Anachronox is an extremely enjoyable game. Although billed as a console style RPG it has a lot of adventuring and puzzle elements mixed in which might appeal to some adventurers as well as RPG fans.
The game has been a long time in development and uses the 'Quake 2 engine'. When I first discovered this I had visions of brown coloured worlds with reddish brown locations populated by brown characters and other quite brown bits! Fortunately this is not the case and Anachronox gives us the best futuristic, blade runner style locations I have seen in a game. Some locations are extremely well realised and the lighting and colours make the game a pleasure to play. The age of the engine does not deter from the gameplay.
There are only two graphic options. Normal (640) and Hi Res (1024). I played the game in Hi Res using a Geforce 3 with quincunx anti-aliasing turned on. The game obviously does not look quite so impressive at lower settings.
The game's sound is impressive. The music changes from location to location and is of high quality. I especially enjoyed the 'chant' style soundtrack of the monastery. The ambient sounds are also effective and the dialogue is excellent.
The game does not take itself too seriously and is genuinely funny at times. Think Douglas Adams with a twist of Red Dwarf. The central character 'Boots' is an out of luck and out of cash private detective who looks oddly like Brendan Fraser of 'The Mummy' fame. 'Boots' has to save the universe ... literally! The voice acting is excellent but only occurs in cut scenes whilst the rest of the conversations are text based. There are lots of cut scenes using the game engine and these are imaginative and fun. I haven't found a way to skip them yet and as some are attached to mini games this can be frustrating. The cut scenes can be replayed from the game menu. The choice of using subtitles or not is included in the game's option screen.
Quests and characters
The game pokes fun at its genre as well as itself. As per usual you are asked to go on quests but when 'Boots' states "You're gonna make me do something aren't you?" it's hard not to smile.
There are some imaginative characters assisting you. Your secretary resides in your life cursor which you use to interact with the world. She is unfortunately dead but still seems to have a reasonable disposition. Pressing F1 will allow her to remind you of main quests. You also have a droid to help you out. One of your party members gives you a 'whole new world' of options, but I'll let you meet that one for yourself.
The exploration aspects of the game, the fascinating locations and the need to discover objects give the game an adventurish feel. The view is over the shoulder, third person and your team traipses around behind you. Actions such as picking locks involve a logic puzzle and you'll need to chat to the NPCs to find out what to do.
Inventory management is basic. If you have it and you click in the correct spot you use it. Experience allows you to level up (often) but you have no choices in skill development. You can equip your characters however you wish but there is a 'equip best' option.
Eventually your party will get bigger and each character has a world skill to use. The older member of the party has the 'yammer' skill allowing him to stun opponents with Grandpa Simpson style waffle.
Combat is turn based and not too complicated. Discovery of special materials does allow for special powers. (Cue confession mode) I played the game on easy setting, which made the game a tad too easy but I was in it for the fun factor. Combat does not occur at illogical places and does not become a chore. It cannot be avoided though. The animations for each combat move are imaginative but fortunately do not take too long (a la Final Fantasy 8).
The weapons are futuristic and are accompanied by colourful effects. There are exceptions to this in that Grumpos basically whacks everything with his staff (which can be upgraded) and Stilleto has some neat moves involving her dagger. The plot revolves around the discovery of a special element which can be harnessed to cast spells. This element can be enhanced further as the game progresses and can be adapted as you progress.
I found the mini games to be fun and not too taxing once you know what to do. I do believe that the option to skip them with the penalty of less experience should have been included.
The game is rated 'M' in Australia. There are definitely some 'adult' sections, not the least being your adventures in the Red Light district. The game gets rather sexist at this point but many of the exploited are slimy, many tentacled aliens.
For me the fun factor was huge. There are things in the game I usually abhor such as trekking back and forth, no automap, mini arcade games that have to be completed, but this didn't seem to matter.
One big plus is the option to save anywhere or choose to use the save points. I'm not sure why anyone would choose the latter but hey, it's your nickel! I did crash out to desktop a couple of times so saving becomes even more important. My system is very stable at the moment and I haven't had any problems running other recent software. However this did not occur often, the game loads quickly and saving and reloading is painless. There are only eight save game slots. The game seems to have no dead ends so eight should be sufficient.
Although quite linear at the start the game opens up during your journey. I was nearly stuck a few times but a bit of lateral thinking and exploration soon solved any problems. One of the mini games was a huge sticking point until I realised clicking on an icon reloaded my weapons. Checking posts on the Internet I found I wasn't alone in figuring that one out. This is not a puzzle though but an interface problem and should have been fixed in beta testing.
I suspect players will either love this game or find it rather irritating. If you enjoy games that do not take themselves too seriously, you like exploring, you don't mind if the puzzles aren't too taxing and can cope with some combat then grab this game.
Copyright © Clint Mullins 2001.
All rights reserved.
MINIMUM - PII 266 MHz (or equivalent), Windows 95B/98/ME, 64 MB RAM, 12 MB 3D accelerator card with full OpenGL support, DirectX 7 (included), 4X CD-ROM drive
AMD Athlon or Intel Pentium III processor, Windows 98/ME, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB 3D accelerator card with full OpenGL support, 8X CD-ROM drive, Sense of humor
NOTE: 3D accelerated video card with OpenGL drivers required.
It may be necessary to update your hardware drivers before playing.