Anomaly Warzone Earth has made its way to the PC, iPhone, iPad, Android and Mac platforms and finally it has come to XBLA; but is it a good fit for the platform?
Aliens have landed on our planet (again) and Unit 14 is tasked with scouting out these forces and determining what exactly they’re doing on our planet. Perhaps landing isn’t quite the right word though as it would appear that an alien ship has torn apart in orbit and two pieces of it have landed in Baghdad and Tokyo. At each crash site a barrier is erected called the anomaly and the military needs men on the inside for the sake of the citizens and to find out just what we’re up against here. The plot is a barebones alien invasion story and utterly a throwaway, but does at least give you a reason to go from point A to point B.
The main idea behind Anomaly Warzone Earth is putting the popular and crowded genre of tower defense on its head and letting you take the offense for a change. You’ll control the commander who is tasked with guiding your units safely through whatever objectives appear in the level, which is of course easier said then done. To help you out you’ll be randomly supplied four different tactical abilities that will give you an edge in addition to juggling the six different types of units you’ll have available. The game starts out slow, but quickly ramps up into a intense, strategic good time that will have you controlling multiple factors at the same time.
Aforementioned troops include an APC, which has light weapons and heavy armor, the Tank, heavy armor and beefier weapons though more expensive to maintain, the Dragon which can attack multiple enemies at once, the Crawler which is your main attack power with light armor, the Support Truck which as you kill enemies supplies you with drops, and the Shield Generator, which covers the two closest units with shields. These units can all be upgraded with money you receive by collecting pick-ups strewn throughout the level and at full health the units can be sold back for the same amount of money you put into them. Health percentage is deducted from the value though so heal them up before selling to get the full effect. This allows you to adopt new strategies on the fly as you change your units back and forth; something I’m glad to announce has very little downtime.
Adding another level of strategy, each unit can be assigned a place in formation which can be changed whenever you deem fit. This allows you to create your own ways to come at each level and leads to wildly varying play-styles. Moving the Shield Generator in between two of your troops will provide them with shields, but leave the other 3 out in the cold unless you have two Shield Generators. Of course it’s almost as viable to just have three units total out of the six as it provides you with a more mobile and easier maintained formation. There really are a ton of different ways to achieve your goal and it’s laudable that the choices flow so well.
The convoy will move along a route that you get to choose, switching it at intervals to avoid or confront enemy towers of varying strength. Your commander will be the only unit you directly control to pick up drops and to use four disparate powers. Repair drops a field to heal troops, Smoke screen lessens damage, Air Strikes will allow you to take out bigger enemies, and Decoy directs all enemy fire to it while your units pass safely blasting away. As you gain more units and powers juggling all of it becomes a welcome strategic challenge and again there are so many play-styles supported. Different strategies emerge like using a decoy and then a smoke screen to cover it so the decoy will last longer. It’s things like these that will keep you coming back time and again to the game.
That’s a good thing though as the overall campaign is relatively short. 14 story missions await you and even the beefiest ones can be beaten comfortably in 15 minutes. At the end of each map you’ll be given medals for the ways you approached the missions, which adds some longevity, but ultimately the game leans on it’s other modes to keep you playing. Mostly these are survival modes where you try to survive as long as possible, but 6 new VR missions have been added to the Xbox 360 version for you to take advantage of. I don’t feel the length is a deal breaker though as this type of game is meant to be played again and again anyway.
Anomaly Warzone Earth takes a overdone genre and makes it fresh by flipping it on its head and does so very well. The overall gameplay is rock solid and fosters an intense strategic experience that you’ll find yourself drawn to. Tutorials are also extremely well done and the game ramps you up into your use of all your assets at an excellent pace. The length of campaign may be hard to justify for some, but I just wish that the setting would have been a little more unique or interesting. Though that isn’t what these types of games are usually about, I think it would have went a long way towards setting the title apart. As it is the game, including the name, seem extremely generic with a plot that is throwaway at best and it may cause some people to pass it up because of that blandness, which I think would be a shame considering it’s a heck of a lot of fun at the low price of 800 points or $10.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this title was provided to The Paranoid Gamer for review purposes. If you have any questions about this game the reviewer will be able to answer them in the comment section.