The tower defence genre is an interesting one. Or a super uninteresting one – I suppose it really depends on your preference. It’s not an absolute favourite of mine, but the original Anomaly: Warzone Earth did manage to capture my attention, and hold it for longer than expected. It did this by flipping tower defence fundamentals on their head.
The sequel takes many of things that made the original successful, and runs a little further with them. But is it enough to take the franchise to the next level?
The primary differentiating factor in this franchise is that whereas tower defence games typically allow you to craft your defensive line by strategically placing towers and other objects before being pounded by waves of various enemy types, Anomaly puts you on the offense. In basic pop-gaming-culture terms, it’s a lot like controlling the zombies in Plants vs. Zombies, instead of the plants.
Anomaly 2 builds on the gameplay introduced by its predecessor while beefing up the graphics, adding multiplayer and fleshing the game out with more story elements. In many ways, it is more complex and difficult than Anomaly: Warzone Earth, which is likely to please fans, but it doesn’t quite correct all of the first game’s flaws, and not all of its additions pan out perfectly.
The game takes place over fourteen levels. The early stages do a good job of showing you the basics, and the difficulty ramps up with confidence thereafter. The first phase of each mission takes place off the field, where players are given the opportunity to choose the route which their troops will take when trying to penetrate their enemies’ defences. During this passage of play, you can also purchase a variety of vehicles that offer unique buffs and abilities. The second phase of play is more action orientated, and takes players to the battlefield. Here players are able to acquire and supply support to their squad using area of affect abilities, all in frantic real-time.
Anomaly 2 makes some fantastic improvements, many of which are of the sort that you would expect from a sequel. The graphics have been stepped up quite noticeably, and the game is often surprisingly impressive to behold. The interface has also been streamlined, which is great. 11 bit studios has also made an effort to create a more engaging story, which from where I’m sitting did not work out. I wasn’t looking for a narrative experience in the first place, and the energy spent on this portion of the game could have been better used somewhere else because the result is a narrative that is comically cheesy at the best of times, and difficult to pay attention to for the most part.
One of my favourite additions to Anomaly 2 is the multiplayer. For the most part, it’s interesting, but it could have been so much more. With just five maps, it comes across as more of an experiment than anything else. In multiplayer, the defending player is given what is essentially a traditional tower defence experience, while the attacking player enjoys something far more similar to the single-player missions. It takes a couple of games to learn a few of the finer intricacies, but once you begin to get a handle on things, the multiplayer is quite a lot of fun.
If you enjoyed Anomaly: Warzone Earth, then you will definitely like the sequel. It does enough to justify its sequel status, without going that extra mile. If you never played the original, but are a tower defence fan, or even just a strategy fan in general, then you will probably also find it enjoyable, but don’t expect anything too special.