Anomaly Warzone Earth HD|
Yes, I know we are a bit late to the review party for Anomaly Warzone Earth HD. Somehow we missed this game when it debuted last year in the app store, but with the recent Trinity Update that adds iPad Retina support now is the perfect time to redeem ourselves. Besides, I had just finished playing the game on the Xbox 360 and was looking for another reason to play it again on a portable platform.
I can’t express how much I love this game, which is a bit of a surprise since I’ve never been a big fan of tower defense games, but then Anomaly Warzone Earth isn’t your typical tower defense game. In fact, if I had to assign a genre label to this game it would be “convoy offense”, but that is only a literal take on the gameplay as there is so much more going on with this unique and extremely addictive strategy game.
The story is all setup in the impressive opening cutscene and reinforced throughout the game with pre-mission briefings. It’s 2018 and an alien spaceship has crash landed creating an odd anomaly that is spreading outward from the area of impact creating all sorts of strange bio-mechanical tower emplacements. You control the 14th platoon commander, leading a convoy of your choosing as you fight your way through the ruined cities of Baghdad.
Prior to most missions you will first need to assemble your convoy, often from a very limited budget – why is it that I must save the world with only $300? Your list of available vehicles will grow throughout the game as you unlock new units. You start off with a simple APC and a Crawler and later add a Shield and Tank unit to the mix just to name a few. Not only must you pick your units, you must also choose the order in which they will travel within the column, and this is where some strategy comes into play. Your APC usually has more armor so it needs to lead the pack, often followed by Crawlers who deliver more damage but can’t take as much. And then you have your Shield unit that can envelope one unit ahead and one unit behind. Placing a Shield unit in the #2 position will give you a good shot at getting through most encounters.
Next, you must plot your route through the city. You have your starting position and your destination and there is usually a complicated city grid between the two points. Even though it will likely change during the mission you can plot your entire route by going to each intersection and cycling the direction of travel. You’ll need to take into account the types of enemies (some shouldn’t be attacked head-on) as well as any other secondary mission targets that need to be collected or destroyed. One escort mission requires you to clear a path of ground targets, so a VTOL transport can navigate the hostile city below, or you may have a mission deadline that has you plotting the shortest survivable route to your objective.
Once you have created your convoy and plotted your route the game goes into real-time with your units meandering down their chosen path at a leisurely pace – you can always speed up the game by pressing the fast-forward icon. You will need to be constantly scrolling the map view, surveying the dangers ahead, and using your finger to place smoke bombs, decoys, or call in precision air strikes as well as tapping to collect resupply drops. You will also need to lay down these healing circles; green areas that will repair your units as they pass through the area. These are only temporary and won’t be able to heal all the units in a longer convoy.
As you destroy enemies and collect these alien gems (or bits of ore) you’ll earn money that can be used to purchase new units or upgrade your existing ones, giving them better armor and firepower. Often, a smaller convoy of higher level units has a greater chance of getting through a city than a long snaking convoy of level-one vehicles, and it’s easier to manage.
The game does a great job of mixing up the standard survival theme by sneaking in alternate objectives and new enemy types. Some enemies won’t rise up from the ground until you are well on your well, forcing you to change your original route. Some levels have random areas targeted for an enemy artillery strike and you have to avoid or get through that red zone before the counter ticks to zero. Some structures can sap the energy from your command power-ups forcing you to strategically drop them behind a building, and another structure can attack your convoy forcing you to tap out a 1-2-3 countermeasure.
The overall presentation is something I would expect from a AAA console release with outstanding graphics and sound. The new Retina update on the iPad HD is nothing short of stunning. The top-down quasi-3D cityscapes are intricately detailed and there is a surprising amount of detail on the individual units. Important stuff is always highlighted with a neon border. Look for awesome weapon effects, smoke, fire, explosions, fancy force fields, and other futuristic alien goodness. The sound is a dynamic mix of weapons fire, lasers, radio chatter, and some impressive voice acting in the cutscenes and pre-mission briefings, all set against the backdrop of some pretty stirring military vs. aliens theme music.
The 15 missions in the story mode will take you 4-6 hours to complete and then you have the Squad Assault and Squad Assault Rearmed modes and Commander Trials. Squad Assault is basically a horde mode where you take your squad into battle against endless waves of enemies and see how long you can survive. Commander Trials unlock once you finish the Story mode and lets you play any of the story missions with a new set of restrictions or conditions for success. There are also three mission difficulty choices that will affect your score multiplier in order to get those high scores for the Crystal Leaderboards. In all, expect a solid 15-20 hours of intense strategy gaming with Anomaly Warzone Earth HD.
Even if you don’t normally play strategy games l encourage you to give this game a shot. It might look like another Command & Conquer or random tower defense game on the surface, but there is something truly original, highly challenging, and compulsively addicting with this game. And even if you already own this game on PC or Xbox 360, I daresay the touchscreen interface and just having this game available at any time is worth the double-dip. It’s on special sale for $1.99 at the time I write this, so act now before it returns to its regular price of $3.99 (which is still a great price).