If you read the title you might think it sounds harsh. Ruined means the game experience is completely made irrelevant by the issue at hand. Unfortunately I am only mildly exaggerating. Anarchy Reigns is a beat em up by famed action developer PlatinumGames. It was released almost a year ago in Japan and for a while it was unsure whether it would even appear here in the west. It did eventually with a budget price tag. Platinum has yet to let me down and I was there as soon as possible to try their latest outing. It is with immense disappointment that I write this review.
First things first. Anarchy Reigns star MadWorld protagonist Jack Cayman but quickly it becomes apparent that this is a very different game than MadWorld. It might have a few similarities but the focus of Anarchy Reigns is multiplayer, versus multiplayer to be exact. This is a genre I find has not yet been mastered, it is very hard to make groups of people fight it out with melee attacks while trying to keep it technical and cool looking as a normal hack and slash. Generally PlatinumGames have done a really good job, in terms of gameplay. In Anarchy Reigns you fight from an over-the-shoulder perspective. Linking together light and heavy attacks to juggle and utterly demolish your opponent. Every character also has a bar sectioned into four that charges up as you deal and receive damage. With this you can unleash your killer weapon for massive damage. It works well and playing it feels good and has enough depth to keep players in.
The game has seventeen different characters, most of them new but a few returning from MadWorld aside from Jack and even Bayonetta makes a guest appearance All the characters in Anarchy Reigns are awesome. I think some of the character design is the best I have seen in a video game. There certainly are a few misses, like the piglike Oinike that admittedly has a cool killer weapon just feels kinda flat. Aside from these one or two misses almost the entire cast has their own personality and look which works extremely well. From the sexy purple cyborg Mathilda to the Russian lightning fist wielding Nikolai it all is truly good design. Except for the characters the game does look kind of bland though. The environments could certainly use some work and is not very memorable at all. Since it is a budget priced game however I am willing to overlook that.
Like previously stated the game is first and foremost a multiplayer affair. Though there is a singleplayer and to be fair I was actually surprised to how much fun it was. Singleplayer in Anarchy Reigns makes you chose one of two paths to start with. Which essentially is a choice between two characters. After that you are thrown into a map and you are free to do whatever. Enemies will spawn in and can be beaten up at will. Everything you do in, as long as it involves death, grants you points. These points then accumulate and eventually unlock more missions to progress the game forward. There are two types of missions, free missions which are optional and main missions that have stories and cutscenes and move the game forward. Each map consist of tree main and tree free missions and then you move on to the next. It certainly isn't the longest game but will take you around five hours to beat. Then there is more diffculties and another side to see the campaign from. As I mentioned in the first sentence this mode surprised me. While it essentially is to warm you up before you tackle the multiplayer it actually has a story and cutscenes. Some of the cutscenes are incredible, offering over the top action or even emotion at times. Its not the best and you can see where they cut corners but for a game squarely marketed as multiplayer action I think the campaign is work a look.
Though I wouldn't say the game is worth it for the singleplayer alone. The multiplayer would be the center of it, if it worked. I say that cause as of writing this review the online component of Anarchy Reigns is close to being broken. It feels like a online game circa Playstation 2. First of all most games are generally pretty laggy. This is mostly because there is no filter to play with only people in your region. If you are American you will have to play with European people like it or not. There is no option to limit your match to only people from your region, you cannot even vote kick someone with low ping. This gets even worse when someone that has a bad connection becomes impossible to hit. This is not a joke. If you play against someone with bad connection you might as well check the stats, see his name and avoid him for the duration of the match cause hitting him will do nothing. Its unbelievable and can be absolutely infuriating Most games you play will lag badly and that isn't even all. The matchmaking is generally pretty poor. It has no filter for rank, so often starting out you will face people that are the highest rank and that will completely obliterate you. It is one of the hardest games to get into as a new player. Not only because of the skill required to play it but for unlockable perks that are very powerful that give higher level people a clear advantage. The game also doesn't let you mute people, so if someone is yelling on the mic? Better turn down the volume of your TV. It also lacks the option of joining games in progress or even changing team in the lobbies. If you are waiting for a game to begin you have no option to change team or place, so you have to hope your friend gets into the same team or you will be playing against him. I cannot stress enough how broken the online part of the game is. It completely drains the fun out of the game. Occasionally you will get a lag free match and even then there are problems. Most games I played were a complete domination by one side. Either by bad matchmaking or just one team getting momentum to take out the other team one by one. That is the thing here, Anarchy Reigns does not feel like a game that was meant to be balanced. It feels more like a fun party game than a serious competitive brawler. For one there are items in the game, some are items you can equip like rocketlaunchers or sniper rifles. The other kind are flagpoles or tires you can throw on people to stun them for time. These are generally extremely powerful, so many games revolve around trying to get the most items rather than who is the most skilled.
All previously mentioned issues could be mended by a patch down the line. Though seeing how SEGA just farted the game out in the west cause of the demand makes it extremely unlikely. It makes me incredibly sad that a game with so much potential has been ruined by technical issues on the online part. I did enjoy my time with the game though, even if it was occasionally interrupted by extreme frustration. The soundtrack is absolutely incredible and easily the best thing about the entire game. I bought it and have it in the background while playing other action games, no music will ever get you as hyped as the music in Anarchy Reigns. The decent campaign, the gameplay that at its core is solid, the incredible soundtrack and the awesome design of the characters do redeem the game a little. It is however not enough, if you find it really cheap and consider it I still think its worth a try. I will still forever mourn what could have been.