I’ve grown weary of tower-defence games. Some offer interesting ideas, and others are just too cute and fun to ignore, but most just ask the player to throw up defensive units, giving you little reason to care why you’re doing so or options for employing different strategies. Anomaly: Warzone Earth gives me hope for the genre. By putting you on offence instead of defence, it opens up the genre’s strategic options, throwing you into situations that go beyond just the fighting off enemies that most examples of the genre throw at you.
The player is cast in the role of the 14th platoon’s commander as it’s dispatched to deal with an anomaly – a weird dome that appeared in the aftermath of an asteroid-strike in Baghdad. Unfortunately, the interstellar debris carried a surprise: alien machines, which comprise the towers your forces must fight through. The machines come in a variety of forms, such as basic cannons, heavy artillery, emplacements that damage shields, and even hulking machines that turn your capabilities and units against you.
The challenge is daunting, but you have a number of options to deal with the alien threat. The commander’s exo-suit comes with a suite of powers that helps him deploy his units: repair tools, smokescreens, decoys, and even airstrikes. The commander may run around the battlefield, deploying these capabilities in ways to best support his troops, or stick with his forces.
Your troops include cheap, low-level units like APCs and rocket-firing crawlers, to more advanced units like mobile shield generators, and powerful sci-fi tanks that blast the ETs with plasma. You purchase and upgrade these units throughout each level as you acquire more currency, and your task force may cruise the streets with as many as six of them in tow.
Anomaly’s major strength is the strategic options it gives players, and one of the best is how you choose your route through the alien infestation. Depending on the mission parameters, you may choose a route that skirts danger as you reach your goal or reduces the alien incursion to atoms. All of this affords you a great deal of flexibility in how you tackle the challenges of each stage.
You select your forces’ route at the beginning of each level, but you’re not tied to it; you can alter your path through each stage in response to battlefield changes, to better take advantage of enemy weaknesses, to grab some of the game’s currency, or to mop up isolated foes. Defeating enemies nets you a pair of possible rewards: a small amount of the game’s currency, or more powers for your exo-suit. The game also features a set of achievements.
What’s great about Anomaly is that it allows you to tackle the game on your terms. I engaged each map without the overall goal in mind; I deployed my forces to take advantage of the enemy weaknesses and reach goals as quickly as possible, and I’m eager to try some of these maps again with a different bent. I also like how the game controls. All you really need is a mouse: the centre button brings up your purchase screen, and zooming in and out with the scroll wheel takes you from the battlefield to the planning map, where you can change your route and examine the enemy forces you face.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth gives you a flexibility I’ve never encountered with tower-defence games, allowing you to determine the strategy you think is best suited for the situation at hand. The game is a lot of fun, extremely good value, and I sincerely hope that 11-bit Studios has plans for a sequel in the future.