Anomaly 2 is a real-time strategy game for the PC (Windows, Mac and Linux). The game utilizes the popular tower defense sub-genre and turns it on its head by putting players in control of the moving units, while the computer controls the towers. 11 bit studios developed and published the title. The studio’s prior work includes several iOS mobile titles such as Funky Smugglers and Sleepwalker’s Journey, as well as the Anomaly series. Anomaly 2 is a sequel to the refreshingly good Anomaly: Warzone Earth and the side-quel Anomaly: Korea. Its predecessor Anomaly: Warzone Earth was wildly popular receiving many awards and honors, and spanning several ports from PC to mobile to PS3 and Xbox 360. Can Anomaly 2 recapture the magic of the original or has the good will for the concept dried up?
The story is nicely fleshed out, especially for a tower defense game. It takes place after the events of the previous Anomaly games and it is good to see 11 bit continue a singular saga of a beleaguered Earth at war with alien machines. The only issue with the narrative is that it is told only through communications, before and after a mission (with some minor interruptions during gameplay), with only talking character profiles. Anomaly 2 does a great job improving and enhancing the previous games’ elements, but the static nature of story telling is a bit disappointing. There is also a tendency at certain points for the characters to fall too neatly into stereotypes seen often in these military themed stories. That said, the aftermath of the machines winning and taking over Earth makes the stakes properly high because losing means the world is doomed. Plus, the game hinges on a choice and that is a refreshing story element for the game.
Gameplay in Anomaly 2 will be familiar (in a sense) to any gamer who has played a tower defense. Except instead of building towers to maze and destroy enemies so they do not reach an arbitrary point on the other side of a map, players will take control of Lieutenant Lynx and be responsible for the units crawling through the maze. Lynx will plan the routes for units that will be the most beneficial and efficient for taking out enemy towers. These routes can be changed at any time by hitting ctrl or scrolling up or down on the mouse, then clicking on arrows to change the direction. Building units is done simply by pressing space and selecting the units, each of the 5 units can be upgraded three times. Rearranging units, in order to take advantage of an enemy tower’s strength or weaknesses, is also done by pressing space at any time. Each unit in Anomaly 2, in addition to be upgradable, can morph to a different form that confers them specific advantages for certain situations. This leads to a larger amount of strategy when moving through the missions, and the strategy is more fluid because units can morph at any time by either selecting it in the squad menu or double clicking the unit. For example, the assault hound can be used as a rapid fire unit or can morph into a hell hound that uses dual flamethrowers to attack. This allows the player to attack two towers crevices between buildings at the same time instead of the assault hound focusing only on one tower. Lynx also has abilities to help support his troops. The player has four abilities to choose from, these abilities can heal units, focus unit attention, or distract enemy towers. Deploying abilities is smooth and intuitive. There is a huge amount of depth to the gameplay and there is a refreshing sense of difficulty to the game (for those looking for more or less of a challenge, the game offers four modes of difficulty). The story mode offers a variety of different missions objectives that build upon the core gameplay elements to liven up the proceedings and keep gameplay fresh.
11 bit studios have included an additional multiplayer mode in Anomaly 2. In this mode, two players can face off against each other as either towers or units. The multiplayer is a bit tough to get into at first, but when players get the hang of each side’s particular strengths and weaknesses, the mode opens up. There is plenty of depth to explore in multiplayer and for diligent fans, a whole bunch of skill to learn and use when facing off against seasoned opponents. It is not the most robust multiplayer, but what it may lack in modes makes up for in how entertaining it is. There is a wealth of strategy to explore and try out in Anomaly 2’s multiplayer.
Graphics and Sound
One of the most eye catching aspects of Anomaly 2 is that it is an extremely beautiful game. 11 bit studios has put plenty of work into the game to make sure that it looks amazing. Compared to Warzone Earth, Anomaly 2 is leaps ahead graphically. There is plenty of polish to how the environments look, and the variety to the different environments is admirable. The units and towers have a good amount of detail. When morphing units, the animation is smooth and looks good. Each character that speaks in the game features a great hand drawn character profile and that art style carries over to the loading screens before missions. It makes one wonder what a game using that style would look like. The animations for towers and effects is top notch. Sound wise, the game has an intense soundtrack that marries well with the game’s tone and story beats. The voice acting is solid, but there is a tendency for it to dip in quality due to some wonky dialogue.
Anomaly 2 does a superb job of making another solid reverse tower defense. It has a surprisingly fleshed out story, deep strategy gameplay, excellent visuals and solid sound. With an interesting take on multiplayer, there is something to explore even after finishing the game’s story mode. The only drawback is that while it improves upon prior efforts, it does not change the formula significantly. Anomaly 2 will probably not convert anyone who does not already enjoy tower defenses to the game’s charm, but for the faithful, there is plenty to like in the game.