Gaming culture has reached a point in which developers and publishers believe it is acceptable to release a game in a broken state with the promise that it will be inevitably fixed. We wait patiently for updates as if they are new games in and of themselves, and continue to recklessly purchase games that are blatantly unfinished. The Anacrusis seems to get a pass due to it being an Early Access title. Ostensibly this means that the onus is on us. We should expect a broken, buggy, half-baked mess for $24. Apparently, that’s acceptable. Honestly, I’m sick and tired of it. The Anacrusis is a bad game and an even worse Early Access launch.
“The creative ingenuity that went into replicating the garish vision of the future should be commended.”
I feel as if I should begin this review with at least a modicum of positivity. Like most reviewers, and I am to assume players, I very much enjoyed the game’s overall aesthetic. The 60s retro-futuristic appeal is not lost on me. While I’m not terribly enthused by the lifeless characters you play as, the creative ingenuity that went into replicating the garish vision of the future seminal sci-fi authors imagined should be commended.
However, while there is an extremely alluring yet thin layer of superficial beauty smothering The Anacrusis, when you spend more than a second exploring its laboriously lengthy levels you’ll soon realise that it’s all meaningless. There is nothing here. No spectacle, no sense of worldbuilding or meaning, nothing. The world you inhabit for the three chapters that are currently available is bland, banal and frankly boring.
There are no real signs of life in The Anacrusis. No sense that anyone ever lived there nor that before you pressed play, it even ever existed. Levels feel barren with the smattering of decorations you’ll see throughout your playthrough repeated ad nauseum.
It is therefore a shame that the only unique element of The Anacrusis is little more than window dressing. I’m not ashamed to admit that it captivated my interest. However, once I realised there was nothing there, I couldn’t help but lament the utter waste of a phenomenal setting.
“It does little to differentiate itself from other titles in its genre that throughout my playthrough I questioned its existence.”
Outside of its visuals, The Anacrusis proves itself to be little more than a dull, uninspired and vapid experience. You’re thrust into the technicoloured space station with little to no instructions and must advance to the next point shooting aliens as you go. It is as barebones of a Left 4 Dead clone as one could imagine.
It does so little to differentiate itself from other titles in its genre that throughout my entire playthrough I questioned its existence. Outside of its garish setting, The Anacrusis offers no real innovation. You choose between three guns which are ostensibly a shotgun, sub-machine gun and rifle, and then can find three so-called “special” weapons lying around each level. Outside of those six guns and a handful of familiar grenade types, there’s nothing new here to play around with.
The unique aliens you fight offer no real sense of diversity outside of their appearance. You’ll see the tired tropes that seemingly continue to plague this genre to this day including the large “brute” enemy, the one that grabs you and the other that spits deadly goo at you. I felt little to no excitement while dispatching of them as the game treats them as if they were as unspectacular as the faceless grunts.
“The Anacrusis is so frequently buggy and glitchy that it gets to a point wherein you either surrender or persevere out of a misguided sense of hope that it will improve.”
The lack of innovation and lacklustre weapon selection could be excusable if the game felt fun to play. Unfortunately, there are so many factors that ruin the base experience of running and gunning that it oftentimes feels unplayable. The most noticeably bad aspect of The Anacrusis’ gunplay is the lack of feedback. Shooting a grunt in the head feels just as unsatisfying as shooting it in the torso. There’s no spectacle, no sense of damage having being inflicted, no weight.
To add insult to injury the game lags, even on the Xbox Series S. Trying to perform basic tasks become an incoherent and cumbersome feat that even Heracles himself would fatigue of. Whenever you turn, walk into a room or come face to face with a horde of aliens the game will grind to a halt. It doesn’t help that the game cannot be played offline or on your own. Regardless of your preference, you’re forced to play with others until they inevitably drop out and are replaced with bots. It really becomes a waiting game to see if you can suffer through the levels longer than your teammates can.
Lastly are the bugs. The game is so frequently buggy and glitchy that it gets to a point wherein you either surrender or persevere out of a misguided sense of hope that it will improve. One bug saw my reticle be tied to my right stick as opposed to my camera, meaning I couldn’t turn around or effectively aim. Another bug saw me fall through the floor so that only the top half of my body was visible. These frequent bugs make the experience almost entirely unplayable.
“The Anacrusis is missing the core ingredients that make a game in this genre so satisfying, not to mention any real innovations of its own.”
I feel as if games journalists are frequently criticised for critiquing work we simply don’t understand. The sheer amount of work that goes into making a video game function is unimaginable, and the fact that something as spectacular looking as The Anacrusis is even playable is absolutely a commendable and mind-boggling accomplishment. It is clear that a lot of passion, hard work and perseverance was poured into the creation of this game.
However, despite all of that hard work, The Anacrusis is just not fun to play. It is missing the core ingredients that make a game in this genre so satisfying, not to mention any real innovations of its own outside of the setting. I wish I could write positively about this game, and praise its many accomplishments. Unfortunately, in this instance, that is not the case.
Perhaps The Anacrusis will get better. The majority of the issues I’ve mentioned are technical and almost certainly fixable given time. It is possible that the developers will add in new features, guns, items and perks to make it a far more interesting experience. Maybe they’ll even flesh out the worldbuilding and level design a little more.
But frankly, I’m tired of playing games that are half-baked. Early Access titles can be phenomenal. Valheim and Wartales are good examples of games that were released with a strong offering of fun and engaging content while still promising even more in the future. But The Anacrusis takes advantage and makes a mockery of the Early Access title. For the amount they are charging, it is simply not worth it.