As with the original Anomaly: Warzone Earth
from 11 Bit Studios, its sequel Anomaly 2 has gamers controlling a squad of units through routes of merciless alien towers set on destroying everything in their range. With Anomaly 2, the gameplay has been further polished in addition to new features including morphing mech units and a multiplayer tower offense versus defense mode. While the game includes simple controls and addictive tactics-based gameplay, there are some issues of difficulty spikes and a reliance on trial and error for completing levels cause frustration in the game's later sections.
Survival after the anomaly
The sequel's narrative is set after the alien invasion of Earth in 2018 in which a devastating anomaly event has brought the human race to the verge of extinction. Players join the ranks of a roaming convoy that becomes entangled in a quest to locate and activate a device that was designed with the sole purpose of destroying the alien threat. Even with the interesting post-apocalypse setting of Earth as a frozen tundra and some stunning vistas, the alien versus human conflict and characters involved in the narrative are lackluster and hollow compared to the actual gameplay. However, the various types of alien units and their mechanical designs have an identity of their own and succeed at being menacing throughout the narrative.
The narrative in later levels does pick up pace from the slower beginning levels that focused more on providing tutorials for the different unit types available to use in a squad. While most levels follow the format of battling through enemy towers, there are other sections that deviate from the formula that focus on powering down turrets or defending a base from waves of aliens on each side. Each level is also scored based upon completion time and other battle statistics that determine a bronze, silver, or gold rating. Even with a less than-mediocre narrative in place, players will find a great deal of enjoyment in the addictive gameplay of Anomaly 2.
Trial and error victory
While the core elements of gameplay haven't drastically changed from the original, the introduction of new unit types and their ability to transform into alternative mech versions result in a more interactive and dynamic experience. Units from the original game and new additions are all able to transform with a double click of the mouse to mech versions that include different abilities and tactics. Anomaly 2 strays from the normal elements of tower offense games by enabling players to directly control the commander character as they run about the battlefield collecting power-ups and scouting ahead for the convoy. Also returning is the tactical view that allows players to plan their route through enemy territory to reach the level exit. The switch from tactical to squad view and then to the battlefield are all fluid, which allows players to quickly change their tactics.
The ever-changing battlefields and action-packed sequences of Anomaly 2 are all a refreshing change of pace to the tower offense genre. Yet, the gameplay suffers from a few issues that ultimately result in more frustration than enjoyment. The pacing of the game never quite hits the mark and with it comes many difficulty spikes that leave the player little warning. With the game's trial and error method and auto-saving checkpoints, there were many occasions that entire levels had to be restarted because there weren't enough resources or units left for completing the particular section. While the game allows players to select the units for their squad, most levels have enemy tower arrangements that require the right selection of units to bypass their defenses. Anomaly 2 wants players to complete levels using certain units and tactics that leave little room for creativity or freedom.
Fortunately, the sequel's inclusion of multiplayer is one of the largest saving graces as online players are incredibly more interesting to play against versus the computer. The multiplayer component of Anomaly 2 introduces tower-defense gameplay into the mix as one player builds towers to defend a base while another leads a convoy to destroy its defenses. The player assuming control of the mechanized alien force has all of the units from single-player in their arsenal as well as generator structures that supply their forces with resources. The player with human control is exactly the same as single-player but with the added freedom of larger maps to plan routes through as well as confronting the tactics of unpredictable opponents. Each player begins with a set score that decreases based upon the actions made by the opponent such as destroying defense towers or convoy units.
Most games that take place in a post-apocalyptic setting suffer from the brown and gray color syndrome. Anomaly 2 defies the trend by having stunning environments that aren't afraid to employ the use of bold colors and visual effects. The frozen wastelands of New York City and later environments nearly stole the focus away from the action as they remained a visually unique and stunning backdrop. Atmospheric sound effects from crackling ice to whirling winds combine with the visuals to complete the post-apocalyptic setting. While the menu's graphics options were severely lacking for adjustment, the game continually ran at a smooth frame rate without any glitches or crashes.
King of the towers
The further improvement of the gameplay mechanics along with the addition of multiplayer set Anomaly 2 as a solid entry in the series that will surely entertain fans of the original and tower offense and defense newcomers. Aside from all of the great additions, the lackluster narrative and frustrating trial and error single-player levels do take away some enjoyment from the overall experience. Fortunately, the multiplayer mode's combination of tower offense and defense genres make for one of the series' most expansive and addictive gameplay experiences. With its issues aside, Anomaly 2 follows in the tradition of the original by setting a new standard for tower offense and defense games.
Anomaly 2 is available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
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