Anomaly 2 – Review

Title   Anomaly 2
Developer  11 bit studios
Publisher  11 bit studios
Platform  PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Genre  Tower Defense
Release Date  September 16, 2014 (PS4)

With big-budget games taking longer and longer to make, the indie scene is at its most thrivingest (shut up; it’s a word now) because if you’re Sony or Microsoft you want some fucking games on your system, son! Indie games are quicker to make and there’s always the potential for a massive break-out hit such as Geometry Wars, Castle Crashers, or the monolith that is Minecraft.

The problem is that certain genres keep getting trotted out, and tower defense is a quick and easy one to do as it often requires no real AI, and a simple top-down view isn’t going to challenge your graphic designers. The problem is that after a while all those sort of games meld into one big over-saturated mess and eventually everyone gets bored.

11 bit studios have at least attempted to revitalise the formula by changing the core mechanic behind the genre. Instead of protecting a route by placing defensive towers, now you are the attacker. That’s right, <em>Anomaly 2</em> is, much like its predecessor, a ‘tower offense’ game and it sees you attempting to reclaim an invaded Earth from a bunch of alien space pricks with a penchant for placing weaponised towers next to roads.

To do this you send a convoy of moving vehicles into each level. Now, you’ll know from your tower defense experiences that the vehicles should be toast as soon as they meet the first few towers, and that would be right, but you get to control the improbably-named Simon Lynx who runs around the vehicles carrying out various supporting duties. Simon can place heal units and distract enemy towers. He can also order your vehicles to morph into mechs which alters their ability to aim weapons and changes how much damage they do.

Managing your damage types is crucial to surviving the levels and progressing through the game. You can change the order of vehicles in your convoy (allowing you to really target your damage and protect your most useful units). You can also adapt your route through the levels, allowing you to circle back on towers you haven’t quite killed and giving you options for taking less damage.

At first the game seems trivially easy but after a few early levels, the spike kicks in and you really have to think about what you are doing. This is when everything gets good. Getting the right route and combining it with the correct damage types really challenges your strategic thinking and makes each level very satisfying to conquer.

The action is well-presented with detailed visuals that could get a bit messy if it weren’t for the game putting a coloured line around anything important. You can switch to a tactical view for plotting routes as well, so you shouldn’t have any problems with unseen enemies. It’s not exactly kicking your PS4 in the nuts, but it does at least feel a little more classy than the usual indie effort.

The visual interface works well with the controls which helps make sure that you aren’t wrestling with too many control options when you should be plotting alien death. Everything feels slick and well-designed and before long you should have a good grasp of how to play the game well.

Anomaly 2 does offer online options but right now the servers are pretty sparsely populated, yet really this game works so well as a single-player experience and if Command and Conquer taught us anything, it’s that people don’t stick around in long matches when they are getting beaten. So stick to twatted star bastards instead.

There’s not much variation here and there are only fourteen levels (many of them are pigs to complete though), and I’m not sure why there isn’t a Vita version given the series’ many appearances on mobile formats but there’s enough here for the indie price tag.

Starting this up did feel like a duty at first and I didn’t go in expecting to really enjoy it but after a while the smart gameplay really won me over and so if you’re a fan of the tower defense genre and fancy something a little different, Anomaly 2 is certainly worth a look.

  • Smart, strategic gameplay that isn't just a tank rush.
  • Well-designed controls and interface.
  • Easy to get into.
  • Reminds me of Steamland, the little-known train-based PC strategy gem.
  • Lacks variation
  • Short on longevity
  • Story is pretty generic
  • No Vita version

Tower offense may sound a little bit daft but it works here and provides some of the best tower whatever gameplay I've seen since Geodefense on iOS. With plenty of challenge on offer to even the smartest armchair tactitioners out there, Anomaly 2 is a cerebral indie title that's well worth a look.

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