Have You Played… Anachronox?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Aka ‘the one where a talking planet joins your party.’ Sure, Deus Ex gets all the Ion Storm cred, but let’s not forget that the other half of the John Romero-founded outfit also pulled off something pretty special, with gonzo roleplaying adventure Anachronox. Robo-chums, malignant aliens and interplanetary detective-work might be the superficial appeal, but it’s the strength of ideas, wit and cheerful weirdness that keeps it an essential part of the PC back catalogue.

The combat’s a chore admittedly, but it’s the cast that really makes Anachranox – the aforementioned planet; the old geezer who defeats foes with endless, tedious anecdotes; a woman who ‘lives’ inside your mouse cursor – but its regular diversions into unexpected settings or unexpectedly detailed explorations of ideas are glorious too.

Anachronox isn’t forgotten, as such, but it certainly didn’t get the audience it deserved. It’s never too late.

60 Comments

  1. Deadly Sinner says:

    I tried, but the battle animations take for-fucking-ever.

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      basilisk says:

      There was a “speed up everything” button that’s been introduced in one of the patches (I think I dimly remember it was the backslash); you can just hold that down to fast forward through lots of the padding. I agree the game would have been incredibly tedious without it, and I wish more games had something like that.

      • Zallgrin says:

        WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME ABOUT THE SPEED UP BUTTON. WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME?!?

        *shouts at the sky and starts crying*

        • NetsukeMonkey says:

          If it’s any consolation I played the original Carrier Command without knowing about the speed up button. That’s a game where it took 40 minutes to travel from one island to another. Also – yeah, the original Elite. You know the jump button that gets you to the planet quicker? Well, I didn’t.

          • povu says:

            I played over 50 hours of Mount & Blade Warband before I realized you could speed up world map travel.

      • Imaginary Llamas says:

        Having given up ages ago at the second-to-last boss, who had one attack animation that must have lasted for literally 30 seconds or so, I wish I had known of the speed-up button :(

      • drewski says:

        I could handle the slowness of the combat animations but oh God, I could literally not have finished this game without the ability to backslash-speed-up the elevators.

        So.
        So.
        Tedious.

  2. Rao Dao Zao says:

    The problem is that, as a game, it’s not that good. I found combat turgid and frustrating and boring.

    On the other hand, the plot and the characters are fabulous, the cinematics and the dialogue are excellent, so I’d say slam it on easy mode and just enjoy the show.

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      Harlander says:

      Agreed. So far I’ve stalled on Anachronox twice – most notably in that interminable hive-ship of the cyber-bees or whatever – and it’s not because the plot and characters failed to engage.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Then you might like this, which is an edited-together movie based on the cutscenes and certain in-game events: link to youtube.com

    • kalirion says:

      So it’s like a Doublefine title?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I dug it up second-hand in my big “games I missed out on” binge shortly before GOG became a thing, and had pretty much the same problem. I don’t actually want to play it, because the mechanics just aren’t fun.

      And I remember being confounded by some stupid pickup that was visible from an elevator while you were travelling on it, but something about the controls left you unable to actually get to it, as far as I could tell.

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Just buy the game and watch the machinima instead. It’s worth it. For as much as I loved the game when it released, I don’t have the time or patience to replay it now.

      link to archive.org

      It looks like someone has done a re-mastered version and put it on YouTube, but the first part skips the very beginning of the intro. (and may skip other parts … I don’t know) So, if you want to make sure you’re not missing a thing, I’d watch the archived/original version.

  3. Garou says:

    Absolutely loved Anachronox. I was heartbroken when I heard it wouldn’t be getting a sequel. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed about an unresolved story in a game world.

    Must play my GoG version again soon…

    P.s. is it Anachranox or Anachronox?

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      Aerothorn says:

      Anachronox – they say it combines “anachronism” and “noxious” which is rather silly but then so is the whole game!

      FOR SHAME ALEC

      • Garou says:

        For a second I wondered if he was doing an hilarious joke about the difficulty of writing the name, mainly based on the rather brilliant misspelling at the end of the article – Anancharonx. However, I think he just got his fingers muddled.

        Edit: Aww, Alec you fixed it…

    • MadTinkerer says:

      If you actually played the game you would know it’s “Unachronox”. ;)

  4. Gap Gen says:

    Is that… good?

    (spoilers) link to youtube.com

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    Naseer says:

    I am currently at OneGate, expecting to see the credits in about an hour or two.

    Been a fantastic ride!

  6. Vexing Vision says:

    So good. Such brilliant writing, fantastic settings and genuinely good story. Technically highly impressive, too – all of this was done with a heavily modified Quake 2 engine.

    I still want to know what happens past the gate.

    The combat never really bothered me because everything else was so bloody awesome. It’s one of the games I will play through roughly every two to three years. Interestingly, one of the other games I do that with is Wizardry, where Tom Hall also had his fingers in…

  7. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    “Man, you guys are dumb. It’s Anachronox!”
    “… you said it starts with a ‘U'”
    *confident* “I know!”

  8. Paul says:

    Anachronox is stunning. So many awesome ideas, such a great humor. I really wish someone would remake it 100% faithfully in new engine with controller support and then made a proper sequel.
    If I had Notch’s money I would fund this.

  9. Frosty840 says:

    Ah. Giving away the most hilarious and unexpected joke in any game, ever, right there in the first sentence, are you?
    Suit yourselves.

    • Werthead says:

      If there’s a statute of limitation for spoilers, it’s probably less than 13 and a half years.

