Developer Ion Storm
Publisher Eidos Interactive
Genre Role-Playing • Sci-Fi •
Platform(s) Windows
Release Date(s) June 27, 2001 (NA)
June 29, 2001 (EU)
June 30, 2001 (AUS)
Anachronox is a third-person role-playing video game created by Tom Hall and Ion Storm. It was released on June 27th, 2001 for Windows.

The game was built using a heavily modified version of the Quake II engine, rewritten primarily to allow a wider color palette, emotive animations and facial expressions, and better lighting, particle, and camera effects.


The game is centered on Sylvester "Sly Boots" Bucelli, a down-and-out private investigator who looks for work in the slums of Anachronox, a once-abandoned planet near the galaxy's jumpgate hub. He travels to other planets, amasses an unlikely group of friends, and unravels a mystery that threatens the fate of the universe. The games story is a mix of cyberpunk, film noir, and unconventional humor styles. It features a theme of working through the troubles of one's past, and ends on a major cliffhanger.


Anachronox is a turn-based role-playing game similar in nature to many JRPGs, such as the Final Fantasy series. The player controls a party of up to three characters as they explore the futuristic city, and eventually, other planets. Players can switch between party members, talk to various NPCs, and obtain items and equipment. Most interactions are controlled with the LifeCursor, which lets the player click on a person or item. Each playable character possesses a unique skill, such as lockpicking, which can be used to solve puzzles. Certain field maps also feature simple two-dimensional minigames, including the original games Ox and Bugaboo. Boots also has access to a camera, which can be used to take screenshots for their own enjoyment or as part of a mission.


Enemy encounters trigger a combat mode, but are openly visible on field maps or lie in wait to ambush the party and thus are not random. Each character has a meter that gradually fills with time. Once full, characters can physically attack enemies, use magic and items, move around, or use a nearby object to attack (if present). Received attacks cause a characters hit points to be reduced, which can be restored through healing items or magic. Use of MysTech and equippable cells require Neutron-Radiated Glodents (NRG), a second energy bar. NRG is replenished through certain items. Use of BattleSkills require Bouge, another bar that automatically fills over time. These specific abilities are acquired over the course of the game. When a character loses all hit points, they faint, and the game ends once all have succumbed. Winning battles earns experience points and raises characters' levels, granting them improved statistics. Unlike many other RPGs, Anachronox displays a character's attributes with qualitative descriptors (such as "Poor" and "Excellent") instead of integers.


The "Mysterium Tech" system allows players to use in-game objects collectively known as MysTech, and create new MysTech by using a configuration screen accessed through Elementor Host items. MysTech cannot be used until a certain point in the game. Eight basic colors of MysTech exist, representing different elements. Players can use MysTech to inflict damage upon enemies, plague them with certain status effects, or heal party members. MysTech slabs and Elementor Hosts can be found as treasure in the game world or bought from shops. To create MysTech, players place colored bugs (found on small hills in several game locations) in empty slots on an Elementor Host. The color of bug placed in the function slot determines the color of MysTech, while other slots modify the power and/or range of the spell. Players can add special bugs known as Cobalt Crawlers to make a spell target all enemies instead of one; a Host filled with eight Crawlers unlocks a secret spell. The effect of bugs can be amplified by feeding them petals from Lifeflowers, which can be found scattered throughout the game world. Special types of Hosts with two or three different functions allow players to pick which MysTech function to use in battle.


The game takes place on Anachronox, a small planet floating inside a huge artificial sphere known as Sender One. Husks of futuristic cities exist on artificial tectonic plates, which constantly shift to connect different parts of the planet. Inhabitants believe that diseased aliens were quarantined there eons ago, resulting in the name Anachronox (resulting from fusing "anachronism" and "noxious", meaning "poison from the past"). Northern Anachronox is clean and upscale, while southern Anachronox is crime-ridden and run-down. Humanity travels to different planets from Sender One, which had been the center of a transportation system for a race of non-humanoids enabling faster-than-light travel. Inbound and outbound traffic stops at Sender Station, an orbiting construct above Sender One with hotels and a red light district. Civilizations conduct business using currency like the one-dollar coin known as a "Loonie", while several people collect MysTech—shards of rock with markings, believed to be dormant weapons or art pieces created by an extinct alien race. MysTech were first found three-hundred years ago, and are poorly understood, though avidly collected. 

