I really feel sorry for the people of Ion Storm. They had the top talents of the game industry, and everybody will only remember them for John Romero, his ego and the extension of his ego: Daikatana.nnPeople, if there is a goal in life regarding to games, mine would be to spread the wonders of Ion Storm's other games: Deus Ex, and the subject of my review: Anachronox.
Anachronox, simply put, is what would have happened if Doughlas Adams got into gamedesigning instead of doing radioshows.
You play a private dick on some by God forsaken planet. Mysterious stuff happens, you try to discover why. Simple, but what begins as one of typical videogame beginnings, goes way beyond the scope of the starting planet, involving ancient conspiracies and alien cultures.
What makes this game pure liquid awesomeness is the combination of a truly epic story with fantastic characters and absurd humour. I'll just stop overstating things now and tell why exactly it is great.
Unfortunately I can't say too much about the story because that would be too spoilerrific. All I can say is that you actually feel you're going to save the universe and that the antagonist is an actual proper threat, rather than just there cause they needed something to destroy everything.
The characters themselves are very well fleshed out and simply not so fĂ Â§king clichĂ Â© as you normally get in scifi (Knights of the Old Republic, I'm looking at you, for god's sake). They're subversive, sarcastic and most importantly: they're alive. They live! They live! I know I just repeated that too many times, but I'm fed up with characters that just function like flesh-covered clothhangers for the story.
The humour of the game comes from all directions. The universe you're in is absolutely absurd, with kafka-eske democracies, commercial religions, and insane federations. And that brings me to the actual worldbuilding.
Anachronox is one of the few games I've played in which worlds are not just carbon cut-outs. The worlds you visit are relevant and alive. You can imagine, despite the absurd system it works by, or the distopic enviroment, that people would live there. This again, is not without its humour. But where humour normally would make things just seem less realistic, the humour here fits. It is alive and real exactly because it seems so funny to us.
The gameplay of Anarchronox is perhaps the weakest part. It is heavily inspired by Japanese RPG's, including the over top attacks and sometimes stupid waiting. The game play differs however in the way how magic in handled (make your own spells, yay!) and that during fights you can interact with your environment and that makes it a bit better than most Turnbased RPGs. The ecounter themselves are more like in Chrono Trigger, where you see and fight your opponent in the main world rather than bump in invisible wirly effects and be transported to battle grounds. Still, I'm not exactly sure if TBC is the right way to go.
Anachronox however, also gives one major improvement we only now see popping up more in games. Instead of just 'use skill on stuff', you play a minigame every time that you're applying a special skill (such as opening locks). This so far, to my memory, has only appeared in a few more games (notably Bioshock). Weird, considering how much better and more enjoyable it makes using the skill. I always personally hated that my chance of success of a certain skill was soley depended on how well my pc randomly generated a number (such as in the D20-system based RPGs).
All games have a really bad part to it, and so does Anachronox. The real game was actually twice as long,but thanks to bad sales and Daikatana, Ion Storm was killed off before we got the second part. Now it does have a proper ending, and the actual game is pretty damn long too, but still, it does leave you with wondering what else could have been in this game too.
They say that writing a review of something genuinely good is more difficult than a bad thing. I say they're absolutely right. I know my review is rather confusing, but there are few things out there as good as this game.
Reviewed By Atresica
Anachronox created by Ion Storm