Tower Defense games are a dime a dozen these days and while there are many variations to try and mix things up, the “Tower Offense” gameplay of Anomaly Warzone Earth, developed by 11-Bit Studios and released last year for the PC and Mac, and just recently for Xbox Live Arcade, is about as different as you can get from the oversaturated and continually less appealing genre. Instead of placing diverse types of towers and munitions to stop an approaching force; you take the role of the approaching force, you plan your route, and you choose the types of vehicles to use.
Taking place in the locales of Baghdad and Tokyo, an invading force of aliens have deployed their forces within each city and it’s up to you to lead a convoy of futuristic military vehicles—along with the doppelganger of Jason Statham providing audio commentary—throughout each, and destroy them. The alien forces are the defense towers, each of varying sizes and weaponry, which line the city streets and try to stop you as you slowly advance your way to the objective. Anomaly Warzone Earth is the exact opposite of every Tower Defense game on the market, and the uniqueness comes through in more than one way.
At the start of each round you are given a set amount of credits to buy the vehicles you want in your convoy; deciding if you value defense over offense, attack power over armor. Along the way, you will also receive credits for destroying enemy emplacements and collecting Carusaurum (the minerals that are found around cities) deposits. After vehicles are purchased, you then have the option to upgrade them, improving attacking and defensive power, or just purchasing more vehicles for your convoy. The more vehicles you have however, the more complex it gets, as you need to use your fleet-footed commander to keep the marching vehicles alive.
The commander is the on-foot soldier that you control while the convoy automatically follows the route that you set for it. Using the commander allows you to pick up items that get airdropped as towers are destroyed, as well as placing where the items will be used. The multiple items range in uses such as Repair that will allow you to drop a repair zone that heal vehicles as they roll through, and a smoke screen that can allow the convoy to pass in front of enemy towers without getting direct hits constantly. If your Commander happens to stray too from the convoy while picking up items, he can be downed, refraining you from helping your convoy for a certain amount of time.
Each of the missions will require you to take different tactics for your approach and will often take numerous attempts to figure out what works to get your crew through; which vehicles to choose, which route works best, which items to use when. As the convoy passes through the streets at a relaxed pace, you can speed up their movement to make the moments of non-action go by much quicker instead of having to just sit there twiddling your thumbs. Many of the missions are quite lengthy, and as you make your way through each, you will be given checkpoints so that if you do find your vehicles obliterated—and you often will — you won’t have to start all the way back at the beginning.
The checkpoints aren’t generous enough to make the game any less challenging, but they also aren’t uncommon enough to lose 15 minutes of gameplay. Unfortunately there was one time that a checkpoint registered near the end of a mission where I had two out of four vehicles remaining and they were both at half health. I didn’t have enough credits to buy additional units or upgrades, and the upcoming onslaught of enemy towers was too much for my depleted convoy each and every time, forcing me to restart the mission from the very beginning.
The strategies and tactics that vary from mission to mission is enough to keep you pushing through as are the additional vehicles that you unlock further on in the campaign. When you are done with the 14 mission singleplayer story, you can then tackle the addition mayhem missions, which are timed wave missions, and tactical trial modes that offer up more of a challenge and some more bang for your buck. Anomaly Warzone Earth is a crafty spin on the Tower Defense genre and for those that cringe when they hear the term used to describe a game, you can rest easy that the game’s take on the old and stagnant style is an all-around engaging and enjoyable experience.
Title: Anomaly Warzone Earth