Preview: The Anacrusis
Well, it’s time to reset the clock since I last enjoyed a horror co-op experience. Left 4 Dead and its sequel spawned a genre of co-op shooter titles. They and games like them have you take on the role of a party of characters to get them out of some dire situation. I’ve enjoyed the thrill and tension of these games, especially Left 4 Dead 2, immensely. They’re amazing with friends as their difficulty is such that you’re gonna need some people you can count on to succeed.
There have been some innovations in the genre over the years, such as Dead by Daylight, which is both co-op and PvP where you can also play as the bad guy. But while these are all great co-op horror games, I came here to talk about The Anacrusis, a new game in this genre, now entering Early Access on most platforms (except Switch), by Stray Bombay Company.
The Anacrusis seems to be making an effort to bring the co-op horror game style back to its L4D roots. If you want the TL;DR version, well, give it a shot. It is VERY similar to the games it is inspired by, and if the only reason you’re not playing those games now is because you’ve beaten everything, this game will give you a fair bit more to keep you and your friends busy.
The Anacrusis offers a similar feel and structure. At first it felt like a second rate clone from what content I was able to try. If you look closer though, you’ll notice that while it isn’t trying to be different, it does try to polish and innovate its game systems in subtle but important ways that aim to keep the game fresh for repeat plays
After having played the same episode more than once, I noticed that there were differences from the previous time I played the same level. The hordes of zombie-like aliens that Guion, Nessa, Liu, and Lance must fight their way past to reach their goals will differ each time you play, along with the weapons and items scattered around in different places. While certain key objectives will always present the group with a sustained conflict, the enemy spawns will happen differently and also depend on how well you’re doing, with the goal of achieving a relatively constant difficulty level regardless of the skill level of the players. You’ll also find a range of perks that will enable different strategies depending on which ones your group is offered and chooses.
From a quality standpoint, I certainly like what I’m seeing so far, for the most part. Three of the five planned episodes are currently available, all of which take place on a beautifully rendered spaceport, with a somewhat stylized, yet also somewhat realistic art style. The weaponry, while not terribly elaborate visually, are fun to use and get the job done, though there could be a bit more variety.
The music, typical of this genre, is focused on ambiance; it creates a feeling of unease and tension when there is little action going on, and dynamically ramps up in intensity with each ambush. Everything available so far feels well crafted, with the possible exception of the voice-overs. They seem professionally recorded, but the tone and emotional inflection often seems awkward, like the actors don’t know the context of where the voice lines will be used, which breaks the immersion a little bit.
If you love survival horror, there is a lot of potential in The Anacrusis. If you want the complete experience without waiting, you may want to hold off, but if you are excited for anything new in the genre, by all means, jump in and start playing now. The developers seem to be taking Early Access seriously, with a clear road map for their future content. They’ve also indicated they are embracing modding, so if you’re also an Unreal Engine 4 content creator, the alien menace doesn’t ever have to stop! And while it may not take terribly long to finish the currently available episodes,, they were built with replayability in mind.
Preview copy and featured image provided by Stray Bombay Company. Screenshots taken by author. Featured image courtesy of Stray Bombay Company.