Anomaly 2 Review
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Planet Earth: It’s your home, your world, your very existence. It’s the one place you made plans to raise your children in, and the only planet familiar to you. But this Earth you call yours is no longer—not since an alien force brutally ripped its way through your atmosphere and your cities – leaving a pile of rubble where your dreams and memories used to live. Now, you must fight for your very existence in the desolate wastelands of New York, and take back what is rightfully yours. This is Anomaly 2, a sequel to Anomaly: Warzone Earth, and 11 bit studios is gearing players up with some new technologies to help them on their way through this fast-paced tower offense journey. Do you have what it takes to best the bad guys at their own game, or will you find yourself falling just shy of freedom?
You begin your adventure in the form of Tutorial Missions, and a story-based dialog follows before each Mission. You are Simon Lynx, First Lieutenant of Convoy Yukon, and the last hope mankind has to eradicate the alien intruders trespassing into your world. You must rescue Doctor Zander, a clever scientist with a weapon called Project Shockwave, and use it to rid the Earth of these deadly pests forever. You’ll be travelling with your Convoy to New York where you must get in, get the Doctor, and get out – but first, you’ll need to train. The Tutorial Missions themselves are treated as simulations you go through to prepare yourself for your main objective, and you’ll be doing so on one of the last standing military bases controlled by humans. You cannot skip these Missions and must play through them to get to the main storyline, as the Tutorials are woven into the story this time around.
Spoiler Alert: As mentioned in the Demo review, the way the actual Missions start is extremely entertaining and deserves all the praise in the world for ingenuity on 11 bit studios’ part. Unbeknownst to you, your safety while in the simulator (running the Tutorial Missions) is in great peril. As you progress through the Missions, you’ll start to see the screen glitching out here and there, and this will grow in frequency and intensity from level to level. The first time I played, I originally thought these were actual game glitches, and was slightly irritated at how blatant they were. Eventually, your Colonel will assure you (in game) that it’s just technical difficulties and to keep going – the Mission you are preparing for is too important to worry about anything else.
The Tutorials end with your last Mission coming to an abrupt stop, mid-level, as you get blown out of the simulator and end up lying on the ground (in first person view). You’re disoriented, your vision is blurred and you are now on a disheveled, rubble-filled base that is being bombed. Fade to black. It was an incredible way for the writers to distinguish between the Tutorial and the real deal – literally jerking you away from your mission and thrusting you into the “real world” – head first! While the storyline itself is not deep or diverse, it is little surprises like this that make the 14 short Missions in the campaign completely worth your blood, sweat, and tears.
How you play the game is pretty simple: At the beginning of the level you’ll see an overview of the map, the location of your objective(s), and the enemies you’ll be moving through. Your Colonel will explain any new enemies you have yet to face so you can best prepare your route and decide which units are useful for the level. Every unit (each individual vehicle in your Convoy) has a weak point and a strong point, and will also have a description of this before you purchase it – so you don’t have to keep track of them yourself! An example would be the Sledge Hammer, which is great with targets far away but ignores close quarter encounters. The mechanics and strategies really have only one change to them since Warzone Earth: a Morph ability that changes the way your units attack. Each unit can Morph when you double-click it, making on-the-fly combat changes that can save your entire Convoy. Using the above example of the Sledge Hammer, it can be transformed using the Morph ability by double-clicking it, which turns it into the Rocket Hammer – a close-range powerhouse who cannot shoot targets at a distance, but deals heavy damage to those enemies right beside it. You can also select your difficulty before you start each Mission: Casual, Advanced, Hardcore, or Nightmare. If you find a level too difficult, keep this in mind before trying again. With so many options, it’ll be very easy for anyone to play at a rate they can handle, while still having fun! For those of you who have already played Warzone Earth, you’ll see all your familiar units back in action, making it easy for you to catch on.
