In five years, people will hopefully remember Chromehounds. Chromehounds was the Xbox Live experience in 2006. It required teamwork, friendship, and strategy.
Chromehounds was far from mainstream, a depressingly likely reason why servers became barren. You did not start a match, mindlessly run forward, get shot, and restart. Developer From Software’s intricate, beautiful, and complex mech shooter was an impeccable blending of PC-styled planning and console gaming shooter.
It is undoubtedly the PC side that scared many away, lost in a sea of complexity that required dense time commitment to comprehend. Thousands of available parts could be purchased, configured within set parameters, and taken onto battlefields. You were not a faceless, nameless soldier in Chromehounds. You were your own person, each shot a success of virtual work. Tinkering to find a precision blend of killing machine and defensive powerhouse was as enjoyable as entering the battlefield.
Fighting served a purpose, waged against the backdrop of the Neroimus War. While you were part of a squad, you were also part of a cause, fighting for control. You felt like a member of fictional nations Tarakia, Sal Kar, or Morskoj.
Each squad member had a job, critical as Chromehounds was about more than selfish leveling. Mech combat was plodding, forcing players to gain access to communication towers needed for vocalizing strategic placement. Knowing how your Hound moved, weapon range, and if any kickback occurred forced you to think about each shot. Nothing in Chromehounds was luck.
Unfortunately, Chromehounds is gone. Sega has taken servers offline, Chromehounds now a single player game, nothing more than a training ground for the fight that will never happen. Consider it a shell of a once enormous online giant.
What the game leaves behind is a small legacy for those whom dedicated countless hours of their lives defending virtual homelands. Undoubtedly, like myself, you met a diverse range of Xbox Live friends during the early days of Chromehounds, one of few games that forced you to work together as a true squad to win.
When was the last time someone could say that for Halo or Call of Duty?
I am not saddened by the loss of my own personal statistics or inventory now that the plug has been pulled. The 100+ hours of my life devoted to this mech-based shooter were not wasted. I’m saddened though as memories begin to fade, the potential for new ones vaporized, and the inferiority of other games to provide unlimited potential with friends, both real life and online.
My final memories of Chromehounds were in Free Battle. There, my squad fought a mech designed as a Domino’s Pizza delivery man, more or less because the engine allowed for it. How effective or absurd that particular mech was remains irrelevant. What mattered was the fun of it all, making the most of dwindling final hours and the possibilities From Software’s engine provided.
Those were possibilities few people truly understood.