Anomaly Warzone Earth Review
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On 05/04/2012 at 03:00 PM by Stanton Daries
"Now I've often said "good news" when sending you on a mission of extreme danger; so when I say this anomaly is dangerous, you can imagine how dangerous I really think it is."
For any fan of tower defense or those wanting to look into a twist of the genre
In the year 2018 a massive comet was approaching Earth and, as the world watched, suddenly broke into two pieces and impacted into Baghdad and Tokyo. Before anyone could begin disaster recovery each site was encased in massive energy domes that made any attempt at surveillance and analysis impossible. In order to determine what happened the Fourteenth Platoon is scrambled to investigate. Within minutes of approaching the dome it quickly becomes apparent the Earth has been invaded by aliens. Aliens who are hostile. Aliens who like to build towers.
This is the story of Anomaly: Warzone Earth, a reverse tower defense (AKA tower attack) game where you are the aggressor instead of the defender. In this new role it is your job to safely navigate your platoon composed of various units (e.g. armored tanks, powerful but fragile walkers, shield generators) through the alien’s towers in an effort to reach the objective on the map.
Your avatar in the game is the unit known as the commander. As the commander you can freely move around the field of battle (while your units are forced to follow predefined routes) and in addition to determining the platoon’s direction of travel, turns, formation order and when to purchase new units, you also have a collection of power-ups at your disposal to dispense. Each one is essentially a way to protect your convoy, such as repairing battle damage, deploying fog to obscure shots, or decoys to distract fire. Later on in the game a final power-up will be gained to deliver air strikes on towers, the commander's only offensive ability.
The main focus of the game is your actual management of these power-ups as your units have no true way of actually finishing a level on their own, the alien towers are just too powerful. You must carefully balance the deployment of each ability with the need to collect more (through the occasional air drop or by destroying a tower). Improper or wasteful use can easily lead to death in the final moments of a map.
The units under your control are the standard archetypes one would expect to encounter in a tower defense. An APC unit with heavy armor but light attack, a walker that is strong in attack but weak in defense, a shield generator that will provide an extra bit of regenerating health to adjacent units and a supply unit to give you extra power-ups. The enemy towers range from the default rapid shot, low damage tower to ones that shoot rays or mortars.
After you complete Anomaly you will unlock alternative modes of play such as surviving enemy waves or crossing bridges in the allocated time so you have to make tradeoffs between trying to collect power-ups and speed. These missions definitely add a bit of a twist to the campaign and are worth taking the time to investigate.
The difficulty levels of the game are well balanced with easy allowing you to bypass most challenges with little forethought and hard challenging you constantly. A nice feature is that you can choose your difficulties between stages, allowing you to experiment without restarting an entire campaign.
The production quality is solid, with the visuals of the intros being especially impressive for an XBLA game. A particular annoyance though is the unit dialogue as you are constantly forced to listen to what someone who grew up watching military movies imagines a British military team would constantly say.
Depending on your difficulty setting and number of resets you can expect to finish the single player campaign in less than six hours at most. Most tower defense games rely on their blend of difficulty and timing to create an addictive experience and Anomaly is no exception to this rule even with the flipped roles. However that initial satisfaction can fade once you learn the tricks of the units. Without increased unit diversity on both sides you are more than likely to get bored with the game a level or two after the final unit/opponents are introduced, or about four hours in.
Since Anomaly is an arcade game it is cheap enough that it will be worth the price to any hardcore tower fanatics, but it isn’t something that will be “different” enough for any non-fanatic to suddenly fall in love with the genre.