If there is any video game genre that’s over-saturated with boring spinoffs and half-assed attempts at innovation, it’s tower defense. Generally speaking, they’re relatively cheap to design and code and rarely require a great graphics engine. However, in this darkness 11 Bit studios brings a light in the form of Anomaly 2. What the game brings to the tables is a cold, dark future filled with twisted metal and destruction.
Three years after the 2018 invasion in Anomaly: Warzone Earth humanity was nearly wiped out. Taking place in 2034, Anomaly 2 focuses on mankind’s attempt at survival while the alien machines are running rampant. Players take control of a young Lieutenant Lynx and the convoy, code name Yukon, and attempt to disrupt the hold that the machines and their anomaly have on the planet.
The game mainly follows Lieutenant Lynx, Colonel Bolt, and Doctor Zander as they try to piece together a super weapon, Project Shockwave, in order to disable the machine defensive towers. This eventually leads them into the heart of the anomaly where Lieutenant Lynx must make a choice that will determine the fate of humanity.
As one would expect, the story is not exactly the highlight of the game and the voice acting is mediocre at best, however, I understand the difficulty of trying to implement a deep plot and character development in a tower-based game. Since Anomaly 2 doesn’t put to much emphasis on the story it shines where it needs to, the gameplay.
Before I discuss the core components of Anomaly 2, it’s important that I mention how absolutely beautiful this game is. The terrain, vehicles, towers, explosions all contain high levels of details that generally aren’t seen in this genre. Even though most of the game takes place in two different environments, frigid wasteland and tropical jungle, each level is very nice to look at, even if slightly repetitive in nature.
Anomaly 2 is essentially a real-time strategy with tower defense elements, only this time the player is the one who does the attacking. In the single-player campaign, players have direct control over Lieutenant Lynx in his Combat Suit and control his convoy via the Tactical View. The Tactical View is a schematic of the entire map and controls which path the convoy will take; this path can be altered at any time during the game.
Starting out with just one basic unit and ability, the Assault Hound and Repair, Anomaly 2 does a great job at slowly introducing players to additional units and abilities while demonstrating their strengths and weaknesses. There are a total of 5 heavily armored vehicles that can be purchased, each equipped with morphing technology to essentially create 10 different units, and 4 player activated abilities.
Each vehicle, and its morphed form, has its own individual role to play on the battlefield and 11 Bit studios did a great job at making each unit feel unique. Anomaly 2 rewards players who vary their convoy composition and punish those who only stick to one or two types of units. There’s a great balance between power, support and defense, but there are enough options for each of these roles that not every game will be the same.
The four player abilities available include: Repair, Decoy, EMP, and A.I.M. Repair heals all friendly units in the area, Decoy draws enemy fire, EMP temporarily shuts down enemy towers, and A.I.M. focuses friendly fire on a specific area while increasing damage done. While each of these abilities serves a very different function, and have varying levels of usefulness, there is definitely a shortage of innovation here. These abilities all serve very basic functions and lack the “coolness factor” that the vehicles posses.
The alien towers contain the same level of innovation that the human vehicles do as there’s one for almost every situation and many are weak or strong against certain types of vehicles. The Blaster is the basic tower, which serves as cannon fodder, and is seen from the beginning of the Story Mode, but towers such as the Charger, that absorbs quick-firing weapons, and the Enforcer, that has an array of shields to deflect slow attacks, are introduced gradually to promoted varied gameplay.
Overall, the single-player mode is entertaining enough to deserve at least one playthrough and it contains leaderboards, as well as 4 difficulty levels, for players that enjoy competing for the high-score. What it does great, however, is thoroughly familiarize players with a majority of the aspects needed for the multiplayer, which I feel is the most innovative part of Anomaly 2.
As far as I’m aware, Anomaly 2 is the first, or at least the most complex, game that allows two players to simultaneously play as attacker and defender. Gratuitous Tank Battles attempts to act in a similar manner, but only allows one player to play at a time.
Since games are being conducted in real-time, the battlefield is constantly changing. New vehicles are being bought and replaced, towers are springing up everywhere, and troop movement is constantly shifting. Additionally, the tower player also has access to abilities and doesn’t require a commander to use them, but towers can’t be built near enemies, with the exception of the Predator tower. Anomaly 2 does a good job of balancing each side’s abilities and essentially grants each player the option to counter the other.
Matches are played until one player achieves the required amount of points by causing enough damage to towers or vehicles, which means that completely wiping out a squad does not necessarily guarantee victory. As battles go on players will need to upgrade their technologies in order to unlock advanced units and make their current ones stronger. Each map has a set number of technology tiers; technologies can be unlocked in any order, but the ones unlocked last will have a greater bonus.
With 4 different maps, including ranked matches for those competitive players, and two different sides to learn there’s plenty of replay value in the multiplayer mode. There are potential issues with balancing, though, during my limited time with the multiplayer it seemed pretty easy to perform hit and run tactics with the humans and then hide in the Safe Zone to heal. However, as players learn advanced tactics it’s likely that counter-strategies will be developed or further balancing will occur.
Anomaly 2 expands upon its predecessor and creates a unique take on “tower offense.” There are no major issues with the game; it’s quite polished and does what it intends to do very well. However, the lack of a compelling story and the complex game mechanics, at later levels, have the ability to drive away a certain demographic. Still, this is one game that RTS and tower defense fans shouldn’t pass up, especially considering the meager price tag.
This review is based on the PC version of the game.