Anachronox (əˈnækrənɒks), created from anachronism and noxious) is a 3-D, third person computer role-playing game produced by Tom Hall and the Ion Storm games studio and released in 2001. The game is built on a heavily modified version of the Quake II engine, considerably rewritten to add improvements such as a wider colour palette and more complex character animations (including facial expressions).
Gameplay was notably influenced by console RPGs such as Chrono Trigger, one of Tom Hall's favourite video games, although character statistics and item collection have been simplified and the emphasis is on exploration and story-telling rather than RPG-style character building. The player plays the part of Sylvester "Sly Boots" Bucelli, a down-and-out detective in the slums of an alien world called Anachronox. This world sits inside a giant, hollow sphere called Sender One, which is the center of the galaxy's network of space-lanes. Recruited against his will to investigate a mystery concerning the very nature of the universe, Sly travels throughout the galaxy, meeting many characters along the way, some of whom can join the player's party.
Development took roughly three and a half years, and the development team was able to finish only about half of the game, which ends on a major cliff-hanger. The story was to be completed in the sequel, tentatively titled Anachronox Prime, but the sequel was never made. However, the game nonetheless developed a cult following, largely due to its off-beat, humorous storyline, and was notable for the quality of its music and is considered by fans to have one of the best game soundtracks. In response to favourable input about the game's story, Jake Strider Hughes (the game's cinematic director and producer) independently spliced together the game's cut-scenes into an award-winning machinima movie.
Approximately three hundred years before the game takes place a number of strange artifacts had been found. Named Mysterium Technology, or MysTech, they were believed by some to have been weapons left by a long dead alien race and believed by others to be an alien art form.
A small planetoid-sized reflective sphere, called a Sender, was discovered in space. Long spikes could be seen protruding from its outer shell at regular intervals. A star pilot approaching the Sender noticed a signal being transmitted by one of the spikes. He found himself accelerating toward the Sender and was then transported to another part of space via a hyperspace tunnel. Once ships had been equipped with inertial dampeners, these Senders were regularly used to travel instantaneously from one place to another. Senders became the hubs of lucrative trade and galactic civilization. In the centre of the universe lay the largest Sender, Sender One, which contained Anachronox.
It is believed that Anachronox was home to millions of quarantined aliens many years ago. These aliens are thought to have died from a horrible plague. Anachronox is now largely in ruins and has become the centre of nefarious dealings in the galaxy.
Sly Boots lives in a cheap apartment above Rowdy's, a seedy bar on the seediest street in a section of South Anachronox, called the Bricks. After surviving attacks from a number of mysterious henchmen, Boots is enlisted by a renegade scientist and begins a perilous journey which pits him against some of the most dangerous beings in the universe.
Anachronox is a long abandoned alien planet, that floats inside a huge sphere known as Sender One. Its cyberpunk theme is the result of huge buildings, complicated architecture, and futuristic undergrounds. Its many inhabitants are from different worlds, and while Northern Anachronox is considered far cleaner and first-class, Southern Anachronox, where the game takes place, is a more gritty experience. Run down streets, homeless junkies, defective machinery, slums, bars, junkyards and small casinos are rampant in Southern Anachronox.
Sylvester Boots owns a detective agency here in Anachronox, inside a seedy bar with bouncers and thugs. It is from here that Boots must recover whatever respect he still has, and begin his long adventure. Although the player definitely leaves Anachronox eventually, it can later be revisited.
Operating outside Sender One, Sender Station is a gateway to the many different worlds in the universe. A small floating space station, Sender Station is far more clean than Anachronox. Its white floors and large green trees contrast vividly against the stars of space. The station acts as somewhat of a hub for the rest of the inactive party, who reside in the Lounge of Commerce.
The ground level of Sender Station is only a small portion of the whole area. One can travel underground to reach the Red Light District, which is as every bit as seedy as Anachronox. Notable areas in the Red Light District are Slutopia, the Orange Navel, and the Cold Sweat Sex Machine.
A bright and glowing planet, where the greatest minds of the universe gather to discuss the future, Sunder is a peaceful world full of intellect and brains. Boots travels here with Grumpos to speak with Rho Bowman, a scientist studying the interests of Mystech. The world stands on huge bright buildings, overlooking a bright sun.
The planet meets its early demise when it suddenly explodes due a strange phenomenon the player must investigate. According to Rho, after the explosion, science is "set back one hundred years."
Hephaestus is a volcanic planet where religious beliefs and novelty rides are everyday life for the inhabitants. Before the awakening of Mystech the place was considered an uninteresting monastery ran tourist trap, but by the time the player gets there after the activation of Mystech the place is flooded with tourists and business is booming. Where Mystech was first discovered and used, Boots travels here to seek an audience with the Grand Mysterium, who is inside the tower. Within the tower is both the Levant and the Sluice Gates, underground areas which are both dangerous and hot.
The only way to reach the Tower of the Grand Mysterium is to first traverse the Entertainment District, which is home to many children, monks, and clowns. Here, one can play minigames, trade Mystech, order drinks and get rest at hotels.
Democratus is an odd world with an incredible array of different environments, inhabitants, an order. The planet has a huge mechanical ring around it which serves as a town, called "Votowne" to the democrats of Democratus. Up here, the inhabitants are in the shape of tall, thin, pale coloured aliens, who run and live their lives in a political case. Votowne, and Democratus itself is governed by the High Council of Democratus, great leaders who decide how the planet shall run, where it will go, and what size the planet should be reduced to.
