheus: "ripped apart" by Bora.
    • Persephone: captured and held in Rory's "underworld".
    • Hephaestus: GalSpan's enormous forge.
  • Mega-Corp: GalSpan is the biggest example, but pretty much every company in the game.
  • Mission Control: Anna Highfall (Bora) and Tricia Bales (GalSpan). If you take the Bora path, Jake and Anna will eventually become an item. If you take the GalSpan path, Jake will attempt to flirt with Tricia (including calling her "Trish"), but she will shut him down and demand that their relationship be strictly professional.
  • More Dakka: One of the weapons you can get is a machine gun IN SPACE!. It's fairly good at damaging hulls, but is virtually useless against shields. It comes with 750 rounds, but you can extend that to 937 with the Ammo Pack system card, and the bonus in single player: it recharges for free between missions!
  • Multiple Endings
    • Whichever side you join, the opposition will end up leaving the Fringe and whichever home Jake goes to in the end is determined by his allegiance.
      • In the GalSpan ending, the corporation "discovers" evidence that can clear Jake's name of the Halley bombing and submits it to the court of appeals for review. They also give Jake a generous retirement package for the role he played in the GalSpan/Bora war so that he no longer has to work ever again. The Bora are forced out of the Fringe and Jake returns home to Mars after his long exile.
      • In the Bora ending, GalSpan is forced to leave the Fringe since the war has become too costly and ends up financially ruining the corporation. Many of its CEOs, especially Regional Director Gustav Atkins, are fired and rivals state their interest in buying it out. Because of this, the evidence that could have cleared Jake's name is lost forever and he will always be known in Sol for his role in the Halley bombing. However, he has found a new home among the Bora, who have secured their place in the Fringe, and wins the affections of Anna Highfall.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Ships under Baron Hajod's command tend to have unpleasant-sounding callsigns like "Punisher" and "Oppression". The actual danger they pose doesn't live up to them, though.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Twilight Fog. The Ripstars, as well.
    • Ripstars are important to humanity, as they are harvested to produce the materials that allow Tachyon Coil Generators to function. Without ripstars, no FTL travel would be possible.
  • No Fair Cheating: Entering any cheat code causes voiceovers of Bruce Campbell calling you a little bitch.
  • No OSHA Compliance: AGT, after you hear of their poor five-year safety record late in the game.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Let's face it: the game lives by this trope (and its unique twists on it, like the "slide" function).
  • Oh, Crap!: Jake Logan on a number of occasions, particularly when things explode that generally shouldn't.
  • Pass Through the Rings: One of the mini-games. Completion of all 20 ring courses awards over 100,000 credits- enough to set you up for the rest of the game. At least if you side with Galspan.
  • Police Are Useless: In the Hub region at least. The local Star Patrol commander explicitly states he doesn't give a damn about the GalSpan/Bora war, only that they "keep it off my front porch". It takes quite a bit of trouble to get him off his ass, though it does happen (ignoring a "cease and desist" order is a good start).
    • Subverted in the Sol region, though; just as a fight against heavily-armed pirates seems to go badly for you, Star Patrol Enforcers pour out of the local TCG and utterly rip the pirate Shrikes to bits. Throughout the game, if you ever see Enforcer starfighters in red (hostile), run. Divert all energy to afterburners and do not look back. (Conversely, if you get on Star Patrol's good side and see them in green (allied) in certain missions...)
  • Portal Network: The Tachyon Coil Generator Gates, although each gate only links to one other gate. Standard gates can only move a ship (small craft) to a location within a sector (i.e. system). Mega-gates allow movement between sectors, although this is usually done by the game automatically. There are also one-way gates. Capital ships are unable to use the gates due to their size. Instead, they are equipped with portable Tachyon Coil Generators, allowing them to independently enter hyperspace. It is, however, implied that they still use gates as beacons for calculating jumps.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: In the Bora ending, GalSpan Regional Director Atkins could easily wipe the floor with the remaining Bora forces after they destroy the Hephaestus. However, Susan Bradley invited the press to witness the battle, and seeing the Director waste resources on a vendetta would only cause GalSpan stocks to plummet further. Atkins decides to leave in peace.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Baron Hajad. He constantly mistreats his slaves to a severe degree, whipping them for his own sick amusement. He also throws tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants, such as an alliance with Baroness Onrald, the roof of the Cistine Chapel, etc.
  • Rebel Leader: Susan Bradley is the unofficial leader of the Bora. She is more of a symbol of Bora defiance, but she also holds a lot of authority among the guilds. Naturally, GalSpan media brand her as a terrorist, especially since her squadron, Susan's Lance, are known for their daring raids deep in GalSpan territory.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: GalSpan fighters' names come from Greek mythology, as do the names of their bases and capital ships. Usually paired with Meaningful Name in the last case.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: GalSpan vessels are silver and blue and very pretty.
  • Shoot the Bullet: A lucky laser hit can destroy an incoming missile or rocket. For the most part, though, you're probably better off using countermeasures or dodging, respectively.
  • Shoot the Messenger: One mission has you deliver a message from Baroness Onrald to Baron Hajod. The message is a very thorough insult, and Hajod orders his slaves to kill you. You have to evade gunfire from his station's defense platforms (and a bunch of fighters that come from the only gate out of his sector) to escape, and it ain't easy.
    • The easiest way out? Before you land to deliver the message, fly up to each defense platform and destroy its power generator.
  • Slow Laser: It gets to the point that laser bolts travel slower than Rail Gun shots. Some of the smaller missiles will also outrun lasers!
