Anomaly: Warzone EarthPlatform: PC
Category: Action Games, Real Time Strategy, Strategy
Single-player campaign and two assault modes
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a fantastic new game available on Steam for both PC and Mac. Provided to me by 11 bit studios, Anomaly is a tower defense game... of sorts. Perhaps it's better to call it a reverse tower defense or a tower offense game. Or better yet, we could just call it a strategy game! In Anomaly, you see the layout of turrets in the level while controlling a line of assault vehicles. You strategize by planning the best route, deciding which vehicles to use and upgrade, and using special abilities. If you plan carefully, your units can destroy the turrets, get through the defense, and reach the end of the level!
Anomaly looks great on my great on my PC. I'm running Windows 7 Professional on an Intel Core 2 Duo 64-bit 2.53 GHz processor with 6 GB RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT graphics card. Even with my less than stellar graphics card, the game ran fine on maximum video settings and looked fantastic. Everything looked clean and easy to see. Enemies are outlined in red and friendly units are outlined in blue. Simple health bars appear over units' heads. On the left side of the screen, icons representing various abilities are present with the amount available appearing adjacent to them. An elegant tactical map screen can be pulled up at any time, and the unit upgrade and purchase screen is also sleek looking and simple to use. In the main menu screens, small amounts of the screen were cut off from the edges of my non-widescreen monitor. I could manage to read everything, so it wasn't a terrible error. It's also a known bug that 11 bit studios is fixing.
Like the graphics, the audio was also great, and I definitely don't have any complaints. Both the music and sound effects were good. I enjoyed the dialogue quite a bit. Despite being a little cheesy, it was very fun. Sometimes holding the speed-up button, which speeds up the game for those stretches where you're waiting for combat, caused dialogue to cut out. It was a minor annoyance, but I had to remember to stop holding the button if I was approaching a goal at which I expected dialogue.
As I mentioned previously, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a reverse tower-defense game. You control up to six vehicles and a commander. The vehicles travel along roads on set paths. Bringing up the tactical map pauses the game and allows you to control which direction the convoy will turn at each intersection. You can't stop, reverse, or deviate from the path. The map shows the entire level, any power ups available to be picked up, and all enemies as well as your own units. Because different enemies have different types of weapons and ranges, it becomes very important to plan your route carefully on the map screen. For example, some enemies can only shoot directly in front of them. You'll want to drive past these turrets rather than down streets heading straight toward them. Another trick is loop around repeatedly, slowly picking off enemies. You're awarded money for destroying enemies, and you can also find minerals that are worth money. You can then spend your earnings on new units (up to six) or on upgrading your current vehicles.
Besides planning your route and upgrading, there's another huge aspect to the strategy involved in Anomaly. Your commander doesn't follow the set paths and can go anywhere. Unlike the vehicles, he deals no damage; rather, he deploys special abilities! You have a set number of each ability but can find more throughout the level with them usually appearing where some enemies were destroyed. When an ability is deployed, it lasts for a small amount of time. The first ability introduced is the Repair. Any friendly unit within the circle that appears is repaired as long as it's within the circle. Next there's the Smoke Screen, which lowers the accuracies of all enemies within the circle. Similar to the Smoke Screen, the Decoy will cause all enemies within the circle to target the decoy. (Using the Smoke Screen and the Decoy at the same time works quite well!) The final ability is the Airstrike, which drops a bomb on the current location. When the commander dies, he respawns at the same location after a short delay and is invulnerable for a couple seconds, letting you get back to safety.
The strategy involved comes from a few different aspects. First, you'll want to plan a good route. Most likely you'll be bringing the map up repeatedly throughout each level, adjusting your path as you go. Next, you'll want to plan which units to use and which order to put them in your convoy. For example, I like to start with a high-armor unit, and I include two shield generating units in my convoy. These shield units provide shields around themselves and the two adjacent vehicles. You'll also want to correctly use your commander's abilities to help your vehicles survive. Finally, you'll need to upgrade your units wisely. There are three difficulties available with which to challenge yourself. You're awarded points for destroying enemies (more for destroying them without too much delay between kills) and having abilities at the end of the level. Each level has its own leaderboard, providing a lot of competition.
Let's not forget the story! There is a reason for the vehicles to be fighting those turrets! An alien ship crashes in two spots on Earth, Baghdad and Tokyo. Strange domes, anomalies, appear over the crash sites, and appear to be some sort of shield. Inside these anomalies are the alien ships and turrets. After investigating, the military finds them quite aggressive and decide to neutralize the enemy. Before and during missions, characters talk, giving you some background on what's happening. This is ample motivation to give a reason to the actions in the game and also provides some interesting twists along the way.
11 bit studios has made a fantastic game with Anomaly: Warzone Earth. It's definitely a change to the tower defense genre. With a compelling story mode, achievements, leaderboards, and two assault modes, there's plenty to do for people looking for high replay value. I find Anomaly: Warzone Earth incredibly cheap at $9.99 and worth every penny. If you're interested in strategy games, I highly recommend you pick this one up and keep your eyes on 11 bit studios in the future!