It’s always nice to see a developer try something different with a tried and true genre and that’s exactly what 11-Bit Studios have done with Anomaly: Warzone Earth. They’ve taken tower defense and flipped it on it’s head. Instead of propping up defenses against endless hordes, this time you are on the ground, leading your convoy against the dug in defenses of those damn aliens.
The setting of the game is set up briefly at the start. It’s 2018, a comet has split up and crashed on Earth landing in Baghdad and Tokyo. Immediately after the impacts, giant force field bubbles formed over the cities cutting off all communication. You, as the Special Forces Commander on the ground, break through a weak point in the bubble to investigate what has happened inside. It’s all very Us vs Them, aliens attacking, but it’s done well here. You play the game in a traditional top down view of the city. You guide your on foot Commander around picking up supplies and supporting your convoy, while also choosing their path to steer through the city streets, finding the best way to flank or avoid the alien defenses.
The aliens in classic tower defense style have erected a variety of high tech death rays in various turrets to stop you getting through the city scorching beams, lasers and heavy cannons will damage you. While later in the campaign, machines will try to hack your vehicles fire control or respawn turrets if you aren’t careful. You need to cleverly combine your various deployable powers to your vehicles to keep them alive and navigate the best way to whittle away at the defenses, while not being overwhelmed. You have four abilities in limited supplies: Repair, Smoke Screen, Decoy and Air Strike. Destroying turrets or getting past checkpoints results in an air support drop more supplies to pick up.
The vehicles under your command all have different strengths and weaknesses. You start with only a simple APC and a walker. The APC has high armour, yet low damage machine guns. The walker is weaker, but packs longer range and harder hitting missiles. Soon you’ll get a shield generator vehicle that protects itself and the vehicle on either side of it. You can only control six vehicles in your convoy, so they haven’t given you a huge variety to choose from. You need to manage which vehicles to buy and in what order you put them in the convoy.
The campaign missions start very simply, go from here to there. It gets more complicated as you progress with timers to reach objectives, sentries, having to clear paths for aircraft, downing power generators and other such tasks. It feels quite similar to an RTS in its missions. At the end of each mission you are graded on how well you did and you are awarded with medals for efficiency and speed.
Presentation wise the game looks really good. The realistic looking cities viewed from a top down viewpoint remind me of Command & Conquer, they are well detailed and quite colourful. Your commander and vehicles aren’t very detailed, although with the clear coloured outlines, they are easy to keep track of. The aliens are a bit more interesting and quite easy to tell one from the other. You can clearly tell what is what from the strategy map as you choose your course through the various intersections of the city.
Music and cut scenes are kept nice and military feeling. The voice over work is a standout too. It’s full of cheesy macho dialog, interestingly the voice of the general giving you orders sounds like Captain Price from Call of Duty, so it fits well. That’s actually a bit of a change, you don’t play an American saving the world in this, instead you’re all British military. It’s a bit racist when the Japanese constantly call you “gaijin” all the time, regardless it doesn’t distract too much. The voices do sometimes cut each other off in weird ways though.
Apart from the 14 mission campaign, there is also a survival mode called Baghdad & Tokyo Mayhem. This is unlocked after completing the chapters of the campaign where you must try to defeat 10 waves, or should I say, spawns of turrets and generators. New to the XBLA version is the new Tactical Trials mode, with simpler looking VR style wireframe style graphics, it’s more of a small map tactical puzzle with upgrades shown ahead of time, so you know which towers to destroy and which to avoid to achieve your objectives. These six new missions are new to the XBLA version, compared to the PC , Android and iOS versions of the game that came out last year.
To wrap up, I’ve had a fun time playing this game. It’s always a worry trying to play a strategy game on console, however, they’ve handled the controls well and it always feels easy to navigate through the game, even when the combat gets intense and there’s explosions all over the place. Another accomplishment, creating a game where your avatar cannot actually attack anything, you must instead act as decoy and support, yet keeps you in the action all the way.