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May 30, 2014

Anomaly Defenders Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $9.99
We Recommend: $7.99
  • Developer: 11 bit studios
  • Publisher: 11 bit launchpad
  • Genre: Action, Indie, Strategy
  • Released: May 29, 2014
  • Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Reviewed: Windows

11 bit studios closes out the Anomaly series with one more trick up their sleeve. This isn’t a third tower offense game, rather tower defense. If this were any other developer, it’d be easy to groan over such a worn out genre. The trick that 11 bit studios plays, isn’t that it simply is tower defense, but that you play as the aliens. The same ones you’ve been fighting against in the first two games. The humans have finally pushed the aliens off of Earth, and are trying to eradicate them from existence. “Launchpads are our only hope” says the opening cutscene. It’s time to defend.

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Anomaly Defenders starts off like a run-in-the-mill tower defense game. You’ll set up basic pea shooter towers against waves of attacking enemies trying to destroy your launchpad, or the game’s “core” as you’d find in similar games of the genre. As you defeat attackers, they’ll drop energy that must be manually grabbed or will expire via time out. Grabbing them will replenish your energy bar to issue repairs to attacked towers. This gives the game gives you something to do, where normally you’d sit and let things play out. It would be very unlike Anomaly to let you sit idle and not be actively participating in any action.

Upon completing an attack successfully, you’ll be awarded technology points that can be spent on a tree that allows you to upgrade specific components that fits your playstyle. Make a bad purchasing decision? That’s okay. The game is very forgiving, allowing you to return all those points for a complete refund, no questions asked and allow you to re-allocate those points elsewhere. The main reason being, is there’s a finite number of points to earn, thus only a certain number that can be spent. It also allows you to experiment without fear of being stuck down any one path. The freedom here is most welcome.

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Each of the seven towers that can be deployed (some after unlocking) have three upgrade levels to boost their offensive and defensive capabilities. Towers can be upgraded to use temporary buffs like rage for enhanced damage, electromagnetic pulse to slow down enemies while taking friendly fire from its effects, explode for an area of effect attack, or deploy a temporary shield for extra protection against heavy hitters. These options allow you to play to your strengths. And as long as you are always moving and maintaining the health of your towers, any tactic will likely work out.

Not many missions in, there will be designated areas to harvest carusaurum. This is Anomaly Defenders’ resource that’s so highly sought after. In a risk/reward scenario, if you spend a good chunk of carusaurum, you can build a harvester. Harvesters will attract all waves of enemies and halt production if they begin getting shot at. This can be used to your advantage to funnel enemies in one direction and blast them with an enforcer or behemoth towers that fire slow, but massive damage, and then pepper them with blasters, the basic towers while setting them ablaze with scorchers. It’s a small exploit that pays off in dividends due to keeping the harvester at work, and earning large amounts of carusaurum to spend on the battlefield.

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Over the course of the 24 levels, as noted in my preview, the game gets progressively more challenging. There are three difficulty modes: Easy, Normal, and Hard. Playing a level on Normal will get you all the technology points for Normal and below. So there’s really no need to replay a level on an easier difficulty unless you want that pretty check box, or to be a completionist. Playing a level again on Hard will give you an opportunity to try out newer weapons for different tactics and to earn that last technology point.

No two worlds are alike as you play. They are shards floating in space, disconnected from everything around them. Each and every one varied and gorgeous to look at. Some worlds are coated in lava, others have lush flora, or there’s a torrential downpour with an electromagnetic storm that can disrupt your towers. The worlds are not just settings, but characters with personalities that lend another layer of tension and strategy as you may have to avoid a meteor shower, or other catastrophic events from putting a hole in your defenses.

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11 bit Studios is able to flip the script back onto themselves, as they don’t let the series get stale. It is still tower defense after all, but Anomaly Defenders is no where near as generic as it sounds.  It’s a thoughtful, exciting, and enjoyable bookend to a series of games that refuses to be ordinary.

A pre-release Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes