Anarchy Reigns Review
Anarchy Reigns had some trouble getting out of Japan. The game was delayed and had its release date shifted back and forth several times by publisher Sega, despite it being completed and ready to go over six months before its actual release. Sega seemed to not really know what to do with the game and after having finished playing it, I can understand why. The game itself doesn’t seem to know what it is. Concepts of the game are cobbled together in odd ways in a desperate attempt to make sense of what it’s trying to be, none of which congeal into a cohesive whole. Often while playing this game, I had a puzzled look on my face as noticed another instance of the game getting in its own way.
It’s a shame because the main idea at the game’s foundation is good. Anarchy Reigns is an action title with a heavy emphasis on over-the-top Japanese animation-style set pieces and intensive hand-to-hand brawler combat. You have normal and hard attacks, the second of which can be charged, that can be combined for combos as well as a “killer weapon” at your disposal that you can use as you build up its meter. Although the combo system is fairly simplistic and primitive, there are enough moves to give you an attack for numerous situations. That’s not to forget that the manner in which you dispatch of your foes is always brutal and will keep your attention for longer as a result. You always feel powerful smashing your way through armies of enemies, big and small.
Controls are responsive and those who are familiar with this genre will have no trouble diving in. Others might stumble at first but with a tutorial and the control layout displayed nearly every time the game loads – which is often but fairly brief – even neophytes will comprehend the basics soon. However, this brings up the first of strange design choices in the game. Dodging, which is especially useful in multiplayer, is done is by holding block and pressing the jump button and a direction on the analog stick. Not a terrible way of executing the move but it’s not the easiest. This is further highlighted by the fact that there are two buttons for blocking when one of said buttons could have easily been used for dodging. A nitpick maybe but I found myself wishing that dodge was a separate button the entire game.
Nevertheless, the dodging is the least of your troubles. Anarchy Reigns’ issues stem from three major problems: one mechanical, one structural, and one communal. The mechanical one is the camera. The camera hates you. It would love nothing more than to see you dead by its own interference. However, it also is obsessed with you and follows you far too closely. In many ways, the camera seems to be bipolar. When it’s normal, it performs just fine but is too close to your character, making it hard to see what’s behind or to the left of you. At other times, it’ll freak out and start looking at the sky or the ground or get caught behind some enemy that’s kicking your ass because you can’t see yourself in front of it. You’ll never know when the camera will decided to act up and is a constant threat as a result.
The next problem is the structural flow of the single player campaign. In this, you’ll play as either Jack Cayman – returning from developer Platinum Games’ MadWorld – or Leonhardt “Leo” Victorion. Both are searching for a fugitive ex-member of the game’s police force and do so by completing missions in open world levels. Along the way, you’ll run into various characters, some of which you will be able to play as on certain missions as well as unlock for multiplayer use. The story is clearly an afterthought, with shallow characters and melodramatic nonsense but that can be overlooked.
The way the game works is you need a certain amount of score points, of which you earn by defeating random enemies in the world and completing missions, in order to unlock the next mission and progress further. This makes the game sound like an open world action title but the missions, of which there’s only three main and three optional in each level, are all you can do. Unless you do well in the missions and earn a high ranking, you will wind up beating up random enemies until you have enough points. Unfortunately, your move list isn’t so diverse that you won’t get tired of the same combos after long so this will devolve into tiresome grinding. What’s worse is at times, enemies will stop spawning and you will have to go looking for them. You can only run on foot and hit various vents to transport you to different parts of the map in order to get around so you’ll often find yourself with nothing to do.
To be fair, you can complete and repeat the “optional” missions you’ve unlocked for more points. However, unless you want to grind to earn 10,000 points with deaths netting you maybe 500 points, you essentially are required to do these optional missions. These tend to be pretty hit and miss with some being fairly enjoyable, such as teaming up with other characters to defeat waves of enemies, and others being mind-numbingly dull, such as taking briefcases to different waypoints while avoiding enemies. That last one I mentioned, I seriously finished it by just walking passed everyone. The main missions fair better as they tend to be boss fights but are also easier than a lot of the free missions, save the final boss. Still, at only five to six hours that includes playing as both Jack and Leo on only four open world levels, the campaign is a shallow affair that’s mildly entertaining at best and downright boring at worst.
The third problem is really just a result of the game seemingly not catching on since its release two months ago. The multiplayer mode allows you to pick from any of the characters you unlock from the single player campaign (or the pre-order bonus character Bayonetta) and play with and/or against others online in a variety of different modes. Unfortunately, no one is really playing this game online as I was only able to test out two of these modes and I waited a good hour before I was able to connect to enough people to play a match.
It’s too bad as the multiplayer is more fun than the campaign. The camera is still a problem especially with more people on screen, your attacks will go through your opponents if they’re in the middle of an animation, and people will steal your kills with no abandon but the experience was more enjoyable due to the variety of characters you have to play as and fight against at once, as well as each character’s different move list. I tried Deathmatch, which was a basic four player battle-royale, as well as an enemy wave Horde-like mode called Survival and both were quite enjoyable, with no connection lag or any other technical issues. There are other modes as well as some kind of leveling system but I wasn’t able to test these out.
With all the problems with the gameplay, you’d think the game would at least look and sound good. Wrong! While some might like the chunky character models, textures are muddy, environments are bland and monotonous, and the level designs are small and uninspired, with most of them having the same color palette. Also, the music is terrible. Except for the main menu music, the soundtrack consists of songs that sound like they were performed by a Linkin Park cover house band. It’s annoying and you will mute your TV and turn on the subtitles since the voice acting is cheesy as hell.
Anarchy Reigns is a confused game. The combat is fun but the open ended hub worlds with little to do detract from that. The variety of characters to play as is great but can only be utilized online, which currently has no community. I wish this game had up to four player local multiplayer as I could see having a lot of fun beating up your friends in one screen. I can see some gamers enjoying the campy feel of this game and could recommend you renting the game first to see if you’re one of those gamers but as is, it is its own worst enemy, its own inner anarchy reigning to its detriment.
2.5 out of 5