Developer: 11 bit studios / Publisher: 11 bit studios / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: 800 MSP ($10) / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Language, Fantasy Violence]
Tower defense games are nothing new, with new iterations on the classic formula seemingly coming out every year (see Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die! & it’s newly announced sequel). How often has a game in the genre done something as radical as Anomaly: Warzone Earth? The folks at 11 bit studios said screw placing towers, we’re going to let you play as the creep and destroy the towers! Anomaly: Warzone Earth can be described as reverse tower defense (or even tower attack), but no matter what moniker it’s given the game is downright fun.
Aliens have invaded Earth and erected powerful force fields around major cities across the planet, eliminating communications within said areas. Cities like Baghdad and Tokyo have been reduced to rubble as the alien forces set up shop to take over. Fortunately the alien invasion allows us humans to put aside all grievances and work towards a common goal of getting the extraterrestrials off our planet as violently as possible.
What’s that you say? You wanted an epic narrative to go along with your game? Yeah, sorry, that’s all you’re getting. The story is pretty much summed up in the title of the game: Warzone Earth.
As I said before, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a tower defense game that flips things around and lets you play as the creep (which most TD games have you killing with your units). You take control of the commander of 14th platoon as you take orders from your higher ups and investigate the threat.
Instead of laying down defenses to resist the enemy, you must trudge through the enemies’ defenses and reach your goal (usually a helipad, military base, or some other useful landmark). The aliens have set up a plethora of machines to hinder your progress, such as machine gun turrets, missile launchers, and sentry drones that warn of your presence.
Getting from point A to point B isn’t always a straight line, and much of the strategy comes from planning out your route to avoid the bigger enemies while efficiently making your way to your destination.
As the commander you decide which route to take through the streets and which combat units to use in battle. A variety of tanks and military vehicles are at your disposal, each with different advantages and weaknesses. APCs are your standard units offering light firepower and decent defense, while tanks dole out heavy damage but are a lot weaker.
As you play more you unlock special units like a shield generating vehicle and a Japanese prototype called the Dragon which can fire in two directions at once. The units are a standard affair in terms of variety and I would have liked to see more special units to spice things up.
You don’t have direct control over these units, rather the computer controls them and you just set their route. As the commander you can use items to heal your units, create smokescreens to lower enemy accuracy, deploy decoys to distract your foes, and even call in an air strike to damage the alien towers. You only have a limited number of these special commander abilities, however, so careful use is key to victory.
Acquiring money by defeating enemies or picking it up on your route allows you to add more units to your platoon (six total) or increase a unit’s level, which gives it more firepower and defense. Mission objectives range from simply getting to your goal, to defeating all enemy units, to not allowing any bridges to get destroyed. These new rules attempt to alleviate some of the monotony associated with the game but most all missions boil down to the same objective over and over: set a route, heal/upgrade your units, and watch the action.
I found the gameplay of Anomaly: Warzone Earth to be very novel and engaging. It’s fun to be on the other side of the tower defense line. Using the commander’s items ensures you’re not just tagging along while the tanks do all the work either. There are 14 main story missions to get through, and completing them unlocks extra game modes.
Tactical Trials have you completing levels under certain goals and rules not seen in the main game, while the Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid modes have you trying to last as long as you can with limited resources. These modes are fun to play through but offer little in terms of replay value or extending the life of the game, which is definitely short. There isn’t any multiplayer to speak of either, so once you’ve finished the game you have no reason to play it again.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth’s sound is hit or miss. On the plus side the sound effects are great. Bullets clanging against metal, exploding enemy towers, and pulsating laser beams all sound the part and add to the overall experience. But the subpar voice acting holds up the tone a lot. Voice actors don’t deliver their lines with the emphasis you’d expect from someone protecting the entire human race.
Unfortunately the voice acting is persistently bad throughout the entire game and started to irritate me halfway through (making it worse, what they are saying during gameplay is for the most part completely meaningless). If you can listen through the talking and explosions you might pick up on the soundtrack playing in the background. Much like the voice acting, though, it is forgettable and should be looked past entirely. As far as sound goes, Anomaly: Warzone Earth could have been much better.
Though you only get to visit a few distinct locations, Anomaly: Warzone Earth looks fairly decent graphically. Burning buildings, abandoned streets, and general destruction are everywhere to be seen. I liked the sand effects in the Baghdad levels in particular; there is a bit of a haze over everything that isn’t in other stages. Everything runs smoothly as well, even when the action on screen gets hot and heavy. A helpful outline is given to illuminate your units and the enemy so you don’t get confused during the fray.
I’m not sure if Anomaly: Warzone Earth is the first game to flip the tower defense genre on its head, but for me it’s the first game I’ve experienced that does and on the whole I enjoyed it. What the game lacks in depth it makes up for somewhat in novelty and strategy. Low replayability and a short campaign, however, mean the game won’t hold your attention for as long as I would have liked.