Anomaly: Warzone Earth|
In April 2011, Anomaly: Warzone Earth offered PC gamers a fresh take on the tower defense genre by flipping the formula around. Instead of tower defense, Anomaly focused on tower offense — playing as the creep forces and attacking towers. The game was well received and was ported to iOS and Android in August 2011. Then in April 2012, the PC version made its way to Xbox Live Arcade. Finally, Anomaly has appeared on the PlayStation Network. The only new content in this version is a new unit in certain modes and a local co-op mode. It’s still as solid a game as ever, but with very little incentive offered to those who’ve already enjoyed it on another platform.
Since little has changed, the game’s story still feels like a distraction. An alien ship crash lands in Baghdad and alien turrets start to destroy things. The player leads a squad of troops to destroy the aliens. After Baghdad, it’s time to repeat things in Tokyo and then finally back to Baghdad again. Throughout most missions, players are forced to take a break and listen to dialogue that connects these events. It’s an admirable attempt to add some sort of plot to a genre usually devoid of one, but the story ultimately flops. Even though these bouts of dialog can usually be skipped entirely or at least fast-forwarded through, they still break the pace of the game and detract slightly from the action.
Rather than building towers and defending against waves of creeps, players lead a small squad of troops through streets and alleyways. Similar to creating routes in many tower defense games, Anomaly tasks the player with planning which routes to take through the city. Pressing “Triangle” at any time pauses the game and brings up a map screen. From here, its up to the player to tell troops to turn left or right or continue straight at each intersection. It may sound tedious, but it’s actually very simple. In most situations, there’s usually a default route of sorts, but it may take a little tweaking to make it optimal. Maybe there are certain areas to avoid because they’re full of enemies, while other areas with cash deposits may demand player attention. The PS3 controller handles route planning well enough, though it does lack the fluidity of using a mouse. Sometimes it can take a few tries to navigate to the desired intersection, where a mouse cursor could be there instantly.
Aside from planning a route, building a squad is important too. A squad can have up to six units at a time. There are six different types of units in the campaign, and each unit can be upgraded three times. Pressing “Square” opens the unit menu where troops can be purchased, sold, upgraded and even rearranged. The player units bear some similarities to how enemy creeps function in other tower defense games, but there are some differences. Most notably, the supply truck cannot attack and does not shield friendly troops. Instead, it collects energy from defeated units and drops additional power ups for the commander.
In addition to planning functions, the commander actually plays an active and very important role in battle. There are four different power ups that can be collected from occasional friendly air drops, defeated enemy units, or supply trucks. The most basic power up places a ring that heals any friendly troops walking through it. There’s also a smoke cloud which makes it hard for enemies to target any player troops veiled within, a decoy to draw enemy fire, and a very damaging air strike. All of these powers have limited durations, so it’s essential to remain vigilant and continue to use the powers throughout each mission.
The left analog stick moves the commander around, and it’s generally wise to remain close to the squad and follow them around. The squad can be fairly vulnerable without power ups, but it’s often necessary leave them to collect more power ups. Be careful because the commander is vulnerable and can be incapacitated by enemy fire. This basic conflict between resource management and troop protection is one of the most interesting aspects of Anomaly. To simplify the controls for touch screens, the mobile versions of Anomaly are actually missing the commander, so it’s nice to see the commander return to the same role he held in the PC version.
That said, the mobile version of Anomaly is less than half the price of the console version. The campaign mode between the two is essentially the same minus the presence of the commander on the battlefield. There are some extra modes outside of the campaign that only appear on the PC and console versions. They’re more inline with the traditional tower defense experience, where players must defeat waves of towers. The PSN version of Anomaly has an exclusive human unit available in these extra modes called the “Chainer.” It periodically fires a blast that can hit up to eight towers at once.
Also exclusive to the PS3 is a local co-op mode where two players can command one squad of troops simultaneously. The first player is responsible for managing the squad, while the second player can plan and alter the troops’ routes. Both players have a commander unit, so it can make it easier to grab power ups since one can stay to protect the troops. Player one is solely responsible for deploying repair and air strike power ups, while player two has access to the smoke screens and decoys. The players can actually deploy a boost to their ally’s powers, though, enlarging the ring and making the powers more effective. There are only two different levels in co-op, though their in the same vein as the single-player challenge levels and do offer some replayability. Co-op mode is a nice gesture, but it definitely has a niche calling especially with its restriction to local play only.
If the PS3 is the only option you’ve got to play Anomaly: Warzone Earth, then it’s still worth picking up. The game’s unique reversal of the tower defense genre still holds up well, but there are better and more economical ways to play this one and the added content does nothing to warrant a second purchase.