Anachronox User Review
- Time Spent:
- 20 to 40 Hours
- The Bottom Line:
- "Total letdown"
I had bad time with Anachronox because of "small" things that are easy to miss when checking out the game info. What everyone talks about is that it is a Sci-Fi JRPG with turn based combat, unique characters, humor and epic story, not to mention cyberpunk and film noir (such as "Dark City" movie). Wow, sounds like an epic win to me! But not so fast: You see there are some "details" that made me hate this game despite that I enjoyed games such as Fallout 2, Deus Ex or Beneath a Steel Sky.
If you don't have time to read the rest, The key thing I can say about Anachronox is – DON'T PLAY IT, but INSTEAD search for "Anachronox the movie" - completely for free you can spend 2 hours (if you like it) and here you have it – the praised story without all the annoyances of the actual gameplay filler in-between. You get 95% of what is noteworthy in 1/20th of the time it takes to play the game and skip 80% of what makes it bad.
If you happen to like the soundtrack so much, then get the game on GOG and you will get all the music in mp3 format right in the game installation folder. If you do feel like playing this but you are not familiar with JRPGs then try the demo first and who knows, maybe you will see past all the issues.
This review will be hated by all the fans, but I don't care, this game deserves what's coming and I may save over 30 hours of someone's life. You can find the positive aspects about the game in other places, but I will highlight what is wrong in Anachronox so you can decide yourself if you care.
So here goes in no particular order:
# Many aspects of the story are just dumb. The holy grail of the example is the whole part where "to stop 64 rockets" that threaten nice guys you get in a fighter, fly nicely by the rockets to the ship that shot them, spend a few hours fighting on that ship to "disable" the rockets and then fly past the same rockets on your way back to report on success (yes, those rockets are Still racing towards the target!). For some reason those rockets can be disarmed after launching and in the process all of their scary explosive warheads just turn into completely harmless junk that can't hurt anyone… I don't want to sound too obvious, but did anyone consider like shooting the rockets down instead of the entire circus? Story that can't withstand even the most basic skepticism is just insulting. Anyone can do better if they try (for example, just adding a small twist that would explain why attacking rockets is impossible or replacing rockets with a shorter range weapon that is slowly moving in position for a shot would do it), but Anachronox is just too dumb to try.
# Same praised story is also full of ridiculous coincidences and "twists" which just show how insignificant your party and efforts are and how things happen "just because". It is OK for fast paced action movies where you come to see the explosions, but is insulting in an RPG where you try to get invested in the, you know, Role Playing and you have lots of time to think about why are you doing what you are actively doing with your own hands.
# Ugly taste for violence – the game often slaughters or cripples innocent people and then just forgets it. I mean nothing. Game throws scenes of violence at you and then fails to provide any emotional context or ways for you as a player to respond. For example there is a scene in the main story line where you meet a crippled person that obviously needs help (just 200$) but the next moment game shifts focus and despite you having 100 000$ in cash it never gives you an option to help neither explains why your character is denied such option.
# Humor? Well there are some nice jokes, but many of them are so clichéd that you see them coming a mile away while in many other cases you can see the game trying, but it just doesn't feel worth more than a smile.
# Brain dead quests and very limited interaction freedom – in the game world you can only pick up stuff, activate objects, talk to people and use a specific skill on the select targets. In conversations you usually have just 2 dialog options to choose from and no other freedom (forget about sneaking, stealing, bartering, etc.). As a result some quests are so dumb that to solve them you just need to click on everyone that can talk in the area and pick the obvious of the 2 dialog options that gets you stuff (even if you don't understand why you need it). There are plenty of nicer tasks to do, but overall the interactivity is a serious weakness.
