Developer: 11 bit studios / Publisher: 11 bit studios / Played On: PC / Price: $14.99 / ESRB: Teen [Mild Violence, Language]
It was only two years ago that we were first shown just how fun a reverse tower-defense game could be with the release of Anomaly: Warzone Earth. Building mobile units to travel through a battlefield destroying powerful alien structures instead of defending stationary towers was a novel idea that gave the tower-defense genre a new layer of gameplay. With the release of Anomaly 2, 11 bit studios expands upon the “tower-offense” idea of the first game by adding a new transformation ability to the mix as well as a brand new storyline and deployable units to experience.
Much like the first game the story mode has you play as the humans attempting to reclaim Earth from an alien invasion that has already decimated the once blue planet. Rather than set up towers and defensive units to stop the aliens from taking over, you deploy convoys of military grade machines to eradicate the alien scum. If you played the first game in the series you’ll feel a great sense of familiarity because the core premise is unchanged. The difference here is unit types and how they function.
Every unit you build has a specific purpose in a fight; for example, the Assault Hound best fits close range combat due to its short attack range but heavy firepower. In the first Anomaly game if you had one of these units caught in a place it shouldn’t be (like an open stretch of field with enemies that have a greater range) it’d be destroyed in the blink of an eye, but in Anomaly 2 you have the option to transform the unit. In the case of the Assault Hound it can become the Fire Hound, which has a greater defense and a wider range of attack. This feature is a fantastic addition that doesn’t radically change the gameplay from the original formula but adds an extra layer of depth and strategy to each attack.
Rather than play as one of the gun-wielding mechs, you control First Lieutenant Simon Lynx who plays identically to the Commander from the first game. The game pauses when you’re in a menu, when you’re laying out the path for your units to travel or purchasing/upgrading units, but during the action you’re running around the battlefield on foot.
While scrambling around the warzone you can drop power-ups that aids your units: the healing tool will restore lost HP to your mechs, the decoy will distract enemy units from firing on your units, and even set coordinates for air strikes. Getting to play tactician and fighter lets you experience the best of both worlds and keeps the game exciting at all times. Each mission has a different objective to complete, such as rescuing stranded soldiers, destroying massive enemy weaponry, or “simply” staying alive. In short, there are plenty of tasks to keep you busy.
The single player game has just over a dozen missions and is over rather quickly. You can complete the game in a few short hours. Stretching out the single player portion are medals that are awarded for your ruthlessness in defeating the enemy, time completion, and an overall score. I didn’t find any reason to go back to replay these stages but completionists can expect to tack on an extra hour or two if they choose. Four difficulty levels assure every player, regardless of skill, has a chance of playing through the game.
Though the fresh storyline and new machines to tinker with are nice, the best addition to Anomaly 2 is multiplayer. Pegged as “Tower Offense vs. Tower Defense” online multiplayer is where the game hits its stride. Playing as the humans is similar to controlling them in the main campaign but with a few exceptions: you need to gather resources to start up your resistance and depending on the map you have to route and re-route your travel path to eliminate the enemy. The humans are all right, but for a much better experience you have to play the aliens.
As the aliens you’re essentially playing a standard tower defense game, albeit against a human opponent, but the strategy the alien side implores is vastly different from the humans. For example, the aliens can build Harvesters, huge structures that suck out resources from the Earth, to improve or build towers and gain points. These buildings are key to victory, so you need to build guard towers around them for defense. But deciding which towers will be best suited for the job is tricky business: what if the humans have a ranged attacker? Then you need a ranged attack tower to compete. What if the humans come at you from a disadvantageous direction? You’re screwed almost instantly.
I haven’t played a multiplayer game like this before, so every game was a learning experience. Even in defeat I was taking notes on how to improve the next game, or telling myself to remember that specific setup that let my opponent blow through my defenses like they were made out of cardboard. If you’re a fan of the tower defense genre, you owe it to yourself to at least play Anomaly 2’s multiplayer.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t without its faults. The storyline is a run-of-the-mill aliens-on-Earth scenario and will only be remembered for its surprisingly good voice acting. Since the game’s replay value relies so heavily on multiplayer, gamers looking for an in-depth solo outing will be disappointed. I didn’t experience any connection issues while playing online sans some latency, but finding an opponent within your skill range can be a challenge.
On more than a few occasions I lost sight of my character (and cursor) when the fighting got heavy and had to pause the game to see where I was. The same thing goes for multiplayer sessions, where your units and the enemy’s units have the same colored health bars for some reason, so you’re not quite sure if you’re winning or losing (until it’s too late). Anomaly 2 isn’t a perfect game but these missteps shouldn’t hinder you from trying it either.
If there was ever any question about “tower offense” being a viable sub-genre of tower defense, let Anomaly 2 stand as a definitive game to prove its worth. Small tweaks manage to keep the gameplay feeling new despite the majority of it carrying over from the first title. Choosing a side and battling with an opponent in online multiplayer is an entirely new experience that hasn’t been seen in any other game. The satisfaction of multiplayer is reason alone to play the game. And if you enjoyed the first game or tower defense in general, all the better.
+ Online multiplayer is an entirely new competitive experience
+ Smalls changes to gameplay keeps the combat feeling new
- Short single player campaign
7.5 / 10