  • Space Clouds: The Twilight Region, which is a giant nebula that obscures most sensors. In fact, you need special sensors and radiation screens just to survive there. The "fog" is even seeping inside the Deep Fringe Array station. It also drives people insane after prolonged exposure, although the radiation may have something to do with it. Scientists in the game agree that the fog is unnatural and try to study it.
  • Space Friction: Mostly played straight, sometimes to ridiculous extent with disabled vessels coasting to a stop. Slightly averted with the use of the "Slide" maneuver, whose activation cuts your engines and lets your ship coast at its current velocity for as long as you hold down the 'slide' mode switch. Can be used to go beyond normal "top speed", if you activate 'slide' mode while at afterburner; this is extremely useful in some missions where one objective is to get to such-and-so point before someone else does.
    • Much more importantly, 'slide' mode allows you to fire off-axis — that is, to rotate your ship's nose away from your line of travel so that you can fire perpendicular (or at any angle) to the direction in which you're moving. Consider this capability in the context of, say, an attack on a capital ship, and you'll begin to understand why, in spite of its actually being closer to what "real space combat" might be like than most games bother to offer, some folks consider 'slide' mode a Game-Breaker.
    • This plays an important role in one particular mission where you go to save a frigate which has its controls disabled and the engine is plowing it into Asteroid Thicket. After blowing up some of the asteroids in the way, Jake gets the idea to destroy the engine's power plant and that causes the frigate to slow down and stop.
  • Space Mines: During the training mission, the flight instructor didn't know they were active, thus getting the main character fired upon by these mines.
  • Space Pirates: Skavs, Void Runners, Blood Clan, Demon Pirates (only in name, as they don't care about capturing ships or cargo; they just kill all who enter the Twilight Fog), Cinder Station Mercenaries (only associated with pirates).
  • Space Police: Star Patrol.
  • Space Western: Eventually a mission called 'The Posse' will become available at New Vegas starbase in the Frontier region, featuring lots of dialogue alluding to this ("Let me just strap on my old six-shooter!").
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Both GalSpan and Bora have those. No one else does.
  • Straw Feminist: Lakita Ramos, a wingman you can hire early in the GalSpan plotline, treats you like an idiot because you're a man.
  • The Reveal: In the Bora mission Weasel in the Coop, Gray Weasel tells Jake that GalSpan was behind the destruction of Halley Medical Station. They accidentally released a contagion on Halley, and when BioLith (a hazmat company) tries to help and finds out that GalSpan was somehow involved, they decided to replace an AGT Medical Shuttle (the real Argoso 914) with their "clean slate solution" (a shuttle with scan-proof explosives). And Jake ends up as the fall guy, naturally.
  • This Is Wrong on So Many Levels!: Jake's reaction when he's told to find a missing art piece for one of the local robber-barons... and discovering that said missing art piece is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Being late of the Sol system, he takes umbrage with the desecration of such a famous work.
    Jake: Prized art...? That's the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! What kinda psycho would rip off the roof of the Sistine Chapel?! That's just plain wrong. ...But it's pretty impressive.
  • Tractor Beam: The Tractor Wave is a special system that can slow down an enemy fighter to allow you to get some goods hits in. Unfortunately, the slow-down factor is fairly small, and you have to constantly hold down a button to keep it working, making it Awesome, but Impractical.
  • Units Not to Scale: Subverted. The game is known for its more-or-less realistic scale, with capital ships being much larger than fighters and space stations being truly humongous. Since planets always stay in the background, you are never sure how close you are to them.
  • Used Future: Bora ships look like they're made of rust. Justified since they're converted mining ships according to the manual.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: In one early mission, Jake runs into an old friend from Mars (Samantha Crawley, after you finish your contract in Investigate Minefield) who is on routine patrol with no enemies around. It would be a shame if something happened to her...
    Samantha: What are you doing? Jake...please don't kill me...
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment: Averted. You can fire and destroy all the friendly ships you want and they never turn on you, nor does it ever affect the missions (unless you end up destroy some plot-critical element, of course).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Director Atkins has a gradual one over the course of the final mission in the Bora storyline, when the Bora go after one of Hephaestus' modules. His initial orders to attack the Bora are irritated, but as damage on the module increases he resorts to desperately trying to offer bonuses, then not only increases the bonuses but flat out threatening to fire any GalSpan pilots who miss a shot. When the module is finally destroyed, he tries to act like a Graceful Loser, though it's likely an act for the news cameras the Bora invited to watch.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Several instances of this trope occur. Especially on your first mission in the Hub (well duh, you blew up a hospital, framed or not, they still call you out on that).
    • A mild example if you start shooting at freighters near a base. The freighter crew will yell at station control, who in return will yell at you.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Anna Highfall.
  • Wingman: You can hire these for an initial cost as well as a cut of the payment for each completed mission. In-flight, you can give them commands using the Communications menu. Those with EMP weapons can be ordered to disable an enemy. When hiring one, Jake has a brief conversation with him/her/it, ranging from friendly to professional to downright hostile. Wingmen can be let go, or they can be killed in battle. Most of them are Killed Off for Real in this case. Only JASPers are replaceable, since they are serialized models, although it's still pricey, since you have to pay the initial costs again.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The cover art swaps the 'o' in 'Tachyon' with the Greek letter omega.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: Anna's response to Jake's question as to how exactly one of the greatest artistic pieces of the Renaissance (we reiterate, the actual ceiling of the Sistine Chapel itself) ended up in the far flung reaches of Fringe space, removed from its native Vatican City and strapped to a rocket barge. Doubly so when it ends up being stolen by Baron Hajod, a literal slave driver with a face like a bald bearded thumb.
    Anna: ...I think we're better off not knowing.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: GalSpan likes calling the Bora "terrorists". Of course from their own perspective they are anything but.