środa, 16 czerwca 2010

Short review #2: Anachronox

Sylvester 'Sly' Boots is a private eye on the mysterious planet Anachronox. In search of money to buy himself out of a serious problem he has with the local crime boss, he takes a job for a scientist fascinated in MysTech, mysterious artifacts of unknown origin.

The premise sounded interesting, the reviews were great, therefore I decided to pick this up second-hand when I had the chance. I played the game before, but it rubbed me the wrong way. I was hoping a second attempt is going to suck me in... I was wrong.

I don't know if it's just me, but after all the games I played in my life, Anachronox is simply bland and boring. There's nothing there that keeps you going, nothing that is able to hook you, or in fact to give a damn about the plot. The technical side of things doesn't help either.

I don't mind the graphics. Though, obviously, very dated (modified Quake 2 engine) I thought they gave the cyberpunk/sf feel quite well. What I do mind is the general game system, and almost everything about it bugs me. Anachronox is supposed to be an RPG, but every single RPG element it encompasses comes out as inefficient. Let me elaborate.

First, we've got the characters themselves. They do level up, but the player has no control over what that actually means. An increase in Hit Points occurs, but that's about it when it comes to important changes. Stats increase with equipment, which is hard to find, and in insufficietly labeled. I didn't know what half the stuff did at all, and the ones I figured out I couldn't tell which one is better than the other, or worth using at all. The inventory system allows very little options, and some of the better items are hidden in such places that I wouldn't be able to find them without a walkthrough.

The quest side is remarkably poor in this game. First of all, you can talk to all the characters in game, and to use up all the dialogue (or monologue - there are no dialogue options apart from rare situations) you have to click them several times. Most of them do not give you any important info, but some of them give you quests. You wouldn't know, however, because the quest log only covers the main plotline, and not the side missions. It is therefore impossible to track a side-quest once you get it.

To do some things in the world, and that includes crucial elements of main quests, you have to use your characters' special skills. Problem is, you rarely get any tips on which skill you should use and when. The walkthrough I used suggested using one of the character's abilities in places when I would never think about it. I don't count clicking each character in game (and there is a lot of them) to check if my ability will give me anything as 'fun'.

The plot itself has no impetus to it. You just don't care about learning what comes next. The game's notorious for it's slow start, but at more than seven hours in, I still didn't care the smallest bit about what's going on. Most reviewers point out the humour of the game and a lot of jokes which help you forget about other shortcomings. The thing is, while some of them did end with a snicker from me, most are simply bland, as the rest of the game. The whole world of the game has this Zany feel to it, and that's good, but in my opinion Anachronox doesn't build on it, but rather uses it as a way of saying "Hey, we know you're bored to death, so here's a joke for you. Please keep playing? Pretty please with sugar on top?". It's not the Monkey Island school where humour is so integral to the gameplay, that you actually expect a joke or pun at least every few minutes. It just seems forced, and is another element of the game which doesn't make you care about it.

The combat (which doesn't happen very often at the beginning of the game, but I heard it's more common later) is static and uninteresting. There's a real-time turn system, which works ok, but I would prefer if it was just plain-and-simple turn based - surprisingly, that would make it faster. As it is, you do your one action, then wait again for your turn to come while all the characters stand around doing nothing waiting for their turns to come again. Also, nothing ever happens. Your turn comes, you pick an enemy, shoot or whack him, and do that three more times... yay, you've won, congratulations. To the moment when I stopped playing, all fights were like that - no tactics, no advanced options better than just using your basic attack. Even the battles in Disciples 2 - where you spend the whole game using the same tactic in EVERY fight - are more interesting than this, because things can actually go wrong from time to time and you have more of a sense of control over what's happening.

All in all, this is not a game I would recommend. If you read good stuff about it on the net and you think this is your thing, by all means, give it a go. If you were just wondering if you should pick it up, I would suggest - don't. The game if pretty long for the mediocrity it delivers, and, especially presently, there are many more titles worth your attention.

However well this game was rated back in 2001, I doubt anyone can sincirely say it lives up to that rating today. And some, even older games, do that and more.

Final Rating: 5/10. Mediocre, generally not worth your attention.

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