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Anachronox (Windows)

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Developed by
Released
Platform
80
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Atomic Punch! (151)
Written on  :  Jun 04, 2006
Rating  :  4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars

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Summary

Great, great game, but call the Orkin man before playing

The Good

My original title for this one was going to be 'Not much of an RPG, but a great adventure game'. I guess I've grown up on the Black Isle RPGs and was a little put off by any game where leveling up didn't include adjusting your strength, wisdom and what-not. Luckily, Anachronox has taught me different.

I have not had such a good time playing a game in years. Everything about Anachronox has so much humor and style. The game has so many unique little incidents that aren't part of the main story, but manage to build on the atmosphere.

The writing is smart and funny. Humor is always an iffy thing in PC games. For the most part designers don't spend much time on the scripts for these things and the 'jokes' are usually groan-inducing or downright painful. Not so here. If you enjoy humorous sci-fi like Red Dwarf or The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, you owe it to yourself to try Anachronox.

The story turns out to be pretty serious but for the first third of the game or so you're really just running on the good vibes the writers are able to supply through character interaction. Even though I've heard the beginning of the game is slow, I was having such a good time playing that I never considered dropping the game for something else.

All of the characters are unique and will elicit different responses from the NPCs you talk to. (Make sure to have Rho talk to the artistic door man! It's a hoot!) Even the in-game cursor/quest log is a character with it's own personality.

The graphics are fairly blocky since they used the Quake II engine, but the art design is great. Every area has such a unique look. Once you've played, if you look at a screen shot you can tell not only what planet they are on, but what subsection of what planet. Any game that can make corridors look unique has accomplished something.

Combat and spell effects are impressive. Whenever you upgrade your weapon or find a new 'spell' you can't wait to find a bad guy to try it out on.

I was a little worried about the turn-based combat as I prefer real-time. The game describes combat as 'turn-based real-time' which really sounded like some sort of middle ground that wouldn't please anybody. Anachronox manages to walk a middle line between turn-based and real-time and for the most part succeeds. I haven't enjoyed a turn-based game this much since Fallout.

Voice acting is never bad and is usually very good. Weapon sounds and spaceships blasting off are all cool to listen to. Even the incidental music when you pick up an item is neat. The background music is always appropriate to the setting and very nice to listen to. It was nice to play a game where there wasn't one cheesy heavy metal track.

Level design is also great. For the most part, you will know where to go next and can run straight through if you like. But there are so many little nooks and crannies to explore and you will usually wind up with a new item or sub-quest for your troubles.

The story manages to be interesting all the way through and none of your characters will ever become useless as you add new ones to your party.

The Bad

Bugs! Bugs, bugs, bugs! Before you play, make sure to download the second 'unofficial' patch put together by the development team working with a bunch of fans.

Even afterwards, not everything will be smooth. Random freezes still occur every so often. There are a few sub-quests that involve taking pictures of, say, Red Biparti that are scattered across the planets you visit. Unfortunately, Boots' camera would periodically wipe out all the pics stored in memory. After a while, this caused me to just give up on that quest.

Speaking of sub-quests, while Fatima is great at storing your main quests, remembering sub-quests like which monk to speak to or who needs the miner's bracelet are up to you. This seems like such a basic thing to forget. In practice it leads to a lot more running around or you forgetting that quest all together even though you have everything you need to complete it.

Also, even after patching (and patching and patching) the load times still take a while. Since many quests require you to cross several load zones, each taking twenty seconds or so to load, what would be a little annoying became frustrating enough for me to quit playing for the day.

Lastly, towards the end of the game you go from one boss fight to a cinematic showing the characters resting and then straight into the final boss fight. This may not sound that bad, but it gives you no chance to reconfigure your items. When I was playing this part I actually had to go back to an old save game, equip my party then and fight the first boss all over again. How did such an obvious goof slip through quality control?

The Bottom Line

Overall, Anachronox is one of the best games I ever played. The bugs got on my nerves, but never enough for me to chuck the game.

It manages to make the ho-hum task of saving the universe fun again and it does it all with real panache.

That this game isn't already a collector's item is a crime. I would advise any PC gamer to pick this one up. You'll be glad you did.