We are living in a Materia world…
What a bunch of losers. Dr. Rho Bowman used to be the most promising scientist
in the galaxy, and now she’s been branded as a heretic. Paco “El Puno” Estrella,
former comic book superhero to many, now just wants to drink his malt liquor.
And then there’s the king of the clowns, Sylvester “Sly” Boots, a detective way
past his prime, eking out his existence. These are the heroes who are supposed
to save the universe? Looosers! And I mean
that in the nicest way possible.
It’s a refreshing dynamic to have a bunch of unglorified has-beens and rejects
pulling together to fight chaos and ne’er-do-wells. Kind of like Rudolph and
his ugly toy buddies off to save Christmas (which,
by the way, was a big lie). That’s what I love about Anachronox –
it never takes itself too seriously.
Anachronox has been touted and marketed as a Science fiction / RPG /
Adventure, but there’s more adventure than RPG in this puppy. Adventure elements
take their cue from the smart control interface, a marriage of third person
controls with your classic point and click controls. The ubiquitous flying cursor
is even explained in the story: Sly Boots has a FDA – a flying digital assistant.
Palm should get off their duff and make me one of those.
Most of the adventuring is triggered through conversations. Unlike the conventional
PC adventure game, there’s little by way of item inventories. Puzzles involve
clicking at things rather than digging through some backpack of items for the
right one to use. If something needs to be used, your character will automatically
use it. Item “gathering” on the other hand…
Errands, errands, errands. Talk to one guy, who will tell you to mosey your
way across town and pick up a grocery list of items, or perhaps he’ll tell you
to talk to some other guy, or to talk to yet another guy, etc. Sometimes the
game manages to conceal the core concept of item gathering by labeling it ‘detective
work’, but no matter what you call it, it can get to be a drag. This is particularly
true for the first several hours of gameplay, though eventually things pick
Anachronox is certainly well written. It’s clever and filled with all
the things you’d never find in your conventional PC Role Playing Game. One moment
you’re listening to a thinly disguised attack of electoral-colleges on the planet
Democratus, the next you’re rubbing elbows and more in the Red Light District
on Sender Station. And you thought Final
Fantasy 7 was schizo.
Indeed, Anachronox has studied under the Eastern dojos of Japanese
styled RPG creation, though it carries a distinctly American flair. There aren’t
any random battles. Enemies are set in pre-scripted locations and battles happen
right then and there. No longer are you whisked away in a flourish of screen
transitions to some faraway battlefield.
Just because the fights are no longer random doesn’t mean they are avoidable.
A fixed number of preordained fights take away from the leveling-up and character
strength development. Sure, you can exit some areas and let enemies reset back
into place, but the fighting and leveling simply lack a little something and
feel almost arbitrary.
There’s also a Materia-esque magic system (dubbed ‘Mystech’) that isn’t very
interesting. Using little elementor bugs, you can create all sorts of nifty
spells. It’s got depth, certainly, but feels derivative.
As a whole, the battles play conventionally to a fault. Still, some strategy has been added in the ability to move your character to set points, and your FDA replaces traditional menu wading nicely.
is built upon the elder Quake 2 engine. It’s not bad, per se, but certainly
dated; you need look no further than the blocky, overly pointed character models.
The environmental design makes the most of the situation – beautiful gothic
cathedrals and spaceship terminals that feel like airports really add some immersion.
The world is a believable one.
For some inexplicable reason, the two graphic modes are Low-Res: 640 x 480,
and Hi-Res: 1280 x 960. What about everything in between? There’s a way to decrease
the upper limit of the resolution, but it involves muddling through configuration
files. Not for the uninitiated.
Musically, there’s a full gamut of different styles. The plinking of a sad
piano on the planet Hephaestus highlights the melodies that translate the different
moods of Anachronox. During key scenes, the game utilizes voices. These
are aptly chosen and capture the snappy attitudes of the characters. I still
haven’t totally figured out why Sly Boot’s robot, the Pal-18, has the voice
of Eric Cartman (South Park). Hrm…fat little boy, fat little robot – sure,
It’s ironic that bug collection is one of the in-game tasks, since the game itself is a locust infestation of bugs – programming bugs, that is. Prior to the patch, there was a doozy of a bug that gave you unlimited money. I wouldn’t mind one of those bugs in my ATM, but it’s a bit much in a game. The most recent patch released fixes a long list of problems, but still not all of them.
I just finished fighting a major boss. A small cutscene ensues, and then….Windows
desktop! Maybe your computer will never run into a crash, but with the infinite
number of PC combinations, I’ll doubt anyone will be completely free of the
I have this real love/hate relationship with Anachronox. The writing
and design are fresh and clever, but the actual gameplay can drag at times.
Still, it’s not a bad RPG effort from an American developer. Maybe these guys
aren’t losers after all?