Developer: Ion Storm
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Anachronox official page: http://www.anachronox.com
From the company that brought you Daikatana…
Nearly every other Anachronox review starts off by making light of Ion Storm and the fiasco that was Daikatana, but this really isn't fair. Though Anachronox was developed at Ion Storm, from the very beginning the Project Leader/Game Designer was Tom Hall, not John Romero. More importantly, Anachronox was conceived as a game in a genre not frequently seen on the PC: the console RPG. Of course, it seems that if we mention the word console
, everyone just assumes that the game isn't interesting
, so if there's any confusion, Anachronox is a PC game based on the Quake 2 engine. Tom Hall just wanted the game to play like a console RPG.
You should never
pass on any secrets
Dark corridors are
a staple of sci-fi
So what IS a console RPG?
When most PC gamers think of role-playing games, player stats, levels, magic, weapons, and various elixirs or items may come to mind. In this aspect, the console RPG is very similar. However, when you start thinking of specific PC RPGs and come up with Baldur's Gate, Diablo, or Everquest, you're heading the wrong way. Whereas those games allow the player to direct the game as he likes, console RPGs are far more linear - though that path may be fraught with plot twists and turns. Console RPGs are about telling an intricate and epic story through the eyes of a few characters. The console RPG lies somewhere in between the PC RPG involving experience-building battles and weapon/armor upgrades, and PC adventure games such as "Sam and Max Hit the Road" or the Monkey Island series in which there is a linear script.
Console RPGs have a little bit of everything, but it's the focused story line that makes them so enjoyable. While linear gameplay is frowned upon in RTS or FPS games, it's different for console RPGs. For a moment, consider The Sixth Sense, a great film with an unpredictable and well-crafted storyline. Yet, it's linear - the director, screenwriter, and cinematographer have all honed their craft to produce an effective tale. Imagine if The Sixth Sense was an interactive movie and you simply asked why Bruce Willis didn't talk to anyone else after watching 15 minutes of the movie. OK, the foremost mystery of the movie solved, and you pretty much end up spending the next hour and a half putting together random clips of film. Sound as fun as watching from start to finish? Similarly, having a linear storyline allows the game writers to more effectively direct your emotions and thoughts, and tell that story from start to finish.
Another way to think about it is that it's another form of machinima. One popular example is Katherine Anna Kang Carmack's Sidrial - essentially a movie rendered in real-time through the Quake III Engine. Unlike machinima where you simply watch the tale unfold, the console RPG allows you to play through that story. A good console RPG frequently doesn't seem linear since the direction that the game developers have set for you is that path you want to follow. By actively engaging the game rather than simply observing, you more closely identify with the main character and thus the console RPG maintains your interest. Whereas a 3-hour movie may test your stamina, console RPGs frequently take more than 30 hours or more to complete. The greater flexibility in length allows characters to be fully developed so that you'll truly feel a part of the game world, and will genuinely care about the characters. When done well, a console RPG is able to convey a richer and deeper storyline than most art forms, and perhaps that's why FiringSquad's highest ever Final Verdict went to Final Fantasy VIII.
Unfortunately, lengthiness is exactly the poison that kills many RPGs. If the writers do not make good use of the time, the game becomes an unpalatable chore. The benchmark for a good console RPG is therefore a creative and engrossing narrative with sufficiently complex/varied gameplay to keep your interest through a lengthy story. Of course, a few stunning cinematics sprinkled throughout to reward hard-fought battles and advance the plot certainly don't hurt!