Other planets in Sender One include Sunder, Hephaestus, Democratus, and Limbus. The galaxy's scientific community is headquartered on the temperate planet of Sunder, and people are only permitted to go there if they are sufficiently intelligent. Hephaestus is an important religious center. A mostly volcanic planet, Hephaestus hosts a town and temple complex of monks who study MysTech. Democratus is climatically similar to earth, with regions of desert, snow, forest, and prairie. Several populations of different sentient species exist on the surface, but the planet is ruled by a race of tall, thin humanoids with large craniums who dwell on a large mechanical ring constructed around the planet. This race is obsessed with the ideal of democracy, and though they possess incredible scientific and engineering knowledge, they are constantly bogged down by their own ineptitude and the frailties of the democratic process. Limbus is known as the "planet of death", as voyagers never return; its surface is arid and rocky, with sparse vegetation. A planet mentioned but not seen in the game is Krapton, home to superheroes and villains. Most of Krapton's human population has fled, tired of being constantly abducted and saved by warring superpeople.


Sylvester "Sly Boots" Bucelli
A human and former private detective on Anachronox. 29 years old and described as "bold, brash, and overconfident", Boots has gotten himself into trouble and now runs his agency out of rented storage space above a seedy bar.
The spirited, sarcastic robot assistant of Boots since childhood.
Fatima Doohan
Boots' secretary, who was fatally injured and digitized by him onto a PDA-analogue "LifeCursor", where she bitterly lives to render assistance.
Grumpos Matavastros
A "scholar, outdoorsman, eccentric recluse, and renaissance man", and a very grumpy person. A former curator of the MysTech museum on Anachronox, Grumpos devotes his life to studying the artifacts.
Dr. Rho Bowman
A brilliant scientist who's been branded a heretic after publication of her book, MysTech Awake!
An eccentric planet boasting a planetary ring and brilliant technology. Said technology includes having the planet shrink to human height to be part of the team.
Stiletto Anyway
A 25-year-old former companion of Boots known for being stealthy and aloof.
Paco "El Puño" Estrella
A washed up superhero who's turned to alcoholism after his comic book series was cancelled.
A heavyset crime boss/kingpin on Anachronox.


Ion Storm announced Anachronox in April 1997, and planned for a third-quarter 1998 release. Tom Hall, veteran designer and one of the founders of Ion Storm, helmed the project and originated most of its story and design. Hall first conceived Anachronox in his bathroom, prompting him to install a whiteboard and sound-recorder in his shower, as well as several notepads around his house for future ideas; he had conceived the character Sly Boots years earlier in college. The game's design phase lasted three months. Hall made plans for two expansion packs from the outset of development, owing to the huge story. Developers told Next Generation Magazine the story would be "Campbellian" and feature immense environments (Hall noted in mid-1997, "Not since Keen has a universe been so clear in my head").

Tom Hall announced that Ananchronox would feature a "turbulent story with a roller coaster of emotion", and promised it would bring personality and humor to the role-playing genre. He aimed to make an emotionally-gripping, cinematic experience from the beginning. Hall aimed to feature high-quality direction and camera-work, reminiscent of epic cinematic themes in role-playing video games like the Final Fantasy franchise. Hall enlisted producer Jake Hughes to direct cut scenes, who had previously worked on several short independent films. Developers used real-time game cutscenes instead of live-action cinematics to avoid "[taking] players out of the game". Hall remarked, "All these games switch to cutscenes that look five hundred times better than the game. The secret is not to let the cutscenes kick the game's ass."