The surface of Democratus is different all over. One area, is a cold and mountainous region, similar to that of Norway. Another, is a dry and barren wasteland, where soldiers walk and battle. Another is on the highest peak of rocky mountains, overlooking beautiful sunsets, inside an indigenous tribal village, where strange aliens find magic through leaves. Another area is a toxic wasteland, occupied by radiated beings. The final area is a great forest inhabited by tree-dwelling creatures.
A dry and desolate planet, where clever warriors who simply want to live normal lives, are under constant attack from another universe. Limbus is not a bright planet, nor is it dark, but instead a dry and bland wasteland, where little but small monsters walk the dusty plains. The small village the inhabitants live in is inside, and incredibly safe, but all have weaknesses.
Boots and his party travel here out of desperation for answers. Before finding them however, they must fight with the very thing they were looking for.
Sylvester "Sly Boots" Bucelli
Once a hotshot detective living in North Anachronox, Sly has since fallen upon hard times. Having sold his detective agency and fallen into debt to a mobster named Detta, Sly now works out of a bar storage room in the Bricks, the seediest part of Anachronox. Though he thinks everyone likes him, Sly only has three friends: Rowdy, the bartender who rents him the storeroom; PAL-18, a Personal Android Lackey which he has owned since childhood (but has been inactive for a year due to Boots' inability to afford replacement batteries); and his secretary, Fatima Doohan, who exists as a digital simulation on his PDA-analogue lifecursor, having been uploaded into it following a fatal accident.
Former curator of the MysTech museum, Grumpos joins the journey to save the universe quite early on in the game. His knowledge of MysTech and its uses are unsurpassed. He is a worthy addition to the team due to his special heal abilities and to break people's wills by yammering at them.
A Personal Android Lackey robot Boots received on his 9th birthday, PAL-18 has recently been collecting dust in the corner of Boots' office. Once new batteries have been found, PAL is brought back to life and adds his wacky personality and potent hacking skill to the team. Though really just a toy, Boots has modified him with armor and weapons systems, making him a potent fighter.
Doctor Rho Bowman
The team meets Rho on Sunder, the science-center of the universe, to ask her to analyse some MysTech they have discovered. Having observed the sheer power that a piece of MysTech contains, Rho joins the team on their quest to discover how and why MysTech exists.
The Planet Democratus
Once the team escape from Sunder, they find themselves at the planet Democratus, a world with incredibly advanced technology, but almost no common sense. Although this world's inhabitants have developed a sufficiently advanced technology, the planet has now fallen under the control of an endlessly arguing committee. When the team appears and single-handedly saves this bureaucratic nightmare from an attack by the Verilent Hive, the planet's leaders are sufficiently impressed that they offer to assist the team on their quest (actually, they're trying to hide from the Hive). Thus, the most annoying civilization in the universe shrinks their planet to five feet in diameter and begins following the team around.
Stiletto, also known as Serenata Iniwa, was once Boots' employee, but is now a freelance assassin. After seeing Boots again at the red light district, they can both see that many things have changed since they last met. Stiletto reluctantly joins Boots in his quest to save the universe.
Paco "El Puño" Estrella
A former super hero from Krapton, the planet of super heroes. Paco lost his job, was captured and imprisoned on board a super-villain's ship and turned to alcohol. He has lost all confidence in himself and has given up trying to be a hero.
Boots' former secretary. She died when she was thrown from (and then hit by) Boots' skycar when it crashed during a chase. Fatima has since been digitized into Boots' lifecursor, helping Boots keep track of the numerous stats in the game as well as serving as the game cursor. She frequently seems sad but is very loyal to Boots. Fatima is not a playable character, but helps Boots in battles through his lifecursor.
Despite coming from the same Ion Storm as the ill-received Daikatana and suffering delays for longer, Anachronox was well received by critics, garnering an average review score of 80%, as calculated by Game Rankings. Critics praised its well-written plot and sense of humour, but warned against a slow start to the game.
Since its release, three unofficial patches have been released - two by Joey Liaw (one of the game's programmers) which provide such improvements as taxi-cabs between distant points, greater stability and enhanced save game functionality - and one by fans, which fixes most of the remaining bugs. There are also fan-made translations to several languages available.
Jake Hughes independently combined the game's cut-scenes into a feature-length film, which won three awards at the 2002 Machinima Film Festival. Machinima.com had to say about the film: "Anachronox: The Movie is a tour-de-force, one of the finest Machinima films produced to date, and probably the most accomplished Machinima feature to date. Hell, it managed to hold two over-worked jury members in a room for two and a half hours before the MFF 2002 - what more can we say?". Machinima.com is planning on releasing the film as a high-resolution DVD version, with extra footage and artwork.
Anachronox notably references a film by the Coen brothers, "Miller's Crossing"; The reference is to an address in the film where the climax of the film takes place, the address, 628 Barton Arms, may itself be a reference to another film, "Barton Fink" by the same producers.
- Anachronox at GameFAQs
- 'Anachronox' at MobyGames
- Anachronox: The Movie at Archive.org
- Anachronox trailer at Archive.org