Just about everyone who considers themselves a gamer knows what the “tower defense” genre is. Most gamers have probably played a few of them in their time. The developers over at 11 Bit Studios decided to pull a reversal on us with their game Anomaly Warzone Earth. Instead of building various towers to shoot down invading forces, you are the invading force trying to get by enemy towers. Does this switch-up pay off, or should developers just stick to tower construction?
Anomaly is the complete opposite of a tower defense game. Some might even call it a “tower attack.” The point of the game is to get your motorcade of tanks and other vehicles through gauntlets of hostile enemy towers and turrets by any means necessary. Players can choose from a good amount of different vehicles, and can either punch through using brute force, or cleverly maneuver their way around strategic routes avoiding the bulk of the defenses. There are many different ways to play, and later on it can get pretty frantic.
The plot of Anomaly mostly takes a backseat to the combat and overall game play, but it is not bad. An alien ship has crash-landed and it is your job as Commander of Unit 14 to go check it out. Naturally, the aliens don’t want any part of that so they will go out of their way to build just enough towers along the roadways for you to sneak through. Overall it is pretty straightforward, although it does have a couple “the princess is in another castle” moments. If I were those aliens I would have just built all of the towers blocking the roads, but that’s just me.
Top-down games are not usually known for their mind-blowing graphics. However, Anomaly is almost as fun to look at as it is to play. The cities look great in their destroyed state, and they have a surprising amount of color to them that isn’t brown. The alien towers also add a lot to the overall look. They look like they were pulled straight from a sci-fi movie, and there are different ones added throughout the game, so you will always have something new to look at. I also can’t get over how cool the map screen looks. It’s like I’m looking at one of those glass panels in Star Wars that have coordinates projected on them.
While it might fade into the background when things get intense, the sound design in Anomaly has some great things going for it. First and foremost, the sound effects are spot on. The sci-fi clicks, beeps and lasers sound appropriate and a little campy, but in a good way. The tanks, explosions and airplanes sound great as well. The music is also very entertaining to listen to. When there isn’t much going on around you the music is low and eerie, but when things start heating up it picks up the pace and even has a little cultural influence depending on what city you are fighting in. Last, but not least, the voice actors do a commendable job . The story is told entirely through voice acting, and while the picture of the person talking is a still photo, the voices convey emotion very well. Also, it felt like Bear Grylls was talking to me throughout most of the game.
The game play is where Anomaly really shines. The object of each level is to get past enemy towers by any means necessary. The great thing about that is you can either find the best route in each level and strategically make your way through, or go head on and try your best to take everything out along the way. I was afraid the game was going to get stale after four or five levels, but Anomaly always throws new things in to keep you on your toes.
You start each level on a map screen where you can plan your route and customize your motorcade. As the level starts you take control of the commander who walks around on foot and your main job is to aid your vehicles and keep them alive. You do this by using various abilities that are airdropped on the field from time to time. For example, the repair ability casts a small field that will repair the vehicles moving through it, and the smoke ability creates a large smokescreen that confuses enemy towers. You have a limited supply of these, so you will be frantically running around to pick them up from the drop locations in the later levels.
Anomaly makes very good use of checkpoints. After most of the tower clusters you will cross a checkpoint letting you start from there if you are defeated. This is great if you make a stupid little mistake, but it is not foolproof. I had one experience where I bit off more than I could chew, and even when I got to a checkpoint I died so much that I had to resort to restarting the level. Normally I would be disappointed, but allowing me to rework my strategy made me learn from my mistakes and tackle the level in a completely different way. Little things like that make the victory so much sweeter in the end.
In Anomaly you have to pay constant attention to your surroundings. Different levels have different types of towers and you unlock more vehicles as you progress in the game. When you are in heavy combat, Anomaly will completely suck you in to a gaming zone where all you care about is getting your guys out of the level. When you are not in combat you will be switching back and forth between your map and the regular game trying to plan the best route to take for the next wave of towers, and upgrading or buying new vehicles with the money you can find by going out of your way. There are very few games that can get my undivided attention, and I usually avoid tower defense games and games like them, so I commend 11 Bit Studios for really immersing me in this game.
For a budget priced game, Anomaly brings a lot to the table. The campaign offers different types of missions, some of them being escort, time based, and all out assault. They are all very engaging, and get more intense as you progress. After you have finished the campaign, you can go back to try to beat each level as efficiently as possible, or you can try your hand at the survival modes. Survival gives you waves of designated targets that you have to take down within the time limit, so if you like beat the clock style game play then you will get even more out of Anomaly.
I really hope this game gets noticed by the PC gaming community because it is the most fun I have had on my PC in a while. You can tell that 11 Bit Studios put a lot of work into this game because it is really well done in all departments. My only complaint is that it wore me out after a few levels, but I think that is just because I am not a huge strategy gamer. If you like strategy games, and even if you are not a huge fan of them, I urge you to pick up Anomaly. For the amount of content you get, $10 is a very reasonable price for this awesome title.