In The Anacrusis, Infinite Replayability Shapes How It Tells Its Story

The Anacrusis is a Left 4 Dead-looking game that tells the stories that occur just prior to the main conflict of an alien invasion.

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Revealed at the Summer Game Fest Kickoff live event and then further detailed at the Xbox Showcase Extended, The Anacrusis is an upcoming four-player cooperative first-person shooter where you and your allies fight through waves of alien monsters. If that seems like an alien variation of Left 4 Dead, it should! The game is developed by Stray Bombay, a studio co-founded by Kimberly Voll and Chet Faliszek, the latter of whom is an ex-writer for Valve who penned Left 4 Dead.

I reached out to Stray Bombay to ask the studio about The Anacrusis' overall narrative and how it plans to deliver a story over the course of folks' many replays. Keeping in mind that players will replay the game multiple times, Stray Bombay has designed The Anacrusis to have "hundreds" of stories.

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Now Playing: The Anacrusis Developer Showcase | Xbox Games Showcase 2021

"The Anacrusis is created to be infinitely replayable," Faliszek said. "That means the action, your tools, the enemy spawns are different each time you play. While the story isn't infinite, we understand how people will play the game and that replayability shapes the way we tell the story."

"The first time you play, you will get the goal-focused version of the story--we need to go here, do this, and take that over there. But when you play it again, experienced players don't need that information. Instead, we have hundreds of other stories that we'll tell the player to give them insight into the world, the characters, and the events playing out around them. We saw how smart players were with the little bit of environmental storytelling we gave them in the Left 4 Dead series so we wanted to expand upon that--more hints, clues, and information that they can piece together as they play."

According to Faliszek, the team decided on this episodic style of storytelling from the very start. "And delivering that story episodically instead of just dumping it all at once lets us create cliffhangers and raise questions that payoff in later episodes," he added. "Think: HBO series meets Left 4 Dead storytelling spanning multiple seasons."

The story in The Anacrusis is meant to evolve over time, though how far it goes is yet to be seen. It's possible that the first few runs through are simply a precursor to the main event, if the title of the game is anything to go by.

"The anacrusis is the beats before the song starts," Faliszek said. "In the game, we're with characters, caught up in something they didn't create, in the beats before the alien fight turns to soldiers, pilots, and space fighters."

The Anacrusis is scheduled to release for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC later this year, with cross-play support at launch. It will be available on Xbox Game Pass on day one.

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