Tom Hall initially chose the Quake engine for Anachronox; its developer John Carmack took interest in its use for a role-playing game. Ion Storm would soon switch to the id Tech 2 engine, necessitating a transition from December 1997 to March 1998. The team would implement engine support for 32-bit color, particle systems, a spline-based camera scriptor, facial deformations, and lip-synching. By the end of 1997, Hall had scripted interaction with 130 non-player characters for 160 planned locations.

As production continued, Tom Hall dubbed the game's scripting language "APE" ("Anachronox Programming Language"). Hall explained, "I call it my new Apple II because it's so much fun to program in and it takes all the drudgery out of it. It's sort of if you mushed together C, Basic and Java in a way—for programming people it's sort of Windows based. It began as a defined dialogue window, but provided variables so that you could position and move a picture. So from there it grew like UNIX with little bits and pieces, and you have things that initialize data to the window, things that constantly update the window, and things that happen after the window, in little code chunks and with that you can do any little thing." Hall wrote and coded the mini-game Bugaboo for Anachronox in 15 hours to demonstrate the environment's simplicity. Other tools developed for the game were B.E.D. (a battle editor), ION Radiant (for level design, based on QERadiant), NoxDrop (for item and character placement), and Planet (a spline-based camera system coded by Joey Liaw). Ion Storm worked with QuakeEd developer Robert Duffy to create QERadiant, later adapted to ION Radiant. Hall lauded Planet: "you can control entities on paths, trigger events, manipulate particles, and do just about anything you please. One of the more common team beliefs is that the only true limit to Planet is the person controlling it." Hall aimed to provide several end-user modification tools, such as one to allow gamers to create their own MysTech elements. Other programs would allow implementation of new dialogue, voice-acting, and camera work. Ion Storm developed tutorials and documentation for each tool.

Developers tasked both art and map design personnel with creating levels, ensuring visual quality. Hall implemented a "grow as you play" philosophy, choosing to show certain features and statistics (like "Beat" or the use of "MysTech") only after the player enabled their use. Developers sought to make the game accessible to expert and casual players through two statistic displays—numerical or qualitative. Hall also sought to ensure players knew their next goal, and invented the character of Fatima Doohan to keep track of missions. Fatima's name is a pun born from the phrase, "What am I doing?" Hall named her after the experience of loading an old saved game in an RPG and having forgotten what comes next in the current quest or storyline.

Ion Storm contracted Soundelux Design Music Group to provide music for Anachronox. The firm hired Bill Brown for additional music. Tom Hall was impressed with Brown's work, particularly music for the planet Democratus. Hall worked with musician Ron Jones and a local Dallas band to record the game's two funk numbers by mid-1998. Tom Hall planned for each character to have their own theme music, and for songs to change via interaction or exploration. He spoke of the planned music, "The Anachronox sound will be industrial, mixed with forties bluesy swing. As you get on later in the game, the music gets scarier, more chaotic, and gets down to hard-core metal." Developers integrated DirectMusic support in 1999 to allow dynamic changing of background music. Sound programmer Henrik Jonsson implemented 3D sound and other capabilities using the Miles Sound System. Developers also planned to use software called Magpie Pro to lip-sync animated mouths to spoken words. The Undermain Theatre group of Dallas provided several voices. Tom Hall voiced PAL-18 reportedly because "no one else got it goofy enough".


Ion Storm debuted a trailer for the game at E3 1997. Hall continued writing and designing; he invented the Brebulan language by creating several phonemes and glyphs of the letter 8 turned on its side. Ben Herrera completed several sketches of characters and worlds by August 1997, and the team hoped to achieve full engine functionality by September 2nd, Hall's birthday. Unfortunately, the game would suffer serious delays in its production.

