Okay, for starters, I wasn’t terribly drawn into the first Anomaly. (You can read N’s FleshEatingZipper review here.) That’s really neither here nor there, but I want to put into perspective my relationship with this game, or rather series of games, since that game now has a sequel. Tower Offense games are a strange breed, as the twist is you’re the one sending the units to attack the towers, rather than building the towers themselves.Strangely, this boils down to being a series of escort missions. Is this a bad thing?
The game opens up with the world as a freezing wasteland. Cities are now in ruin, civilization as we know it ceases to be and the few, hopeful stragglers left have banded together to find a way to destroy the mechanical mass that has turned our world into a giant ice cube. To be honest, a story supporting a game like this is window dressing, creating a setting and driving you from point A to point B. This thin arc of a narrative is only made shallower by uninspired dialogue. Sure, it tries to give the game character, but one only needs to hear a commander use the word morph several times before the illusion fades. Still, the effort behind this isn’t unappreciated; it is, after all, a simple attempt to at least explain the majority of what’s going on.
The presentation isn’t exactly flawless either, though it’s probably one of the better parts of the game. Each zone is permeated with a cold, frigid atmosphere, doing its best to make the missions feel like you’re traversing a frozen city or through the warm glow of a barren, desert landscape. The engine running the game does its best to make the world feel rich, and if the mechanical ‘towers’ didn’t feel like they were spawned from the Crysis series, I’d be willing to give the art direction a full thumbs up.
While the game may look pretty, but the gameplay is sort of average at best. I suppose I should explain a bit. The objective is to escort a bunch of tanks through a winding maze of corridors lined with mechanical enemies, or ‘towers’, that will try to shoot your convoy at every chance they get. At the beginning of each mission, you’re given a tactical map and a briefing on the goals you’ll need to achieve. You’ll select which types of vehicles you’ll want in your convoy, choosing which vehicle or vehicles to upgrade and if they’ll be deployed in a certain mode. Each vehicle has two modes, changing their attributes drastically depending on mode. The Assault Hound, for example, uses minigun turrets which slowly build their firing rate as a primary weapon, but can be morphed into the Hell Hound, which wields independent dual flamethrowers, exchanging range for attack power and defenses.
Once you’ve started the mission, your convoy will continue to move unimpeded, driving in the direction that you set when viewing the tactical map. You’ll be able to redirect vehicles as you see fit throughout the mission, to find the best course to follow. Double-clicking your units will morph them, and you’ll need to this at the right time to keep your convoy alive. Along with these units, as you maneuver throughout the terrain, you’ll also be given power ups which you can spend for various jobs. Sometimes you’ll need to heal units, other times you’ll need to deploy decoys to keep towers busy and take the heat off your units. They’re a finite resource which can be acquired from destroyed enemies, so you’ll need to manage your inventory as well. Don’t get me wrong, the game can be fun, and it offers up a challenge, but it can feel slightly repetitive when you aren’t being introduced to new vehicles to escort around.
I don’t find escort missions to be much fun, and babysitting continuously moving vehicles for extended periods of time can feel a bit … grating. Expect to play the game in short bursts, is all I’m saying. On top of that, the difficulty can feel like it ramps up unexpectedly in parts, too. A particular mission left a bad taste in my mouth. I was sent out to stop waves of attacking machines, culminating in a makeshift tower defense level. Oh sure, things are going swell, and by swell, I mean I’m trying get my convoy to haul ass all over the map while a defenseless structure is slowly dying, when all of a sudden the game decides to break, the timer freezes, and now I have to restart the level all over again. For one thing, it wouldn’t be so bad if the initial starting point wasn’t a clusterfuck of enemies, for another, it’d help if the rest of it wasn’t just a clusterfuck of enemies.
Vulgarity aside, the mission just sort of bites… and it bites hard.
Multiplayer on the other hand has its moments, but ultimately feels light-weight in comparison, as you’ll be playing either as the Earth Military, or the Towers, in the same sort of tower offense/defense mode you’ve been playing in the Solo game mode. You’ll unlock levels as you play games, and to be honest, it’s interesting to play as the Towers for once, but the illusion breaks down when you realize that the Towers can become subdued by Decoy beacons and massive rocket attacks from your Hammer tanks. Our experience with it was limited, so if there are further options to behold, they were beyond our grasp.
I can’t say the game doesn’t reach its intended goal of being a simple tower offense game, but its attempt at being unique falls flat. Graphically it’s very nice to look at, and doesn’t require too heavy a machine to run, but the art direction doesn’t always shine the way you’d expect. Play it in short bursts, but be prepared for harrowing challenges later in the game that could lead to some severe fits of frustration.