Silver Style's Soldiers of Anarchy is half like Sirtech's Jagged
Alliance and half based on the stuff that made Interplay's Fallout
franchise a legend amongst PC gaming. Anarchy begins its story in the
not too distant future - actually, only a few years from now when the
'weapons of mass destruction' that we hear about so often today actually
are let loose, go haywire and decimate much of the human population. A
hardy bunch of military personnel track the news right down to the last
television and radio broadcast. Fearing the worse, they consciously
give up visiting rights to their families and close themselves off with
the outside world for a decade. You'll command their initial steps to
re-establish contact with society and try to learn what really happened
after the heydays of human civilization.
Anarchy's title seems to suggest that what's left out there consists of
nothing but a ragtag mob of anarchists. No, no, that isn't the truth.
I remember in university, one of my student colleagues was an ardent
anarchist. He was the card carrying NRA member who had most gun specs
memorized. Of course, I took the opportunity to ask once if anarchy is
about promoting the absence of order, why then is the campus anarchist
group an organized movement. It's of my opinion that whenever people
are involved, there will undoubtedly be order. The first live human you
meet in Anarchy immediately says he holds a 'seeker' rank, that is, he
is a merchant trader in antiquities: tanks, weapons, vehicles, etc. So
already, you know someone has forged a new order in the aftermath of
In roughly a dozen missions, Anarchy will let you choose what you want
to do with the outside world, ultimately culminating in a couple of
different and unique endings. Anarchy is a complex game. It starts off
like a real-time strategy game, focusing on small team tactics but its
engine is able to render such enormous landmasses that each stage of the
game could really equal three, four, even five missions in a similar
title. That's because a good dose of narrative is involved. You'll be
cruising through villages, interacting with people and making conscious
choices that change the objective you have to achieve on each map.
Except for the multiplayer outings, no mission you're sent on is
equivalent to blasting everyone off the third rock from the sun.
Unlike the more mainstream real-time strategy titles, every unit in this
game counts. There are no barracks to suddenly generate a few machine
gun toting soldiers. In some cases, your soldiers won't be armed with
anything, which makes salvaging materiel from dead bodies and crates
strewn about a top priority. Vehicles, likewise, are a necessity but a
luxury in the post-apocalyptic setting. The attention to detail is
strengthened by the fact that most of your starting characters are key
elements to the story. Obviously, if they die, you'll have no story to
Much of the combat is not unlike what was pioneered in Fallout Tactics
or the venerable Jagged Alliance. You'll have an assortment of modern
weapons to work with and depending on your armament you'll have to craft
some tactics to overcome overwhelming numbers. It doesn't help that
many of your soldiers can only take a few bullet hits. With a grenade
or explosion, you'll kiss half your squad goodbye.
Because your units are so sensitive to damage, you'll have to
meticulously setup each conflict to maximize your firepower and use the
element of surprise to make sure more shooting goes towards the enemy's
direction than yours. That includes using the terrain as cover, using
decoys to draw fire and using explosives to scatter the enemy. Perfect
execution will lead to no losses and bountiful amounts of ammunition for
salvage. However, it's the perfect part that is hard to get down,
unless you're a cyborg directly tethered to game. The very nature of
real-time implies that you won't be able to perfectly micromanage
everything, especially if some part of your plan goes awry.
Like Jagged Alliance, there's plentiful selection in terms of military
hardware, although for all intents and purposes, a machine gun is a
machine gun. Realism is a mixed bag in Anarchy though. Despite its
attention to including all forms of guns, curiously, you can't control
firing rates or ammunition types. By default, everyone just keeps
firing on automatic and there's no option to use fancy things like
incendiary or armor piercing bullets. On the other hand, there are some
nice touches of realism. Soldiers have to open doors to enter/exit
vehicles. So if you want to drive by an enemy outpost just to get out
and start blazing. Think again. Also, soldiers don't reload their
weapons when running at full tilt.
