Anomaly 2: A Preview

So I’ve never played Anomaly Warzone Earth, the first game in the Anomaly series.  I’m proud to say, however, that after previewing Anomaly 2, I am a new owner of my own personal digital copy of the series’ first installment.  Now, I’d say I’m a critical man.  I’m not just a critical man, though.  I’m a critical man with a habitual spending problem; that is to say, I don’t like to spend money.  I’m like Mr. Crabs without the exorbitant income.  So when a game makes me go out and buy another game, I tend to think it’s impressive.

I won’t give anything away about Anomaly 2, but I’m excited that someone finally did a reversal tower defense game right.  I started playing tower defense games in Warcraft III ages ago in college and I enjoyed them well enough.  They’re a breath of fresh air and there’s never any pressure to be excellent at them.  I mean, you can be; maybe you’re just a puzzle solving whiz kid who takes this stuff seriously.  For me, though, they were fun little distractions from my normal routine.  No base building, no rushing, no crushing, just putting towers in a line and upgrading them to stave off swarms of ravenous critters, ne’er-do-wells, and mindless enemy henchmen.  It’s the kind of game you do in your spare time, and since I played it years ago I’ve seen so many game developers “turn the genre on its head.”

Many of these developers have failed, too , leaving you with an unimaginative lump of coal that sells itself as a new toy but really just sports a new paint job.  Anomaly 2 is a unique experience, though, and its story is simple but very well done.  It sports short little scenes that aren’t long enough to get you bored or keep you from the action but aren’t so short you can’t enjoy them.  Their like cheesecake bites, and I love cheesecake, even bite-sized.  Even more than that, the graphics in this game are the most stunning I’ve ever seen in a tower defense game.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the game is the fact that the units could morph in the middle of combat.  This differs from the first game, where the units were static and you got what you payed for.  It adds color and flash, as well as strategic diversity.  I’m a huge fan of artillery; just ask any of my friends that I play in Company of Heroes.  Bombarding people from far away is my modus operandiAnomaly 2 really tickles me the right way with this morphing thing because it allows me to have two types of artillery for the price of one.  Being able to turn my big freaking gun into a big freaking rocket launcher is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face, but I thought it was a logical step in the sequel.  They had to go somewhere, and rather than adding units they added multifaceted units.  That’s just good game making, really.  It’s one thing to throw more stuff at me, it’s another thing to throw retooled and redeveloped stuff at me.  This is how you should make sequels, and 11 Bit Studios knows that, and them knowing that makes me happy.

I gave the multiplayer a shot and, believe you me, this is what I had the most doubts about.  It’s one thing to duke it out against towers in the campaign and overcome specifically tailored challenges, but multiplayer is the kind of thing that really needs to feel balanced and challenging at the same time.  It can’t go making people feel cheated, like Monopoly.  Monopoly does terrible things to good people, but in truth Anomaly 2’s multiplayer wasn’t bad.  It’s got some work to do, but it was unique in that one side controls the towers, one the human tank units, and both factions have unique abilities and goals.  It was fun, though I won’t lie, playing tower side was challenging.  Still, some balance tooling will do it good and I think it’s going to be a great addition to the series and the first tower defense style game that I’ve come across to do PVP well.  Its multiplayer is fully integrated into Steam, too, so it’s easy to use and doesn’t require anything extra to play.

I guess I should also point out that, technically, the game isn’t a tower defense game.  You control units that meander through predetermined paths and destroy alien scumbag towers that get in your way and try to stop you.  Thing is, though, it plays just like a tower defense game.  Upgrades, customizable units, and even planning and mapping out your position are all still intrinsic to the gameplay.  That’s its real success: it’s more of what we’ve loved but just enough is different to be defamiliarizing.  It’s a nice little concoction, and it should probably be on your radar in the coming months.  While you’re at it, pick up the first game; it’s a great little preview of what’s to come!




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