A few weeks ago, I was able to try The Anacrusis. It’s a co-op shooter from Stray Bombay, a studio helmed by Chet Faliszek (formerly of Valve) and Kimberly Voll (formerly of Riot Games). Think of the experience as akin to Left 4 Dead in space.
However, given that The Anacrusis released as part of Steam’s Early Access program, there were a lot of issues to iron out. Additionally, I was mostly playing solo prior to the launch due to timezone differences. Fast forward to the present, and the game’s player population hasn’t quite caught up to its ambitions.
Lost in space
The Anacrusis takes place aboard a space station that’s filled with aliens in ’70s-style clothing. There are four playable characters, though you don’t get to choose which one becomes your avatar (don’t worry, since there’s no mechanical difference between them). While you can play solo with bots, it’s still an online experience. That means a player who is looking for a match could drop in. But, if you had been playing prior to the release, then you’d wait a minute or so before a match even began.
From there, I saw what I could only describe as “samey” corridors, rooms, and locations. Although The Anacrusis currently has three levels with several zones in each, I genuinely couldn’t remember anything that stood out (besides that one area with the disco dance floor). Still, a comparison to other co-op action games such as Left 4 Dead or even Vermintide might be warranted. Those games had open areas, whereas The Anacrusis has but a cramped space station. Coincidentally, this limited setting may have led to the bland and forgettable environments and design.
The aliens of The Anacrusis
Speaking of the environment, we also need to consider the atmosphere: a staple in squad-based shooters or action games where an AI Director is in charge of spawns. Even while playing The Anacrusis all by my lonesome, I didn’t get a sense of dread or foreboding tension as I made my way through levels. Partly, this was because of a bestiary and design that didn’t necessarily catch my eye.
Don’t get me wrong, there are annoying aliens that will pose a challenge. The rampaging Brute (i.e., Tank/Rat Ogre) will bulldoze anyone in its path. Meanwhile, the Gooper spits blobs that can trap characters. There’s also the Flasher, which completely blinds your vision while it’s alive (it’s actually the most original of the bunch).
However, the tense atmosphere isn’t there and audio cues wouldn’t fire at certain times. As mentioned earlier, games like Left 4 Dead and Vermintide have that unrivaled horror atmosphere, where the crying of the Witch or the whispers of a Gutter Runner were enough to make you take heed and slowly inspect your surroundings. That’s something that The Anacrusis currently lacks.
Wielding your weaponry
Speaking of what’s lacking, we could also look at the handful of weapons that you can use in The Anacrusis. You’ve got a single type of pistol with unlimited ammo, as well as three primary weapons: SMG, shotgun, and rifle. Likewise, there are three special armaments (i.e., Arc Rifle, Laser Rifle, and Auto-Turret) with limited ammo or charges.
I couldn’t tell if it was due to the stiff and janky animations, or the sound effects, but these weapons don’t seem to have any impact. Yes, you’re killing mobs, but you don’t feel the “oomph!” or the “blam!” that accompanies massive horde encounters. At the very least, there are a few grenades, like Stasis, Vortex, and Incendiary combined with Goo, that are very fun to use.
Lastly, one combat mechanic that was really interesting involved the Matter Compiler. It’s a device that randomly spawns in levels, allowing you to choose from a set of perks. You can opt to have different kinds or you can focus on boosting a particular facet, such as the Pulse action/AoE push.
Is The Anacrusis worth your while during Early Access?
As I said earlier, most of my time with The Anacrusis came from solo play with bots. Mind you, the AI is extremely janky. Yes, they’d have basic reactions when mobs are visible or when someone needs healing. Sadly, they can sometimes stop moving or they’d run ahead while surrounded by hostiles. Worse, they’d spam Pulses when it isn’t necessary (even on occasions when Pulses won’t work against certain enemies).
All in all, the experience was more frustrating than it needed to be. And, nowadays, with only a dozen or so people left playing on Steam, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that I should try it once more (even with cross-play enabled). Still, given that this is an Early Access title, with continued development to be expected, it might have a lot of improvements down the line.
Assuming you’re really interested in giving The Anacrusis a go, you can check out our guides and features hub.