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Anachronox Review

GAME INFO
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: ION Storm
genre: Action Adventure

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PII-266, 64MB RAM, 12MB Video Card
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.anachronox.com/

release date: Jun 25, 01
» All About Anachronox on ActionTrip


ION Storm Dallas is no more, folks, and that should be indicative of something -- hopefully not of Tom Hall's work. As some of you know ION Storm Dallas had a bad reputation of producing crappy games (Daikatana anybody) and spending a crapload of money in the process, making them about as productive as a blind photographer with Parkinson's disease. The company was headed by two former id guys, John "How's my hair, momma" Romero, and Tom "Positively Insane" Hall. And while we got to ermm... enjoy the "gaming goodness" of Romero and his wife Stevie "Killcreek" Case, we had to wait a while longer for Tom's pet project -- a 3rd person Quake II engined adventure / RPG, Anachronox (meaning: A poison from the past).

I've been following the development of this game for quite some time now (a slight understatement), and I thought I pretty much had a good idea of what it's all about. It turns out I didn't. Some of the things that I thought would be the game's weak sides ended up being quite the opposite, and some of the originality that I thought the game had was a tad too derivative, and it carried a heavy influence of Final Fantasy games and numerous Blade-Runnerish (private dick with a sci-fi twist) movies.

In Anachronox, players are cast in the role of Sly Boots, a private eye with a deep booming voice and a nag for getting himself into some serious trouble. Sly lives in the futuristic world of Anachronox - a tomb of an ancient civilization that once inhabited the planet until some sort of unknown cataclysm whipped the silly alien grin off their faces - "have a nice end of the world" style. Nowadays, the world of Anachronox is a sleazy, polluted, and corrupt place where race, interests, and shady characters mix to form a collage of apocalyptical sci-fi environments.

Work isn't really killing Sly, and his trusty sidekick computer Fatima (once a fair lady, now a dead collection of bytes and pixels) is slowly beginning to lose all hope (well, that happens a lot when you're dead). But never fear, because you couldn't really make a game without some kind of a plot. So, Sly gets hired by a local wacky scientist Grumpos to sniff around a bit and search some ancient alien tunnels for the substance called Mystech -the source of much of anguish in Anachronox's past. Things move on from there, and develop into a nice little story as the payers progress further and uncover more of the storyline.

After some playing time, it becomes obvious that the consistent story, attention to detail when it comes to character development and expressive voice acting are in fact Anachronox's biggest advantages. I'm quite sure that the game took so long, because Tom and the gang wanted to have a consistent story and obviously really, really wanted to stay true to the game's original concept. And I find that HIGHLY commendable, especially when the results are as positive as they are in this case. One can easily get immersed by the appeal of the unknown alien worlds and colorful characters, and that's what true adventure games are all about. ION has done an excellent job in those regards, and I could easily see this game turned into a decent sci-fi series. Besides the engaging plot and professionally done acting, the game features some excellently directed scenes. In terms of the pure direction value, Anachronox ranks almost (not quite) as high as Undying, and everyone knows that this aspect of game design is one of the building blocks of an immersive gaming experience. The only problem I had with the voice acting is that there simply isn't enough of it. Yeah, I realize the game is dialogue-heavy (and it would take a lot of resources), but you'd expect to see voiceovers done for all the conversations, and not just the ones in the cut-scenes. Shame really, because the voice acting is really good, and it's completely complimentary to the certain skillfully directed game scenes.

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ACTIONTRIP SCORE
8.2   Very Good


HIGHS
Story, cinematic experience, voice acting, musical score, artistic design;

LOWS
Dated engine; needed more voiceovers, weak sound fx (like footsteps and such); crashed on me a couple of times.

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