Anomaly 2: The best defense may be a good offense

May 16, 2013

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Tower defense is a difficult genre in which to innovate. Stray too far from paths and towers and you’re no longer making tower defense, but stay too close and there is nothing to separate you from all of the other TD games out there. 11 bit found a great way to stand out with the original Anomaly: Warzone Earth in which, instead of placing towers as a disembodied defender, you controlled the squad of attackers. Anomaly 2 iterates on that concept, and it’s a great alternative to the other, more traditional TD games in my library.

Not only does the player control the attacking forces in Anomaly 2, but also their commander, who has a good number of responsibilities. They include determining squad composition and upgrade level, plotting a path through the machine’s defenses and deploying support abilities (like repair beacons, decoys and EMP blasts). It’s also up to the commander to morph units as necessary, in a great display of Transformers-like utility. Each unit has two forms, and each has its niche. Hounds flip between concentrating rapid fire on one target and reducing range to flamethrower enemies on both sides on the alley, while Hammers change from far-range artillery to 360-degree-but up-close rocket launchers. Other units have similar mode changes and uses, and each enemy has a trait that makes one unit better or worse for taking it out.

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A reason to fight

Anomaly 2‘s story isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but the post-apocalyptic science fiction theme is enjoyable and, interspersed as it is throughout the extremely intense missions, gives plenty of reason to stay invested in the game. - Shawn Vermette

Assuming direct control of the commander makes Anomaly 2 a much more personal game than most in the genre. I have to walk with my units and take care of them. I have to plan their route to keep them from harm, while still meeting mission objectives. And I have to high-tail it away from enemy towers after deploying a support power, because the enemies know to prioritize the commander over the other squad units. It’s all quite hectic being zoomed in and in the thick of things. I typically like to plan out my moves, deploy my tower, hit fast forward and see whether my strategy was a good one. Here, though, I have to be an active participant in the battles, because without my support abilities and constant morphing of units, there is no way that humanity could ever triumph over the machines.

Anomaly 2 is also one of the best-looking tower defense games I have ever played. Enemy towers look great, the tactical view is full of 1980s-inspired virtual reality aesthetic, and the Transformers-esque unit morphs are great to watch. Locales are detailed, lush and varied, and unit types – both enemy and friendly – are easy to distinguish. I was never caught off guard by a Scorcher because I didn’t know what it was. I was caught off guard because I was trying to balance so many things and completely forgot to look at it and adjust my tactics.

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Multiplayer adjustments

The multiplayer has potential, but it’s extremely unbalanced at the moment. If the offensive player heads right into the fight, he’ll win every single time, and the defensive side doesn’t have a prayer. On the other hand, if the defense gets the time to build up its tech level, the offense will get annihilated. - Shawn Vermette

Anomaly 2 also features adversarial multiplayer, and that makes sense to me as it is the only time when anybody gets to play the traditional defender role. I only got to experience one map, as matchmaking wasn’t available before launch, and it looks like alternate maps are unlocked by completing up to 20 ranked matches. It feels a lot like the multiplayer is slanted toward an aggressive offensive player, as he can build two units and absolutely wreck the defense player as he is ramping up an economy and building towers. There is no “rush” option for the defending player, and that means that there is essentially no defense save luck against a rushing attacking player. Giving the defender either more time to establish a base and economy or giving them an ability to alter the available paths for the attackers would, I think, make the mode more balanced.

Anomaly 2 does a lot of interesting things, and it’s neat to have found a tower defense game that more directly engages the player, even if the multiplayer mode suffers from balance issues.

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.