Tower offense games are an unusual breed. For every handful of RTS or classic defense titles released, there is that one strategy game that takes the genre in a whole new direction. Anomaly 2 is the sequel to 11 bit studios’ successful Anomaly: Warzone Earth game from two years ago, and you’ll be happy to know it’s just as fun as before to lead a convoy of vehicles against a horde of invading aliens as it was in the original title.
Anomaly 2 takes place in 2034, 16 years after the events of the first game. After an alien race known as the Machines invaded Earth, the human race pushed them back in a war for survival. Three years later, however, the creatures returned, and in their fury destroyed most of mankind. Players control Lieutenant Lynx, a commander of a convoy of futuristic tanks that battles static Machine towers across a variety of locations and missions, taking you from New York to Antarctica as you try to defeat the hostile menace once and for all.
Each mission starts out with a tactical view of the map, complete with enemy types and locations and a path that the player’s constantly mobile tanks will follow. By clicking intersections, players can control the direction of the flow of his or her units, which is half the strategy. Planning the safest route through enemy territory quickly becomes just as vital as choosing what units will make up your squad. Up to six vehicles can be put into your convoy, and there are a variety of units to choose from. The basic unit is called the Assault Hound. By shooting at enemy towers, its fire rate increases until it’s effortlessly mowing down everything in its path. Other units have varying degrees of range, power, and armor. Further still are vehicles that provide passive boosts to your convoy at the expense of lacking offensive capabilities. Each vehicle also features its own strengths and weaknesses against different enemy types, making it a constant struggle to choose the right unit for the job. Fortunately, vehicles can be switched out at any time for a fair cost.
What makes convoy construction interesting is that each vehicle features an alternate form that can be switched to with a simple double-click. For instance, Assault Hounds become Hell Hounds that wield not their default machine gun but flamethrowers that can target more than one enemy at a time, adding more complexity to this already dense game. While several units have unique and interesting alternate forms, you’ll find that some are outright useless most of the time. I’d much rather be able to protect my entire convoy with a Shield Guard than use its normal form to slow the targeting ability of the Machines’ towers, for example.
Not all is perfect in this post-apocalyptic world, however. I ran into a few glitches right in the most intense moments of gameplay that cost me my life more than once. As a Commander, you can release abilities on the battlefield that help your units in various ways. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing your convoy being demolished and not being able to give them some health because your menu won’t open for some inexplicable reason. On top of that, while the game is intense and fast-paced, it gets overwhelming at times. When switching units on the fly or distributing buffs to your team, the game pauses to give you time to plan accordingly, but by the endgame missions, the action is in a constant back-and-forth between real-time and paused due to how quickly you must react, buff, and change your tactics. There’s a difference between giving players intense moments that require critical planning to pass through unscathed and making players feel like the game is sometimes working against them, a distinction that 11 bit studios sometimes fails to make. Everything can become difficult to manage, and that’s on top of the already ruthless punishment of the game. I can’t tell you how many times I failed certain missions even on the default difficulty setting. After several defeats, however, I learned tactics that worked, even if I only succeeded by the skin of my teeth, which made me a better player overall.
While the single-player story is a worthwhile experience on its own, where the game truly shines is in its multiplayer. Anomaly 2 becomes more of a true RTS in this mode as one player is tasked with creating a squad to assault a Machine generator while the other is given the objective of defending it by building different towers. Both players must manage their independent resources responsibly in order to build strong offenses or defenses in an effort to wipe each other out. I can easily foresee a community of dedicated fans mastering tactics to be placed at the top of the multiplayer leaderboards.
Anomaly 2 succeeds in giving players several tasks to regulate during gameplay, making it a title any strategy-lover bored with the status quo will enjoy. But the hectic chaos that erupts when you’re trying to manage multiple units’ health, forms, abilities, and your convoy’s path can become easily overwhelming and quickly infuriating. Glitches that cause you to reload a checkpoint do nothing to hinder the frustration. If you can put those grievances aside and are a fan of strategic multiplayer games that aren’t afraid to change up the formula, Anomaly 2 may be worth a look.