Since the success of Left 4 Dead, various studios have been making their own “zombie shooter”. This newest endeavor takes your 4-player co-op experience to space. When starting my The Anacrusis early access preview, it’s clear this is a 70’s sci-fi themed game that encompasses not only teamwork but the spirit of its predecessor.
Equipped with rechargeable weapons and a shield push effect, you take on swarms of aliens. Based on the Unreal Engine 4, Stray Bombay, with limited funding, have made a great and core game that is extremely fun. Check out our first impressions below in our The Anacrusis early access preview!
Developer: Stray Bombay
Publisher: Stray Bombay
Platform: Windows PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
Release Date: January 13, 2022 (Early Access)
Stranded on a starship at the edge of explored space, you team up with 3 of your other friends (or bots) to fend off aliens. Some portions of the ship have been destroyed and inhabited by various aliens, so it’s your job to take back control of it. There are various locations of the ship that require access from humans and access codes.
There is a developing story for this game which will update over time. Currently, there are three episodes which have multiple chapters involved. Functioning close to Left 4 Dead, you can choose any of these and join friends even mid game to assist in almost a drop-in drop-out style.
During gameplay through my The Anacrusis early access preview, I had other people join me randomly as we finished each episode. Player characters will dump exposition throughout the run of the level about objectives and lore. There’s always time to learn a little bit more and hopefully more gets added.
Simple and easy to digest, the gameplay is very similar to Left 4 Dead, so close you can call it a clone if you want. It’s the closest frame of reference I have to say this with confidence when doing my The Anacrusis early access preview. It functions where you get a gun from the standard few and an infinite ammo pistol.
Your melee is replaced with a shield that can push enemies off of you from all directions. It can be hard to not hit it by accident on PC (Shift key) but eventually it comes as second nature. During your runs, you can find perks specific to you and then match them with others.
In the footsteps of the past, you can get pickup weapons, grenades, and health kits to heal yourself or others. The gameplay loop is fun, it’s repetitive but very fun. It’s not grindy and everyone is on equal footing so the same person can play with everyone without advantages or disadvantages.
Segments of the ship are sculpted like a huge town that served as a new home for the residents. Some places are a bit too clean and destroyed at the same time, but are detailed fairly well. Smooth curves and a science fiction aesthetic to immerse you really makes this a standout game.
There are many corridors, pathways, nooks, and crannies to explore in The Anacrusis. You may stumble upon heavy weapons that can’t recharged or more health scanners. Most areas are “artificially” large because of the different loops leading to the same outcome.
Lighting is tame until aliens like the Flasher show up and the screen blindly turns bright yellow. Texturing is also fairly good on not just environments but enemies and other characters. Veins on infected people, details on various aliens, and other grenade effects are not extremely high quality but passable.
HUD elements in The Anacrusis aren’t distracting and give the most necessary information. When it comes to your teammates, they are outlined in green for visibility; additionally, you can see their health and health items. In the top right, there is a kill feed but it also shows when specific aliens are killed.
In most cases, you can see visible cues of objectives like escape pod terminals. A ping system exists to point out objectives, weapons, etc. for your teammates. The biggest downside to the UI is that there are no waypoints to let you immediately know where to go or what to do.
While these things aren’t a reason to not play The Anacrusis, it is a bit disappointing but it does stick close to the original formula. These elements for HUD and UI can be improved over time via a patch and toggle for accessibility if I had to guess. Outside of those minute details, this game is very minimalistic and it works great.
There’s not much to say in regards to sounds in The Anacrusis, but I’ll give you the lowdown. Funky, groovy music plays when you complete episodes and adds to the aesthetic. In contrast, most music in the levels you play in and the main menu are dark, menacing tones.
Engagements are definitely intense and the music mixes in nice with combat. Think more electronic sounding music which can sour the theme it’s going for a bit but understandably so. Sounds like recharging and shooting weapons have a very old-school thought put behind them.
The aliens have distinct sounds between the variants and can conflict a bit with audio cues from teammates. In large waves of aliens, it’s hard to find downed teammates, especially their calls for help. The audio mixing can use a bit of tweaking – although it’s not terrible, it definitely needs some love.
While The Anacrusis is in early access, it’s still very much worth the pickup to play with friends. On Steam, you can use the Steam Workshop to mod the game as well. To what effect you can mod the game is unknown currently though – but more things are coming to the game via new content seasons and updates.
With all of the things that have changed since the first trailer, there is plenty for the team to work on and more fun to be had. It may not catch the glancing eye of those wanting something closer to Left 4 Dead, but I would argue The Anacrusis is pretty damn close. If you’re interested in playing, it is available via Game Pass if you want to try it without buying.
The Anacrusis was previewed using a copy provided by Stray Bombay. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The Anacrusis is now available for Windows PC (via Epic Games Store and Steam), Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.