11bit Studios’ underrated original, Anomaly: Warzone Earth was a great concept that fulfilled the promise of being on the opposite side of tower defense, called “tower offense”. The anomaly of the game’s namesake that threatened Earth is still at large, and now the conflict has moved to the United States. One of the things I praised from my preview was how well it flows from moment one. The opening throws you right into the action. Then, you get forced into VR Missions which act as a tutorial and cleverly get interrupted. All of it a very meta way as the XBLA version of the original game featured VR Missions as its bonus mode.
The story introduces new characters all around, no more Jason Statham sound-alike here. You’ll be taken to different places across the United States, see destroyed treasures and the effect the infestation of alien creatures has had. After a couple of hours, it’ll be over, almost too soon in fact. Which is a shame, as there’s no other singleplayer modes. You can replay missions at higher difficulties or for better scores. Anomaly 2′s gameplay hasn’t changed much from the first game. You’ll be the Commander on the battlefield, routing traffic and purchasing units to destroy the towers that are placed as obstacles on the way to your objective. Improved upon from the original PC version is the allowing you to use WASD to move your character about, rather than just the mouse control. A lesson learned from the console I imagine.
Units are slowly revealed to you for use, both as a training exercise and the game’s way of ramping you up to new enemies. The biggest and surprising change, adding to the versatility is the ability to morph your units. All units have an alternate mode. The Assault Hound, a machine-gun toting tank transforms into the Hell Hound, a fire-spewing, walking hulk. The Hammer shoots artillery rounds effective at a distance, and when it’s morphin’ time, becomes the Rocket Hammer which rockets dispense at a fast firing rate.
Almost every time there is a unit to control, there is a new enemy to learn to fight. The enemies of course, are the towers you must destroy in order to make your way to your objective. The towers come in forms of shooting intense heat that burns through shields and armor like butter. Other towers shoot electricity, have rotating shield plates, and fire anti-tank rounds of their own.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth was a visual delight with detailed textures, vibrant colors, and a neon-coated display. Anomaly 2 improves on those visuals dramatically. The color palette is expanded and each location manages to feel new and unique, with wisps of snow drifting to burning buildings giving off an eerie glow amidst your headlights glowing in the night. Sound and music are to a minimum, and service the needs of the gameplay, but doesn’t do anything memorable to stand out.
The bonus singleplayer modes of all the versions of the previous Anomaly are gone, replaced with the introduction of multiplayer. It’s a simple and straight-forward as you’d expect it. It’s one versus one where one player plays as the Squad (singleplayer, tower offense), and the other plays as the Towers (tower defense). Giving the game’s tagline: Tower Offense vs Tower Defense. Matches can be won by point gaps or full elimination. Though, the full lists of what the win conditions are, is quite complicated even for those who have completed the game’s campaign. But, before you dive in headfirst to battling a real person, you can go after the multiplayer-specific tutorials that teach you both sides of the coin.
11bit Studios plays it safe with Anomaly 2. It is for sure a sequel, as it goes to new places, adds new units, new towers, but lacks the innovation of the first game. Make no mistake, this is a fully-featured game at a modest price. It includes leaderboards, persistent ranking, and now multiplayer to go head-to-head with strangers and friends that make it a more connected game. Whether you played the first game or not, there’s a lot to like and little to dislike and will offer a good challenge throughout the game’s short campaign.
A Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes