Anachronox

Tagged: Game

Videogame (2001). Ion Storm. Designed by Tom Hall. Platforms: Win.

Anachronox is a Computer Role Playing Game played in a third person three-dimensional perspective, strongly influenced by such Japanese games as Chrono Trigger (1995). The gameplay combines exploration, combat, puzzles and conversation in a similar way to that of its models, including the use of a partially turn-based combat system and the game's broadly linear plot (see Interactive Narrative). In the future of Anachronox, humanity has spread throughout the galaxy using a network of Faster Than Light gateways created by a vanished alien Forerunner civilization. Anachronox itself is an artificial world prone to curious geometric distortions, found floating inside the gigantic sphere that is the hub of the interstellar network and now inhabited by a variety of successor species. The main player character is Sylvester "Sly" Boots, a perpetually down on his luck private investigator trying to make a living in the worst part of Anachronox. The game starts slowly, with Boots desperate for money to pay off some ill-advised loans. Soon, however, Boots and his companions are sucked into an ever expanding plot revolving around a hunt for pieces of "Mystech", a Technology of transcendental power that appears to have originated in the future, and which can be used to create effects almost indistinguishable from magic (see Clarke's Laws). After the unexpected destruction of the planet they are visiting by matter which materializes from nowhere, the player learns that they have become involved in a Changewar between forces from a future universe, a reality which will be born in a new Big Bang after the gravitational collapse of the current cosmos. One of these factions is trying to travel back in time to a still earlier universe, transferring some of its mass to the present to ensure that their chosen reality never collapses, thus eliminating their enemy and, coincidentally, all future existence.

Anachronox's tone is perhaps best described as Hard SF noir. There are many comic moments, and some genuinely tragic scenes triggered by the reappearance of characters from Boots' tangled past. Boots himself is a likeable hero, noble and foolish in equal measure. The dominant sense of the narrative remains that of a light hearted adventure, somewhat in the vein of a more adult Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). The most impressive aspect of the game is its unceasing flow of invention; plot twists are frequent, including the appearance of a character which is in reality a miniaturized planet and a diversion to the world of the Superheroes, where the game is presented in a comic book style. Regrettably, the plot ends on a cliffhanger, in anticipation of a sequel which never came.

Related works: The game's cinematic director, Jake Hughes, led a group which edited Full Motion Video from the game together with Machinima material to make the award winning Anachronox: The Movie (2002). This film can be downloaded from the machinima.com site. [NT]

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