Ion Storm solicited feedback from fans after demonstrating progress on Anachronox at E3 1998, and assured inclusion of a multiplayer mode. Panelists nominated it in the "Most Promising Game" and "Best RPG" categories for the Game Critics Awards. Ion Storm planned for a 1999 release, and unveiled new screenshots at the 1998 European Computer Trade Show. Lead programmer Joey Liaw left Ion Storm to attend Stanford University in mid-1998. That November, several developers at Ion Storm departed to form their own company; among them was David Namaksy, lead level designer.

Ion Storm decided to produce a sequel for Anachronox around early 1999, feeling there would otherwise be too much content for one game, requiring prohibitive costs and delays. Team member Brian Eiserloh noted that several art assets had already been created for the sequel. By May 1999, the team had settled on a cast of 450 non-player characters, and planned for a late 1999 or early 2000 release date. Ion Storm launched the Anachronox website in early 1999 with a movie-style trailer. Tom Hall reported in 1999 that an option was being developed to remove adult themes, later manifested as an option to turn off profanity. Ion Storm demonstrated the game at E3 1999; the team drove an RV to the event, which suffered a blowout and electrical failure. Computer Games Magazine afterward commented that Anachronox had "wider roots than a Banyan grove and more promise per square byte than a CD collection of political speeches".

Art director Lee Perry noted in March 2000 that perfecting the battle system was the biggest remaining hurdle for release. Ion Storm promoted a fall 2000 release date in May, and IGN reported in July that a Dreamcast port was planned for production after the PC version's release. Ion Storm issued a clarification that they were only considering a Dreamcast port. The firm transferred staff who had worked on Daikatana to Anachronox after the former's release in summer 2000. The team finished the game's control setup in August of that year.

The team began working six-day weeks by late 2000. By 2001, the team was working 12-16 hour days and 6-7 day weeks. Hall described weekly bug meetings before release: "you see 100 bugs at the start of the week, fix the 80 you can replicate, and then meet the next Monday to address the 200 bugs they found, fix the 160 you can replicate, then meet to discuss the 400 they found...the time in-between is scary. Usually, the programmers find the bug, then stumble out of their cube, 'we were SO lucky to find that' or 'how did that EVER work?' It's like some bizarre divination method that no one is quite sure how it finds things, but no one wants to 'disturb the mojo'". Several Internet rumors that Ion Storm would soon close spread in May 2001. By June 2001, all dialogue had been recorded and Ion Storm was working on balancing, playtesting, and adjusting gameplay; release was set for the next month. Anachronox went gold and shipped to manufacturers in late June.


Anachronox was released on June 27, 2001, in North America, June 29 in Europe, and June 30 in Oceania. PC Gamer packaged a game demo with its 100th issue. The Canberra Times staged a giveaway of three game copies to coincide with its release in Oceania. The game was re-released in Oceania as a budget title in 2004.

Team member Lucas Davis compiled the development tools and documentation for Anachronox and released them in August 2001. Four bug-fixing patches exist. Ion Storm created the first (1.01), which fixed the Windows 2000 buffer overrun crash and implemented other improvements such as taxi-cabs between distant points and enhanced save game functionality. Ion Storm released the first patch (1.01) on July 2, 2001. Joey Liaw set up a GeoCities website for reporting bugs and technical information after the game's release, and worked on a new patch in his spare time. The second patch (1.02, or build 44) was released in May 2003 and overhauls the save-game system and provides other important stability fixes.The third and fourth patches—1.02 (build 45), released September 2003, and 1.02 (build 46), released April 2004—are fan-made unofficial patches and fix most of the remaining bugs. Fans have translated the game into German and released a conversion patch. Level designer Rich Carlson released a scrapped secret level in February 2004 after finding it on an old floppy disk.

System RequirementsEdit

  • OS - Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • Processor - 1.8 GHz Processor
  • Memory - 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics - 3D graphics card compatible with DirectX 7 (compatible with DirectX 9 recommended)
  • DirectX - Version 7.0
  • Hard Drive - 2 GB available space