Anachronox - PC - Review - PC - Review
Take a fantastic realm, characters with depth in a role-playing setting, and toss in some real-time, turn-based combat, a tincture of magic, some arcade-style elements, and you have a game that is solid entertainment.
Anachronox, from Ion Storm and Eidos Interactive, has a few problems – notably some stuttering in the audio track and video elements, but these are few and far between. For the most part the PC product plays smoothly. It utilizes the Quake II engine, which renders characters in a blocky fashion – you know, no finger separation, and sharply angled features. But the immersive nature of the program is such, that you will soon overlook that minor setback to an otherwise wonderful graphical experience.
There are expressions on the faces of the characters, and the vocal characterizations are dead-on. You will like these characters, and enjoy the opportunity to guide them through the maze of Anachronox and other worlds on a quest that will have far-reaching consequences for the galaxy as a whole.
The game begins with a down-on-his-luck private investigator named ‘Sly’ Boots. His guide through the game is a computer device featuring a dead secretary named Fatima. After she died, her brain matrix was digitized and she lives in a LifeCursor – a.k.a. the game cursor. Anyway, she will provide you with suggestions for proceeding, as well as keep track of your goals, and supply some information you may need on the trek.
As for Sly, well, he isn’t much good at fighting, is out of money, owes money and needs a job. The game’s first introduction to him is seeing him pounded and tossed out a window at Rowdy’s, a saloon on Anachronox. After checking around, he gets a tip about a girl that is exploring the MysTech caves that lie beneath the ever-changing, rotating mechanical world of Anachronox. So he sets off to find her, and along the way, gets pounded a little more. A side trip to Whackmaster Jack’s, to learn about beefiness, beat, speed and beat block (which are terms used for the fighting arts on this world), cures some of that.
He finally meets the girl in the underbelly tenement levels of the mechanized planet. She is missing an arm and leg, torn off by the foul creatures roaming the tunnels. Is that going to set you back? Don’t think so. Her boss is the one you need to talk to, an old man with a staff that looks like an overgrown dwarf. His name is Grumpos Matavastros, and while the first encounter seems to suggest that he is named Grump-os for a reason, he soon becomes a valuable ally.
There are a number of missions you must undertake before actually heading down into the MysTech tunnels, each is designed to level up the party (you will meet other characters – including a mercenary named Stiletto Anyway, who is as deadly as she is becoming, and an ex-superhero named Paco Estrella – but you can’t have everyone in the party), and learn about the world.
Anachronox actually has no up or down. It is an alien city-planet existing inside a sphere. Parts of the city rotate occasionally, and you can venture from one part to another by using “pretty-safe” elevators, or walking up walls to a part of the city that seems to be suspended from the ceiling. The city itself is rich and colorful, with a wide variety of locales that are unique, yet somehow familiar.
After chasing about on some errands, (and remember, fighting isn’t always the solution, especially if you try to tangle with a NoxGuard), meeting a variety of strange characters (Eddie and his eating habits are a little different, but the cutscene used to get the ‘food’ item is amusing), it’s down into the tunnels. Grumpos’ whirling, high-flying whomping attack is a joy to watch, but life can get deadly.
The game really begins to turn after the arcade-style boat ride through the sewers, which are filled with floating crates of explosives.
Anachronox has a simple player interface, which doesn’t take very long to learn to control. The game has three difficulty settings – really easy, normal and way too hard – to accommodate most players and their respective skill levels.
The program has humor, character development, terrific environmental elements and great voice acting. There is some lag as you move from one area to another, and that is a setback for this game. Dashing from one area of the city to another is not a big deal, but when you have to wait for that level to load, it can lead to some frustration.
The game does have multiple opportunities to save your progress, which is a good thing.
Combat has the feeling of a turn-based game. After taking a hit, or delivering one, characters need recovery time. They can also spend their ‘turn’ in moving around a grid that will appear to show movement limits. Elements within a setting can be utilized in the battle, if the icon appears to show that they exist in that particular arena. Also, opponents must be within reach of the attack you are launching. Sly prefers, initially, to use a gun, but the further away the target, the less lucky his attack will be successful. But each character also has special skills, which can be employed, even if the foe is out of reach of a normal, melee style attack. Sometimes these ‘worldskills’ can weaken an opponent, setting them up for a second, death-dealing blow by another member of your party.
It does not support multiplayer gaming, and is rated Teen for animated violence and mature sexual themes. The options screen features a box that can be checked to turn the swearing off – though what there is of it isn’t too bad. (The manual likens it to a PG-13 film.)
Anachronox has combined many diverse elements into one program, and done it successfully. No, this isn’t the best RPG game ever made, but it fills a void in the genre that has been a little sparse lately. It is delightful visually, takes a solid action stance, and has a well-rounded cast of characters.
The full install of this program will consume one gigabyte of hard drive space, while the standard is ‘only’ 819 megs. It is a two-disk install, but seems to go quickly.
If you have the auto-save on, count on a double-tap in the slowdown department. The first is when you transition to a new area of the game board, and once there, the autosave will further interrupt play. There are also a lot of cutscenes which, while fun, can detract from the flow of the game.
Aside from the blocky character renderings, the overall look of this game is very good.
This is, perhaps, stronger than the graphical elements. The voice acting is very well-done. Music and effects are solid.
Normal treads the line between the really easy and way too hard settings nicely, but may still be too simplistic. The hardest setting does provide a challenge, while the easiest is a sand-box treatment of the game.
While this game does smack of familiarity in some instances to other Eidos products, it has taken on a life of itself, thanks to the characters. The terminology is different, but easy to pick up, and the player interface takes little time to understand.
The slowdowns in the game are semi-frustrating, while the ‘adult’ nature of the program is overstated. The program is a terrific combination of gaming elements. There is little doubt that Anachronox is a well-done game.