Anomaly: Warzone Earth Review

Marshall Honorof | 25 Sep 2012 17:00
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The tower defense genre may be nearing the point of market saturation, but according to Anomaly: Warzone Earth, there's still plenty of room for a new spin on the idea. This strategy title comes by way of Polish developer 11 bit studios, and proves that creativity, innovation, and fun are alive and well in the downloadable market. A:WE is technically a tower defense, but only because there's no real term yet to describe what it does. Rather than building a series of structures to repel an enemy invasion, this game puts you in the shoes of the aggressor. As it turns out, knocking down towers can be just as much fun as building them up.

A:WE casts you as the commander of the 14th Platoon, a near-future British military outfit charged with keeping the Earth safe from extraterrestrial threats. When a mysterious ship crashes in Baghdad, you lead a team of Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), missile-launching mechs, and energy shield carriers to investigate and destroy a variety of alien defensive structures. Like any good sci-fi story, the initial setup carries it through the first act, but a decent plot twist about halfway through the campaign will keep most players hooked until the end. The script is nothing special, although some emphatic voice acting propels the interesting narrative and provides a few chuckle-worthy one-liners.

While the game's difficulty ramps up very quickly, the basic structure of each mission remains the same from start to finish. You control the 14th Platoon's commander, and can run freely around the map, drawing fire and collecting power-ups. Your avatar can soak up an impressive amount of damage, but is unable to dish it out in turn; this is where a collection of varied, upgradeable vehicles comes in. Rather than an unending stream of minions, the commander can summon only a handful of units to tackle the alien towers. The versatile APC, for example, can soak up a lot of damage but chips away at enemy health slowly, while the Carrier mech tears through enemy defenses but can only withstand a few hits. More advanced units become available later in the game, including short-range, fire-spewing tanks and supportive Supply Trucks, but each one feels well-balanced in terms of cost and utility.

At the beginning of each mission, you'll map a route for your units to follow through the twists and turns of Baghdad (and later, Tokyo). Mapping routes is easily one of the most unwieldy parts of the game, as the levels are often huge, and the default route will invariably lead you down a circuitous path of enemy kill corridors, often ending in unhelpful cul-de-sacs. Once you're en route, though, everything fits together nicely. A number of different enemy towers hamper your progress, from stationary turrets, to forward-facing particle beams, to enormous cannons that attack multiple units.

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