Anachronox Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Eidos Interactive
Developer:Ion Storm
Release Date:2001-06-27
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Anachronox was released in 2001 by the Dallas office of ION Storm, authors of the infamous Daikatana flop (compared to the Austin office, which developed Deus Ex). Anachronox was primarily modeled after console RPGs, such as the Final Fantasy series, and has received mostly positive critiques over the years, though no significant financial success.

Based on a futuristic, cyberpunk setting, Anachronox features the standby of such plots: the discovery of mysterious alien technology, named simply MysTech here, enables space travel and has intrigued scientists ever since. Anachronox itself is a planet, once home to some ancient alien race, and now the crime hub of the universe due to being well-positioned near the largest of the Senders, which make space travel possible. The player takes the role of Sly Boots, a failure of a private detective, just as he is thrown out of the window of his own office by a debt collector. Desperately seeking employment, you'll be hired to investigate some ruins for a pittance, where an unlucky set of circumstances will drive Boots to investigate further. You'll be joined on your journey by various characters, and will also have the company of your virtual secretary, Fatima, who is also the in-game cursor and manages various menus - a nice touch of immersion.

The game is played from the third perspective, using WASD to move and the cursor to interact with the environment. Consistent to its JRPG roots, Anachronox is a mostly linear game - it's hardly small, but there's very little freedom left for the player, short of not choosing to do a side quest. Speaking of side quests, there's a lot of them, and a lot of interesting encounters to be had too - despite its linearity, Anachronox still places a lot of emphasis on exploration. Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a double-edged sword, because the game is surprisingly stingy with giving out equipment (there's only a handful of weapons for each of the characters), and missing a piece could make the next leg of the journey much more difficult.

The side quests are usually interesting, though they as a rule involve a lot of running around; in addition, since Sly, as all good PIs, carries a camera with him, you'll often be tasked with photographing various objects or aliens. Unlike some more recent games, in Anachronox the "quest giver" is almost never obvious, so you'll be spending a lot of time talking to virtually everyone. Thankfully, most of the characters have something interesting to say and some are outright funny. This humor permeates the whole game, giving it its own unique charm and is probably the game's greatest strength. When you're not talking or wandering around, you'll be using one of your characters "world skills", which are implemented as easy minigames, to gather information or complete a task. Boots can pick locks and other characters will bring their own expertise into the mix (the most interesting, by far, will be the Yammer skill - Grumpos will incessantly talk to the "victim" about all sorts of unrelated things, which is often hilariously funny).