A while back (a while not big enough for me to use words such as „once upon a time”), Tower Defense meant a customized map in various RTS games in which the mission was to build a defense capable of holding back waves of increasing numbers and strength, using complementary abilities and placement tactics. Thus began to grow the population of gamers who smoked with one hand, while controlling their defenses with the other. Various producers found themselves amassed before an unexploited market and opened the faucets to create clones that, together, formed a new genre in the gaming industry.
The genre was probably born from the acute addiction Battle.Net pumped in the medieval ages of Warcraft III, when every trendy pop culture reference, from Pokemon to Harry Potter, had a thematic representative in this pattern of modified maps.
Then it also spread to our smartphones, probably the most famous example being Plants vs. Zombies (also available on the PC). However, across billions of hours wasted in front of endless waves of monsters that had to be stopped, nobody asked themselves how the invaders felt. Who takes care of them? Who mourns them after they’re obliterated by the structures which shock, spit, bombard or mow down anything that enters their range?
11 bit Studios seems to have started out on this premise when delivering Anomaly Warzone Earth, an experiment best described as „tower offense”, basically because your role is to lay siege to various fortifications and reach objectives placed at the end of shaky voyages among turrets of various types, sizes and shapes. In order to achieve this mission, you have a convoy of six vehicles at most, specialized in just as many typologies and your avatar on the map, plainly called a Hero or Commander.
But more on that after I tell you all about how our grandchildren have to guide convoys through tower mazes.
It’s the year…
2018. If I check my calendar, about six years and a few months from now. Our grandchildren are still us, but with longer beards I reckon and the scene described is more or less toasted by a spaceship’s shards that crash in Tokyo and Baghdad. Furthermore, devious machines arose around these relics after the impact like towers around Camelot.
You, and by that I mean the brave hero, a tiny little man who wouldn’t really stand out if he wasn’t equipped with a superpower-packed costume, must defeat a race of mechanoid beings rooted (both literally and metaphorically) in the midst of all the chaos.
However, as Osama bin Laden recently taught us, no man is bulletproof, and thus our avatar’s presence on the battlefield is complemented by a convoy to which the costume’s abilities work either as a repair beacon, smoke screen, decoy or air strike.
Occasionally, packs of reinforcements come in the form of ability „ammo”, especially when laying waste to one of the enemy’s towers. Their clever use is absolutely mandatory on the Hardcore difficulty level, motivated by the existence of a global ranking plus the achievements pack.
Thus, six vehicle types can make up the convoy you’re supposed to escort safely. Like the towers in the genre the game is inspired by, each of them has a specialty and both the convoy’s composition as well as the order you arrange them in will contribute to the odds of success of your journey into enemy territory. Naturally, you don’t have access to everything from the beginning, since the new toys are unlocked in succession across 13 missions that make up the Story mode:
- APC – or Armored Personnel Carrier. The vehicle possibly most iconically depicted in James Cameron’s Aliens is the first unit in your arsenal, equipped with decent armor, but negligible damage.
- Crawler – one of the most popular mecha typologies, the Crawler deals massive damage at intimidating range, but is also extremely fragile.
- Shield – a shield generator on wheels that provides a protective „umbrella”, defending nearby vehicles.
- Tank – with a strong armor and decent damage, the tank can open the convoy’s way without fear of imminent destruction.
- Dragon – a specialized tank that shoots in two directions simultaneously with its built-in flamethrower, the Dragon has the massive advantage of adding a DoT (damage over time) effect on its target.
- Supply – a support vehicle that gets a charge for every tower destroyed. Once you have six charges, an ability will be generated on the machine’s platform, whose content is determined by the vehicle’s upgrade level.
Because you can indeed better your metal mastodons up to a maximum of three levels. A balance between convoy composition and the upgrade level will be absolutely essential to complete your primary objectives, as well as the achievements and medals granted every level (for route efficiency, survival efficiency as well as destruction caused).
The control is limited to choosing a route by determining the direction you take on each intersection. The tactical map, as well as bringing up the ability menu, pause the action, making the whole ordeal easier than you would expect it to be. However, a cloud or a decoy used at the right time can allow shields to replenish, a repair dome cast in an area of intense combat can seriously diminish enemy firepower and the pausing aspect doesn’t rob the game of its pace.
The storyline on the other hand is pretty shallow and the puns, spoken in British English, are of clear foreign origin, in this case Polish. On the other hand, the universe doesn’t take itself very seriously and can rather be described as „naive and cute” rather than „over-the-top pathetic”. Something that extends on the lightly heroic music, as well.
Let’s just say that if you are looking for things to be worried about, the only ruggedness standing out would be the game’s length. I’m not an overly brilliant fellow, yet even I could finish it in no more than one afternoon. Sure, you get two new game modes unlocked after dealing with the main campaign – Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, but their longevity doesn’t give you all that much and the fact that the background only has two formats, depending on which city you choose, isn’t really an encouraging aspect (despite the attention with which they’ve been built).
However, all of this comes under the unpretentious cover of a very self-conscious price: 9,99 Euros. And thanks to it, you can’t really hold the length against Anomaly, because cost-efficiency didn’t get left out. So I can only encourage its purchase if you’re into sweet small deals with sweet small prices in sweet small packages.