Speaking of familiarity – the biggest downside to playing Anomaly 2 is exactly that—how similar it is to the previous titles. If you’ve already played the heck out of Warzone Earth, you’re not going to find much value in playing Anomaly 2. The reason for this is that, while there is the new Morph mechanic, the graphics are cleaner, and the levels seem a little more varied, it’s the exact same game. Sure, you’ll get a couple new types of units, a few interesting plot twists, but it is a repetitive adventure for returning players nevertheless. While there is more focus on the story than in Warzone Earth, there isn’t a lot of meat to it, so you don’t have characters that will compel you to stay glued to the dialog. Top it off with the extremely linear, level-based system, and you’re playing the original Anomaly, just with a slight tweak here or there. This will get monotonous and tiresome for many gamers – even with the multiplayer.
Remember when Warzone Earth came out, and while the in-game graphics weren’t something to die for, the opening scene was very polished and showed off just how amazing the game would be if they had an AAA budget? I do. This time around, 11 bit studios has taken your hard-earned money and used it to improve the overall graphic quality in Anomaly 2 – and not just the opening scene. The explosions are bigger, the in-game units are more detailed, and even the boring old map introduction is tidied up with an artistic – almost historical looking – image on the screen, and a brief monologue about what has happened (or will happen) in the story. Even brief cutscenes like the base-attack (described above) make Anomaly 2 feel like something pulled out of a big production game trailer – making the design a unique and diverse experience for your eyes.
The actor for Lieutenant Lynx does an amazing job with the voice acting when you compare him to the previous game – as there are many layers to how he delivers his line. He has a strong, steady voice, but with the weight of everything going on around him, you get very small glimpses of deeper emotions stirring within him. You’ll hear his urgency clear as a fire alarm – but there are moments of softness in his voice that remind you that he’s just a man in an impossible situation, watching everything he loves burn. There were a couple of moments when it was almost as if you could imagine a single tear rolling down his face, mourning the loss of his fallen world. This kind of powerful performance in any game can really bring it to a whole new level, and I’m excited to see this voice actor tackle some heavy, story-driven content in the future.
While the music in the background does fit with the theme of the game – adding bass and deep drum sounds with a mixture of higher tones in between – it tended to be drowned out by the sound effects and the voice acting. Even adjusting the volume levels left either the music or the effects lacking, and it was hard to find a good balance that made it feel like it all came together in one package. In an action-packed strategy game, all three elements of sound content are required, and it just felt like a chore trying to make them all work together for a common goal: immersion.
If you’re feeling lucky or especially talented, you should really try your hand at the new Multiplayer option. With the online multiplayer, gamers from all over the world can face-off against one another in a two-man competition. You can play as Squad (humans) like in your campaign and try to make your way with your Convoy through a maze of enemy Towers, or as the Towers (aliens), setting up Towers to take down the Squad of humans coming your way. You’ll have access to one Map to begin with, and you’ll unlock new maps as you move up in rank. The goal is to either be the first to get 1000 points in combat or beat your opponent by having a 500 point lead. That way, if you are slaughtering someone on the battlefield, they don’t have to wait until you reach 1000 points to lose. You earn points by destroying enemy units or towers, and by building and upgrading your own units or towers.
Each multiplayer match is only a few minutes in length, which is great for a pick-up-and-go game, but lacks true multiplayer satisfaction as the games are very short in comparison to the campaign, and may make players feel like they’d only just begun before it’s all over. Players will really only have time for one or two strategic changes before they’re at the end of the match – which ends up leaving you or the other side with a landslide victory, and will leave some players scratching their heads, because it’s so quick. That being said, it’s a great way to see things from the other side as Tower (playing as an alien invader), and test your skills against real people instead of just AI. 11 bit studios is a fairly new company, striving to bring both a casual and hardcore gaming experience to the market in the same breath. Anomaly 2 is very much a game that can be played by any level of gamer and still be enjoyable for all. I believe it’s safe to say they did what they set out to do. While the previous Anomaly games mirror the same sentiment, as the company grows there is a distinct shift in production value and attention to detail in this new release. For the affordable price of $14.99, gamers at all levels of talent can enjoy a challenging strategy game with a new twist of tower-offense, as opposed to the more common tower-defense mechanics seen in a plethora of games on the market. When you break it down, Anomaly 2 is very similar to Warzone Earth, with a few new fun surprises for returning players, and a wonderful, fresh experience for players who have yet to try the series.
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