      • Philotic Symmetrist says:

        In normal discussion involving spoilers that would be true; the situation is a bit different if you’re mentioning major spoilers about a game in the same article that is suggesting to people that they should consider playing it. Also, putting it at the start of that paragraph like that meant that the spoiler is visible under “Recent News” to anyone loading the game through Steam whether they click on the article or not.

        That said, despite seeing the spoiler in Steam it didn’t completely spoil that moment for me, since the situation is bizarre enough and the spoiler just vague enough that that was still not quite what I was expecting.

  10. Hideous says:

    I want to see “Have You Played… Die by the Sword?”

    Such an exceedingly clever dumb game. Sword completely steered by your mouse, you can chop off people’s arms, and then pick them up to bash other people over the head with it.

  11. kalirion says:

    Played it and stopped out of frustration when the 7th camera picture of the same gnome was judged unacceptable.

  12. Bladderfish says:

    “Somebody pressed the emergency parole button!!”

    Pause.

    “AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

  13. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Fantastic game. It’s on my pick up the rights and make the sequel list after Terra Nova

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I remember discovering Terra Nova shortly after I finished reading Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. What an amazing game. Probably the best squad based game ever made.

      • YogSo says:

        Heh, that’s funny. I played it after reading Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” some time in 2001 or 2002. I just wanted to play something with an exo-armour and a “death finger”. Terra Nova didn’t disappoint :)

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      If you get the rights to Terra Nova, please in the name of all that’s holy re-release it immediately. It still works fine in Dosbox but I no longer have my disc :c

  14. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Has anyone played it to the end? The game is a real treat but the cliffhanger ending (won’t spoil) felt like they cut off a third of the story.

  15. Distec says:

    Got a Steam key for pennies, but never got around to activating it. One day.

    • tormos says:

      actually if you’ve still got it I’d quite like to have a go with the game

  16. Werthead says:

    Tom Hall once said that if he is unable to make ANACHRONOX 2 by 2020 (!) he’ll reveal the story of what was going to happen in the sequel.

    I’m surprised he hasn’t gone for Kickstarter, but I imagine the rights are still tied up somewhere, presumably at Eidos.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      What has Tom Hall even been working on for the past 15 years?

      After checking Wikipedia, apparently fuck all except for not reaching funding goals on Kickstarter.

  17. captain nemo says:

    Excellent choice of ‘Have You Played’ games so far Mr Meer

  18. Darth Gangrel says:

    I started playing it for the first time a while ago, got as far as the early “get stinky and chewy sock” part and then did other things and somehow didn’t go back to playing it. That’s not because of the combat or anything like that, but other things I can’t really point out. Well, not having a minimap or any kind of direction is one of those things. While I like the sense of freely exploring, no hand-holding GPS service provided, after a while you get tired of walking blindly, hoping that you’ll somehow end up in the right place. Of course, I can’t look it up, because I’ll learn too much then. I’ll get back to playing it soon, because it’s really quite special. Once I beat the game I’ll enjoy it more the second time around.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      If i recall correctly, there’s an unofficial patch which adds a taxi service to the Anachronox section which makes navigation significantly less tricky.

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        Waltorious says:

        The taxis were added in an official patch, actually. If you get the game from GOG you’ll have taxis. They can basically warp you around to different parts of Anachronox, which makes early game navigation easier.

  19. Enkinan says:

    Played it, beat it, loved it.

    It’s been ages though, sounds like the combat may not be as good as I remember. I do remember how refreshing a game it was at the time however, kind of like a Final Fantasy game written by a drunk.

  20. buzzmong says:

    This for me, is and always will be an awesome game with a stellar cast and a good plot. I actually hunted down and bought a CD copy (re-release) about 5/6 years ago from an actual shop, but picked up the GoG version when it came out.

    Got further than I’ve ever got too, but stalled as I got stuck. Must start playing again as it’s still installed.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I got a decent ways into the game and then I lost my save file. I’ll probably just watch the machinima one of these days.

  22. Mollusc Infestation says:

    Any game with a cameo by (fake) Bootsy Collins is ok in my book.

  23. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    Anachronox, along with Jagged Alliance 2 and Startopia, is a game I installed as soon as I got this PC (about eighteen months ago) and haven’t touched yet. I cannot be forgiven. (There was a fourth game, Dark Scavenger, but that I already started.)

  24. L3TUC3 says:

    I bought it cheaply at a bin sale years (decade?) ago and played it up to a certain point, after which I got stuck or got bored. I was expecting more spiders for some reason.

    The planet requiring a debate before firing the “space laser” was rather funny though, except when it couldn’t because you didn’t sway enough council members. I kept losing battles so I quit at a point when a different game held my attention more.

  25. drewski says:

    I rather enjoyed it, I found some secret monster that was impossible to beat but otherwise I think I got most of it. And yeah, the ending is a bit “wait what”.

    Still, rather enjoyable and the only thing close to a JRPG I’ve ever finished.

  26. Thankmar says:

    The combat did´nt bother me at all, because I liked the FF-Style and had never been played a FF before. I even bought two or three cheap copies from a rummage table and gave it to friends, which, of course, never played it. If I had to name just one underrated game, this would be it, what a fantastic game.

  27. Jackablade says:

    One of my all time favourites. There are some lovely character moments in amongst all of the silly humour.

  28. unit 3000-21 says:

    I had lots of fun while playing it, but the actual playing bits are a bit of a slog so I suppose I won’t play it second time.