Anomaly: Warzone Earth Hands-On Preview -- A New Take on Tower DefenseBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Mar 09, 2011
Adjust your upcoming game-radar and add Anomaly: Warzone Earth. The engaging little downloadable game from 11Bit Studios is coming to PC through Steam, as well as IPod and iPad, and the little indie game manages to be original, polished, and a crap-ton of fun.
Anomaly takes the tower defense genre and turns it upside down, putting the players in charge of a squad of vehicles infiltrating territory and destroying the armaments of malevolent occupying army of aliens.
The game’s senior writer, Pawel Miechowski, says the lower budgets of downloadable games allow indie developers to make games that hearken back to the “pioneer era,” the Golden Age of arcade gaming, where every game had a different central concept and mechanic, unlike the current gen, where most games are variations on well-known themes. Anomaly definitely fits into that edict. While the controls are easy to learn, and the gameplay concepts familiar, the way they’re combined will likely be different than anything you’ve played before.
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The game’s setting is the near future, on earth, where hostile aliens have landed and put giant domes over Baghdad and Tokyo. The evil space creatures fill the cities with turrets, guns, and other threats. You play as the commander of a human military squad, leading armored vehicles to fight the embedded alien threat.
Graphically, Anomaly is reminiscent of Google Maps – a top down view of blasted out urban areas, except with alien turrets on the corners and in the alleys instead of crackheads.
Gameplay wise, Anomaly combines elements of turn-based and real-time strategy games. You start the game in a map mode, where you plan the route your squad will take through the city. Once you’ve chosen which way to go, the game changes to a real-time mode, where you control The Commander, who aids the AI-controlled tanks and transports by calling in air-strikes, performing repairs, throwing out decoys, or laying down smoke screens.
You have as much time as you like to methodically plan the perfect route for the kind of game you want to play, but once you put the plan into action, all hell breaks loose as you frantically try to keep your armada (and yourself) alive through the enemy onslaught of bullets, missiles, lasers. and God knows what else. The contrast is bracing, but will appeal to both gamers who like to plan elaborate strategies and gamers who like fast-action, twitch style games.
Throughout the battle, you’ll be able to earn the equivalent of money by picking up power-ups on the map or destroying enemy units. You use cash to upgrade your units, purchasing more powerful hardware to meet your objective. Each of the player’s vehicles has its strength and weakness. For example, the heavily armored Crawler can take a lot of damage, but as you might expect from its name, the thing is very slow.
The enemy’s units have a variety of pluses and minuses as well. The Scorcher, for example, unleashes a nearly unsurvivable onslaught of death, but it can’t turn or move, so you have to find a way to sneak up on it from behind or your carefully chosen dragoon will end up a pile of ashes.
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Anomaly features a story mode that will last around seven hours, as well as a free-play mode that has River Raid as a distant relative – IE: wave after wave of ever more difficult, semi-random city blocks to attack.
The preview version of Anomaly I played was for PC. According to 11Bit, the iPhone and iPad versions (due in mid-April) will work a little differently. There won’t be a Commander character in the Apple versions of the game. Instead, you’ll just tap the part of the screen where you want to use powers. The difficulty will be scaled to match that slightly simpler concept.
The game’s developer has some big plans for the future – if everything works out, and a lot of people play the game, they’d like to add co-op play as DLC, a mode for user-created maps, and some more cities to add variety to the mayhem.
Writer Miechowski describes the game as “Simple, unique, addictive and challenging;” I think he hit the nail right on the proverbial head.