Cyberpunk week: Anachronox
When I found out about the plans for Cyberpunk week I knew I had to get a foot in – despite being full of the busy’s at work and the sleepy’s at home – all because I had to bring something cyberpunk up that’s close to my heart.
And that, my friends, is Anachronox.
Now, Anachronox is no new game by any means – it’s almost 12 years old this year. But like some of those games that never really get old, it’s the quality story telling and writing in a Cyberpunk world that really makes it worth playing. In it you play Sly Boots, a down and out private investigator … You know the type: Wise cracking, always broke, a weak spot for the women. In fact it’s pretty noir-esque, if not for the setting. Anachronox is a planet that floats within a larger sphere known as Sender One, and where constant plate movements (like serious movement, not earthquake style) can bring you to various different settings. Still, with holographic helpers and various other tech oddities, Anachronox files right there within some of the best Cyberpunk fiction.
Produced by Tom Hall – he who created Commander Keen, the dopefish, and founded Ion Storm, makers of Deus Ex (which he would voice characters for) – Anachronox isn’t all Cyberpunk of course (noir, some fantasy and general sci-fi is present) but playing it, you’d be reminded of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner world, with Sly being a more wry Rick Deckard. While you start off with what appears to be a simple mission – like all noir tales, things go south quickly. It’s a good thing you’re not fighting alone – there’s a whole gang there to help you.
With your motley crew, Anachronox’s gameplay is like Final Fantasy’s (FF) squad based, turn based combat – except unlike FF you don’t have random encounters. It’s all very simple and intuitive, and it’s possibly one of the first to give the who JRPG genre a western touch. It definitely was refreshing, and I don’t think we’ve seen such a well done title like Anachronox within this genre since then, especially a non-console release title, other than the multiple FFs.
Anachronox’s story is deep enough that there’s just a lot on offer – I’m the kind of guy who suffers from option paralysis (The Walking Dead being a prime example of how to get me to decide – set time limits) so I have to say I never did finish Anachronox the first time round due the choices I could make. I got very deep in, yes, after hours of gameplay … And I’m pleased to get a chance to give it a go again. It’s one of those games I’ve never forgotten.
Of course, nobody would say Anachronox has aged well graphically – it’s Quake II engine is practically ancient, and if you’re moving from playing, say, Far Cry 3 to Anachronox directly, chances are you might want to quit the game quite quickly. As Rick Deckard would say, “stay awhile and listen” – there’s a rich universe in here that really deserves to be explored. And it’s a pity how Anachronox ends – it’s clear that there’s so much left to be told. Sadly, developer Ion Storm cut out lots of content during the game’s troubled development – it’s a testament to how great the team was behind it given that it could have ended up like Ion Storm’s other game, Daikatana aka the textbook case of how not to make a game. Then again, Ion Storm also made Deus Ex …
Anachronox is available at GOG.com for just US$5.99. It’s a 1GB download, and runs great on modern computers – and comes in one of those old 4:3 ratios.
And well, if you’re really lazy … the game’s associate producer and cinematic director Jake Hughes has made it a lot easier for you. Here’s Anachronox’s entire tale turned into movie form – it hits all the right spots, but you’ll be missing out on the gameplay …
I’m kidding about Rick Deckard’s quote btw.