Anachronox is a weird-but-great mixture of RPG and action game, developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive in 2001.
What is strange about it is the storyline, and the setting. It’s part ‘film noir-ish’ detective story; part comedy – part sci-fi fantasy; set across six different planets in a far-flung future, packed full of bizarre characters, environments and quests.
The surprising thing for me about Anachronox is that it uses a turn-based game mechanic for the combat. And a party system. Which I like. Turn-based combat is usually only seen in Japanese RPGs, which makes this American release all the more unique. At first the combat might seem a bit sparse, or even a bit clunky, but after you get past the first twenty or so battles – and start having battles with more and more enemies – you’ll realise that the combat actually works really well. You have to pay attention though, because there’s also a real-time element in the combat that requires you choose an action before the enemy moves – otherwise you can be left standing there while your enemies give you a kicking… It is this mixture of turn-based and real-time elements in the combat that make it work well against more enemies, than say just two (because when there are just a few enemies up against you there are periods where you are just waiting for your turn and nothing is happening).
Of course, being an RPG, Anachronox has items and inventories and journals and shops and all of that stuff, and they are all extremely well dealt with. This being a 2001 release, though, the inventory screens are all quite basic.
Anachronox also has a very slick control/camera system that makes the game a joy to play. Normal WASD and mouse controls move you around, but if you stop moving a cursor (called a LifeCursor) pops up and allows you to interact with things, as well as use it as a kind of ‘freelook’ to move the camera around. Hold CTRL and click for special character actions. The Tab key switches between party members. Everything else is mouse selected. It’s all very easy to use, which makes taking in all the story strangeness easier (because you don’t have to worry too much about the controls).
I’d recommend Anachronox to anyone who likes RPGs but fancies something a bit different from the norm. It’s engrossing to play – once you get over the shock of the new, and become familiar with the world you’re trying to gain a foothold in. It’s extremely varied too, with arcade-style sections every now and then to break up the adventuring. You can even skip by these if they’re not your kind of thing.
Anachronox is slick on every level and it has jumped onto my “favourite games of all time” list with its refreshingly different approach to role-playing.