Tachyon: The Fringe was written by NovaLogic in an attempt to diversify from their previous set of games, mostly limited to army and air force sims. Tachyon is not simply a Wing Commander rehash, being slightly more freeform. You live the life of a mercenary named Jake Logan, set in the 26th century. Tachyon was designed specifically to be more realistic from this point of view. The developers allow you to select missions as you go along, rather than being forced into a sequential mission-by-mission lineup. Of course, there is a plotline, and character development, or else the game would quickly become bland.
The story of overgrown megacorporation (The Galactic Spanning Corporation, AKA GalSpan) infringing on the rights of pioneer colonists (The Bora) is a little bit used, but the strength of Tachyon in this area is the fact that only some of the missions are from GalSpan or Bora. Many of the missions are independent, hired by everyone from Star Patrol law enforcement to asteroid barons, scientists and smugglers. You are also given an opportunity to compete in a ship-to-ship combat tournament. Essentially, the game is small cross section of a potential future.
A second excellent feature of Tachyon is two types of multiplayer gaming through a LAN, or the internet. The first of these is called Arena Match, which is free ship-to-ship combat against other players. Familiar to all gamers, this is nothing inspired or new, but it is a nice addition. The second, more original multiplayer game is called Base Wars, whereby you engage in free battle, while collecting upgrades and credits for the purpose of building up the amount of technology your side has, so that once you reach Level 10, you are able to attack the opposing team's home base, to attempt to destroy its life support.
However, no game is perfect. Tachyon's biggest fault was that the graphics were TOO rich. In some missions, where there are too many ships, fired weapons, etc. to map and display, my 2000-era computer (which more than met the minimum requirements) simply refused to refresh, preferring instead to stick with one screen for a long time, usually until I die, or some other such disaster. I upgraded in 2003 or so, and even with being top-of-the-line 3 years after the game's release, and beating minimum requirements ten times over, it still struggled sometimes. Unfortunately, this game has not aged well. Nowadays, on computers that would shrug off the demands, the game simply refuses to load due to backwards-compatibility bugs.
Tachyon also involves way too much loading and waiting time. First, a pre-loading screen with far too many (unnecessary) options. Then, when you select "Play Game" it takes 2-3 minutes to load up to another option screen. After selecting Single Player, a game save slot, and a name, it takes another minute to load up to the starbase. Then, selecting missions, wingmen, ships, and equipment involves gratuitous sound and video, taking ridiculous amounts of time and CPU power. Finally, ready to fly, you select "Launch" and go to... yep, you guessed it. A "loading" screen. All together, it means a good 7-10 minutes from selecting "Tachyon" from the Start menu until you are actually flying. Multiplayer? Oh, don't even get me started.
By the way, I welcome any corrections, future ideas, comments and opinions about this guide via email. I can be reached at SpockJr.firstname.lastname@example.org