Anomaly: Warzone Earth was one of those rare games that drew from both hardcore and casual gaming to create something original that transcended both. It’s follow-up, Anomaly: Korea added some minor polish, but didn’t do much to advance the concept. Now, Polish developer 11-bit returns with a full-fledged sequel designed to take the series to the next level. It doesn’t revolutionize the core fundamentals that made the first work, but it manages to exploit that foundation in ways the original never did.
Like its predecessor, Anomaly is a tower offense game; an inversion of the tower defense genre. You plot a path for a small group of enemies and support them from above with various abilities and power ups, selecting their position, and upgrading and buying new units as needed. Some of this comes down to frantic tapping to save units in the nick of time, but most of it is strategic and puzzle-like. Choosing the right units in the right position along the right path will usually make or break you.
The earlier titles sometimes had trouble finding ways to complicate this formula as the game progresses, but the sequel does a much better job at providing the player with meaningful strategic choices at any given moment. Set years after the original games, it takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity has been dominated by the victorious alien force that was briefly defeated in the original game. In moving to a more distant future setting, all of the units you’ll deploy have been changed.
Gone are the days of plain old tanks and APCs. Anomaly 2’s units all offer very distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example, the Hound’s rapid-fire attack gains strength over time, and cools back down when not in use, making it advantageous to keep it on paths where there are a lot of small enemies to keep it busy. The Hammer, on the other hand, is powerful, but has a low rate of fire and very limited range, making it useful to plot a course that puts powerful enemies directly in front.
This is further complicated by the addition of morphing. This is Anomaly 2’s flashiest new gimmick. Double tapping on a unit allows it to transform into an alternate form with its own unique abilities. The Hound, for example, can turn into a mech with the ability to target two enemies at once with short-range flamethrowers, giving it a totally different ability set for different situations. This adds one more very vital tactical decision for players to manage at all times, and helps to add some much-needed complication to the gameplay.
11-bit has also added a great deal of polish to the game’s presentation. This is doubtlessly a graphical showcase, and the icy, frozen ruins of Earth’s civilization make for more memorable backdrops than the generic warzones of the earlier games. There still isn’t much in the way of cut scenes, but there’s more recorded voice and dialog, and missions have more context and actually help to advance the story.
The other big marquee feature is the game’s new multi-player mode. This pits players against each other, and adds RTS-like resource management and base-building. You’ll build units to harvest resources, move up tech trees, and build your defenses to keep your opponent out. It seems like a lot went into this mode, but at the present time, be it for lack of user base or poor matchmaking code, it can often be difficult to find an opponent. Anomaly 2 supports Google Play services, so you’ll be able to hop into a match with your buddies with ease, but it can be tough to get a game with strangers, at least for now.
Anomaly 2 is exactly what a sequel should be. It’s a realization of the unexploited potential of its predecessors that takes its foundation to its logical conclusion. It has a simple interface and an accessible concept needed to pull in casual gamers, but the style and substance to please the hardcores as well. While still falling short of the kind of depth one would expect from a real strategy game, it manages to be one of the very best examples of the “light” mobile sub-genre.
Is it Hardcore?
Both hard and core.
Anomaly 2 delivers on all of the untapped potential on the first game with a greater emphasis placed on the unique abilities of different units in different scenarios.