# Pointless level design – this game is horrible at making locations look natural. You often find yourself in long windy corridors/paths that clearly have no purpose for anything except for you to run through them on your way to the next battle arena or location. As you quickly learn that battles can happen only in wide open areas, the corridors in-between feel just a waist of time. Another example is one place that should look like a basement of a house but has completely crazy "architecture" and shapes that make no sense at all. Same as with dumb plot moments – these cheap tricks to suit gameplay break the immersion for the entire game.
# JRPG battle system. I love turn based combat, I replayed Fallout 2 more than any other game I can think of, I love Heroes of might and magic 3 and I am open to other battle systems such as VATS or Mass Effect style pause menu. The JRPG turn based combat is very different and chances are you may find it too restrictive and static compared to the examples I mentioned. The biggest problems of this system are that battles can only take place in big enough "arenas" in the maps and that you end up totally static for most battles with just flashy magic effects going off in both directions. For me battles were ultimately boring as I hardly felt satisfied with the sophistication of my tactical choices with so few factors that you can control in battle. After Anachronox I will stay well away from any JRPG that mentions even remotely similar combat system.
# Weak character customization. Forget about forming your unique character. You level up only to gain more health. You can't choose a weapon, you can only acquire the fixed set of 4 battle and 1 world skill with no choice involved – just get everything you can get your hands on. You do get to pick 2 wristbands that give you some skill or ability bonuses where with some experience you will learn that one is quite obvious so you have only one slot to make a free choice. And the greatest customization is your magic weapon. Sorry but choosing which magic spell I wish to equip in battle is not enough for an RPG.
# Magic in a Sci-Fi game! Why can't they leave fantasy stuff in their fantasy worlds? I thought I will have a game with science fiction and guns, but already the second party member looks like he belongs to the Lord of the rings universe and a bit into the game you get the great news that now everyone is a magician and let the spells run loose on the battle screens, yay!
# Absurd battle sequences. Can someone explain why when you go through sewers on a space station you get attacked by magical water pipes? Proves the point that the whole game design is dumb and expects that no one will ask questions. If it would be presented as joke – I would buy it, but as a serious enemy? Dumb, dumb, dumb!
# Annoying resolution limitations. This game is made on Quake 2 engine and it is one of the most user customizable engines ever made, but with this game you absolutely Must have a screen that works well in 1280x960 resolution. That is it. I never saw anything as ridiculous - back in the days when this game came out I had 17' CRT screen that only properly supported max 1024x768 resolution and then I had 1280x800 laptop screen, both of which would be limited to archaic 640x480 resolution (there are only 2 options to choose from). No wonder that people don't buy a game that is not only obsolete looking on launch but also is incompatible with so many screens in use at the time. Today there are some workarounds for other resolutions, but 1600x1200 looked so buggy that all the artifacts were not worth the extra pixels.
# in addition there is a lot to suffer from quite normal "old-school" elements such as tedious running around and some crazy end boss sequence. At the end of the game you better guess the type of equipment you will need for the last battle… I would suggest people to just read a review in advance. I was extremely annoyed with the whole thing mostly because I had wrong equipment on my characters in battle and game gives you exactly zero opportunities to anticipate what you will need and never gives you a chance to change your load-out without deliberately dying in battle while the fighting drags out for a looong time.
So it all bad? No, not really, only it is hard to look past all the major issues to see the good stuff. For example the skill mini-games were great and there are some arcade games in the game world just like in GTA games. Location variety is impressive. Some party members are really original.
One aspect of this game is interesting – it really feels like a predecessor to the Mass Effect series. The way your party of 3 works and how some locations feel like they were the prototypes for Mass Effect 1 and 2. It is interesting, but the fact that Mass Effect evolved concepts from Anachronox into a far more enjoyable experience does not make Anachronox any better.
Here you have it, Anachronox may be an original experience, but it contains so many flaws and elements that may turn you down that even after all the old-school game discounts I think this game is just bad. And remember - if you are still curious then just watch the MOVIE instead of playing this game for the long hours! With one exception – if you are a fan of typical JRPGs and magic – you may just be the type to love this game anyway.
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