In many parts of the game, you'll be offered vehicles to help you get
around some of the large landmasses. This adds another level of
management that proves to be more frustrating than handling soldiers
alone. Like soldiers, vehicles can be outfitted with weapons and you
can mix and match the combinations too. While the soldiers perform
relatively well in micromanaged situations, the vehicles are tough to
control. There's a steep learning curve and even if you are on top of
the game, they tend not to do what you want it to do. Since RPGs and
rocket launchers are a dime a dozen in this game, it's frustrating to
see your entire squad blown up because of driving incompetence.
One irritating part of the game is the inability for your vehicles to
move when you tell them to. They take time to start the ignition or
accelerate. That's understandable for a big lumbering APC but it's true
too for a small jeep. Furthermore, they have trouble making it around
obstacles. The developers have kindly put in a red marker to indicate
that it'll probably never get there on its own. But that doesn't solve
everything because I'll have to manually direct the car there (via four,
five waypoints) anyway. Obviously, operating vehicles can put a crimp
on one's style, especially when you're launching simultaneous attacks.
Instead, you might end up driving around, stop and go style, like a
teenager learning to drive stick.
The micromanaging isn't helped by the camera. There's a follow mode and
also a free camera setting. My guess is most people will be using the
latter, which means most of the time you'll have to control the camera
yourself. A mouse with a third button and wheel helps make it
manageable but still, I never found myself in an optimal position to see
the action. Because there's a 360 degree freedom here, I often wanted
some flashing indicator on the peripheral to indicate where incoming
units might be coming from. There's significant leeway in zooming in
and out of the game but the developers perhaps have added too much
leeway. Some of the far out zoom levels are hardly usable due to the
fact that soldiers and objects are so miniscule in comparison to the
That's a pity, though, because Anarchy has some impressive visuals.
Many titles, like Fallout Tactics and Jagged Alliance, have had to use
hand-drawn 2D sprites to achieve a decent level of detail. Anarchy does
it all in 3D. Even on an object level, where most 3D real-time
developers tend to skimp, the attention by the artists is noticeable.
It's too bad you won't be looking at it all that much during the action.
The sound is also appreciable, with good surround-like effects for
ambient weather and on the whole, the effects are respectable, save for
a few of the guns.
This engine is also capable of deformable terrain, which has so far been
more of a gimmick. I recall one of the first places where it was shown
was in Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun. Bridges could be destroyed
but since they couldn't be rebuilt, it was a one-time tactic. In
Anarchy, there's opportunity to use it in a utilitarian way. Explosives
can bring down buildings and create collateral damage. Intentionally
made craters can provide that needed cover in between no-man's lands.
The technical side of Anarchy is very capable indeed. Since the
preview, the developers have polished the editor so it'll be easy for
you to create your own scripted scenarios. It's actually pretty
intuitive and exists inside the game engine too. But I imagine it'll
take some time to craft some of the intricate single player missions
found in Anarchy's campaign. Multiplayer, unfortunately, is relegated
to a competitive affair. You can't get through the single player
campaign with a buddy, nor are there any imaginative modes, like the
RPG-style play found in Warcraft III.
All of this comes at a cost. For a game that rests so much on tactics
and executing them perfectly, the loading times are pretty steep.
Anarchy lets you save anywhere but on a lower end machine, you can
expect load times of a minute or more if you made the wrong move or
mistakenly set someone's posture on aggressive.
Anarchy's narrative starts off very slow. The punch or arc of the story
happens late in the game. Even after a few hours, there's a sense of
disconnection with the people on your squad. They aren't as eccentric
as the mercenary group in Jagged Alliance. Nor are they as fleshed as
the ones in Fallout. Nevertheless, it has an interesting premise to
work on but after dozens of firefights, I felt it was missing something
warm and comfortable to make it amiable. And then I thought of what
made Fallout work. It was the Louis Armstrong music. It was Pip Boy
and the Walter Trier-style cartoons. That juxtaposition, between the
hopelessly optimistic and the bleak apocalyptic, was what made Fallout
so charming. Anarchy, lacking that amiability, coupled with the slow
pacing, will find it tough to hold a wide audience. However, there's no
denying it exhibits some signs of an uber-hit