Build towers and hope they're strong enough to keep enemy hordes at bay. That’s the gist of a tower defense game, and when 11 Bit Studios released Anomaly Warzone Earth back in 2011, it turned the genre upside down. Instead of building up towers, you were knocking them down. Continuing this tower offense format, Anomaly 2 looks familiar but expands on what made the first one so much fun to play. New units, morphing abilities, and the addition of an asymmetrical multiplayer mode are just some of the reasons why Anomaly 2 is an impressive sequel.
Giant mechanized aliens have invaded Earth, and one of the planet’s last defense forces is on a mission to find and deploy an ultimate weapon to exterminate them for good. Anomaly 2 puts you right in the middle of an ongoing battle to save humanity, and each mission you play in Story Mode inches you one step closer to saving the planet. Your environments range from ruined cities to verdant jungles, and missions abound with explosions and critical dialogue that work to make this top-down strategy game very cinematic. Its plot may not be the most creative or original, but gorgeous visuals, a great cast, and a solid soundtrack make this trip to save the world vivid and exciting.
Anomaly 2 will also keep you on your toes as soon as its campaign starts. The first few missions require you to make your way through blocks of enemy towers and reach the finish line usually found on the other side of the map. In order to survive, you’ll need to purchase units and create a convoy of armored tanks and guns that are suited for specific conditions. You’ll have plenty of units to choose from, and the various enemy towers--ranging from common turrets to more advanced hacking units that turn your troops against you--provide new challenges around every corner. Units can also morph into different forms of themselves at any moment, giving you more tools to play with and also providing more room for strategic decisions on the fly. Plus, seeing them transform in an instant adds to the dynamism and immediacy of battles.
Offering additional room for strategy and planning, the game also lets you control the convoy’s captain and run around the map aiding your teammates in battle. Instead of leaving your units to do all the action, you’ll need to deploy abilities like health generators and decoys to aid your units in battle. Not only do you need to plan ahead, but you’ll need to manage your time and resources wisely even mid-fight. Plenty of checkpoints dot the battlefield, so while the later portion of the campaign may be challenging, it won’t feel impossible. Plus, improved keyboard commands and shortcuts makes for a more seamless and enjoyable experience even when you’re getting shot at from all sides.
Story Mode missions themselves do a great job of introducing you to how the game plays, and also expand on how the tower offense genre can be enjoyed. Almost every mission provides you with new units and enemies, so whether it’s a shield generator or a cloaking droid, you always have new toys to play with and additional alien towers to worry about. And because you’re following the story of humans fighting for their freedom, the mission objectives are much more elaborate than just going from point A to point B. One mission is a brutal gauntlet of towers that respawn around your base; another is a classic escort mission; and you even get to play a not-so-friendly game of Red Light/Green Light with the enemy. You only get a little over a dozen missions in the main campaign, but with four difficulty settings to choose from, not to mention extensive leaderboards and in-game medals to unlock, there’s plenty of challenge and variety for everyone to enjoy.
Multiplayer will also keep you coming back for more, offering a blend of tower offense and defense gameplay, depending on which side you play for. While being on the human team feels very much like the single-player game, playing as aliens offers another layer of strategy, as you’ll need to focus on building protective towers to defend your base. Both sides rack up points based on the number of hits, kills, and structures they build, and when either side reaches 1,000 points, the game is over. Because both sides will be constantly setting up their lines of offense or defense, there’s plenty of opportunity for strategic planning not found in Story Mode. Matches start off slow, but they have the potential to get more frenzied so long as both sides take the time to plan things out.
Regardless of which side you choose, the game provides plenty of abilities and tools at your disposal to make for balanced and fun matches. Aliens, for example, can build Harvesters that help them generate points and resources, but these structures will be destroyed for big points if left unchecked. While it may seem they have the advantage, humans can quickly gain points just by shooting at towers, which will happen often. Both sides can also upgrade their technology levels, opening up access to better units and towers, plus additional stat boosts. Because both sides have the same colored health bar, it can get confusing to distinguish yours from the enemy’s, especially when so many towers and units are so close to each other. Still, with four maps to choose from that unlock as you play, multiplayer gives tower defense players what they’ve always wanted, and lets Anomaly fans finally (not) walk in the enemy’s shoes.
If Anomaly Warzone Earth was any indication that tower offense games were good, Anomaly 2 confirms that they’re amazing. Play the game alone, and you’ll discover a rich Story Mode with enough challenge and surprises to keep you coming back for more. Play it with others, and a whole new way of experiencing the game becomes available. No matter how you play it, Anomaly 2’s enhancements and new features make it a game well deserving of your time.