The tower defense genre has grown stale. This is nothing new. There isn’t much to expand on in a game that’s only requirement is to build towers to defend things. Studios have tried to cash-in on the genre by adding small novelty mechanics or interesting visuals and while some of these have translated into pretty good games, the next one immediately eclipses them. It’s been so overdone that the bar is now incredibly high.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth expanded on the idea of tower defense by including tower offense, something that is just as refreshing as it sounds. Instead of just planting weapons at strategic places on the map, players must also plan predetermine a path of attack and protect their units from “enemy” towers. Even in the newest installment, Anomaly 2, it plays out as something interesting and complex, having even seasoned players sometimes trip over themselves at the start.
I was recently able to play through the Anomaly 2 beta which included a single-player tutorial with three missions that end in a foreboding and abrupt cut and the online multiplayer, so I can’t comment on more single-player or story modes.
The tutorial missions are there to teach you the mechanics of the most basic tower offense gameplay by sending your character—Commander Lynx—on his first quests. A female voice guides you through, talking out each move you should make and introducing you to the system—a typical tutorial level. However, what sets this section apart from other tutorials I’ve played through is its atmosphere, presenting an intense, militaristic, and tumultuous environment that doesn’t always result in the good guy winning. It’s realistic enough to immerse the player in the gameplay as if it were a true battle setting, although not so that they feel a part of a story.
This may have more to do with the lack of a story mode in the beta and the mechanics of the tower defense game, so my opinions may miss the mark in terms of a full release or story playthrough. However, the effect is more like a good film with some edge-of-the-seat moments and less of an interactive experience with a personal connection. This is okay for some games, but considering the grimness of the world you are thrown into, it could mean a lack of a true effect. You become less invested in a world where you are more of a third-person observer.
Regardless, this beta was less about story and more about showing off gameplay, which I can happily report is already at a good place. It draws a lot from Warzone Earth’s successes and doesn’t improve on much. In two-person multiplayer, you can choose to either be on the side of offense or defense and compete for points or a point advantage. Offense would come a lot easier for those that haven’t played before, especially since the tutorial focuses strictly on this style. Defense is trickier: not exactly like other tower defense games and takes some practice. It is similar enough to offense, but not enough that it comes naturally. I wish that the tutorial came with a level that focused on defense because even after multiple rounds, I still don’t feel like I understood it all.
The multiplayer could benefit from some balancing. The difference isn’t major enough to make the game unplayable, but once it’s understood, the defense does have advantages over offense in terms of sheer numbers. Battle units and power-ups are more expensive than towers, which would be a detriment to newer players who are still trying to figure out strategy. I won more times in defense than offense, so maybe this is only my experience, but it seemed much easier to build towers versus units.
The beta could have contained more content to explore, but out of the stuff that was available, the player could get a solid experience. Minus some balancing issues and a difficulty curve, the game is very fun and once you get the hang of it, becomes a fierce competition.
Anomaly 2 is what is going to make tower defense fun again. Let’s just hope that there aren’t too many imitators.