Anomaly: Warzone Earth Review

Anomaly: Warzone Earth may be a tower defense game, but a more accurate description of it would be to call it a "tower offense" game. Alien ships land on Earth and encase themselves in mysterious energy zones and make a few tentative hostile moves. Rather than waiting to see what develops, military forces attempt to infiltrate the domes and immediately run into an elaborate defense system of weapons towers protecting what lies at the core of the domes. You are placed in the role of a commander of a scouting force that must make its way past the alien defenses and find what they are so intent on protecting.

While the setup for each level in the game varies from a story-based perspective, the gameplay follows a similar script. You need to lead a small convoy of vehicles from the Point A to Point B through a series of city streets protected by a variety of alien towers. The trick is that you do not have direct control over the vehicles, although you can control where they go via the in game map. At each intersection you can specify whether your convoy should turn one way or the other or continue on, and you can (and should) make constant adjustments to their route as the level plays out. Different towers have different ranges and arcs of fire, and you need to be careful to approach them in the right direction and in the right order. If you don't plan your routes carefully, you can easily lose your entire vehicle column in a matter of seconds. You're not relegated to being a path-planner all game, though. You also can influence the mission's success in a couple of other ways.

First, you have control over the make-up and order of the vehicles in your column. As your convoy destroys towers you earn income which can be spent to either upgrade your existing vehicles or add new vehicles to the column (or replace some of your losses). There are a small number of vehicles in the game, the trade-off between them being a matter of firepower versus armor although there is one vehicle that generates a shield for adjacent vehicles in the column but has no weapon of its own. You can also set the order of your column, choosing between placing your best firepower up front to try to take out enemy towers quickly or placing your more armored vehicles at the vanguard in an attempt to absorb more punishment.

The other way that you influence the battle is through your commander unit. This is the one unit that you do have control over, and although he doesn't carry a weapon he has several other important tasks. Not being constrained to the vehicle column and its autonomous and steady march, the commander is free to roam around the battlefield, even off of its roads. You'll quickly learn the survival skill of using your commander to distract slow-rotating towers so that when your column approaches the towers won't be able to bring their weapons to bear on your vehicles in time.

The commander also has access to a limited number of critical powers. Area-of-effect powers include repair to patch up damaged units and a smoke screen to confuse enemy towers, while a decoy power will spawn a fake vehicle to draw the fire of towers away from your vehicles. The number of uses of each power is limited so you need to be strategic in their deployment, although luckily you're periodically resupplied when you take out certain towers.

The game's campaign features fifteen levels split between two locations, but there's more gameplay here than it seems. It will take you a while to get through each of these levels as most are multi-phased and dynamically add new objectives the deeper into the mission that you get. In addition to the campaign, there are three challenge modes to play. Baghdad Mayhem requires you to destroy alien generators within a time limit through ten progressively more difficult phases. Tokyo Raid features eighteen island maps for you to clear. Lastly, there are a half dozen challenge maps presented as virtual reality simulations. All told you'll get hours of gaming out of this downloadable title, even if you don't replay any of it.

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is one of those games that features a small set of simple rules and controls that give way to a surprisingly deep strategy game. Unit routing and deployment and deciding when to use your commander's powers are critical to success and if you don't plan your actions in advance you're going to find yourself being wiped out pretty quickly. I was a little skeptical of a tower defense game in which you have little control over your units (especially having recently reviewed Defenders of Ardania), but I soon found myself enjoying the strategic challenge presented by the game. Anyone who enjoys a game that flexes your brain as much as your reflexes should give this game a try.

Final Rating: 88%. Sometimes the best tower defense is a good tower offense.