Anomaly: Warzone Earth Review
This game was reviewed on the PC
Tower defence is something most gamers are familiar with, but tower offence games are few and far between. It’s an interesting concept, and one that 11 Bit Studios has adopted for their game Anomaly: Warzone Earth. Released in September to the PlayStation Network, Anomaly has received a lot of attention, growing in popularity and availability across platforms since it was first launched April 8, 2011.
The game begins with a monologue from the Commander, explaining how Earth had fallen victim to an alien invasion, and how he fought on the front lines to save the world. You then relive the scene – almost verbatim – over again when the first level begins. Though watching the same scene back to back was a irritating, and you get to hear this redundant information four more times, it does not continue beyond the first three levels.
You are the Commander, in charge of a convoy set on penetrating alien defences and destroying them before they destroy Earth. For the first few levels the pace is very slow and a little drawn out, but once the developers are sure you’ve had enough time to master the mechanics, it changes to non-stop action and strategizing on the fly to stay alive. The game is constantly introducing new obstacles and enemies, which can dramatically change even the best laid plans and you may have to jump head first into a firefight just to survive. Some levels will have enemies attack bridges you need to cross, or introduce units that can remove your shields. By the time you’ve reached the second area, you’re hooked. And if you’re finding the levels too easy, don’t worry, Anomaly makes switching between difficulties an option on every level.
At the start of each level you are shown the map, and your main objectives are highlighted. Once the introduction to the level finishes, you will need to plot out an effective path to each target, avoiding as many pesky aliens as you can. You can change your route any time during the course of the journey and – of course – the game is determined to mess with your plans as often as possible by adding new enemies or blocking your path, so stay sharp.
However, the challenges are well worth it, as defeating each opponent also gives you the chance to obtain loot you may desperately need to finish the level. The loot you receive varies and, depending on the item, can be used for decoys, healing, or extra firepower. There are also little caches of money along the way (though usually off the beaten track) that you can pick up to help you with buying vehicles and upgrading them. If the enemy obliterates one of your vehicles, you can purchase new ones while still in combat. Don’t underestimate the importance of directing your troops out of the way to collect the caches; they can be the difference between having to restart the entire mission, or reaching the end alive.
You can purchase many different kinds of vehicles that are unlocked as you move through the levels, and they each have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, the crawler vehicle will have very little health, but a lot of firepower. A shield vehicle has very little firepower, but protects itself and two others vehicles around it with a barrier. Keep in mind that although upgrades can give you a tactical advantage, any vehicles, items, or money obtained during the level will not carry over to the next.
Rankings you receive for the completion of each level are very straightforward. You are marked based on how direct your route was, how efficient you were at not using items to survive, and how much carnage you caused. At the end of each level you are awarded bronze, silver, or gold badges based on your performance. You can go back and try to get a higher score on any level played at any time, without having to lose the work you have already done.
The control scheme is simple and easy, ensuring you can stop and plan your next move at any time. The abilities panel could have been enhanced by allowing the use the D-Pad instead of only the L3 analog stick, as it made the selection process clumsy and could cost you time. Otherwise, the controls are very basic and focus more on tactics than the ability to mash buttons. When you feel impatient and use the fast forward option in the game, try to refrain from doing it during cutscenes or explanations. If you do this, instead of the fast forward function behaving as it usually does (by speeding up the voices) the game will sometimes skip major parts of the conversation, and you’ll miss important pieces of information that you may rely on moving forward through the level.
11 Bit Studios took a basic concept, put it into an addictive game format, and added some artistically wonderful touches to the graphics. The cutscene is so good that it seems almost too good for the cost of the game, providing us with a very realistic and polished video clip of the Commander, standing over a mountain looking down at the alien invasions and gathering his troops for the attack. The in-game content has very basic character imagery mapped out on a much more detailed backdrop. While the commander, his troops, and the aliens look like little cartoons on the screen, the landscape is much more realistic with its rushing water, flowing trees, and even details like broken glass surrounding blown up buildings. From there the developers added some motivational battle music, shots with a little extra grain, and a few scenes with an overhead sepia-toned sequence to make sure you get into a war-game kind of mood.
The voice-acting is strictly communicative aside from a few monologues, making sure the focus stays on the targets in the level instead of being distracted by the voices. When you are hearing orders or instructions, the Commander’s voice is loud and empowering, while the intelligence officer’s voice is smooth and calculated. The actors help to create an atmosphere of urgency, making the player feel like they are right in the action before the level even begins. The game calls for this level of awareness if you want to stay alive and be able to react quickly during battle.
Overall this game was a big surprise in a tiny package. The bottom line is that for less than the cost of a movie ticket, this game is definitely worth every penny you’ll spend and more.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth receives a 4.25/5.0
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