Tower Defense games all follow the same pattern; place towers (or other stuff that resembles towers) along a path and try to destroy all the enemy units before they reach their destination. Now 11 Bit Studios is trying to think outside the box and add offensive gameplay to the worn-out mechanics of basic tower defense. The idea sounds magnificent but how well have they implemented it in the actual product? I took it for a test run with the press build of their upcoming game, Anomaly 2.
The year is 2021 and after the events of the original Anomaly, the Earth is overrun by aliens. Your task is to recover Project Shockwave, the only thing capable of defeating the invaders. You recover the Project successfully and now it's time to take the fight to the aliens. The game doesn't have any cut-scenes at the moment and the story is driven by radio chatter between you and your commanding officer.
The game is played with two different views; the Battle View and the Tactical View. The Battle View is what you'll be mostly using and in it you control your commander around the levels with simple point'n'click commands. By clicking the right mouse button you can deploy abilities that aid your troops when they slowly walk towards their predetermined goal. These abilities include Repair (which repairs your troops), Decoy (which acts as a decoy to draw enemy fire) and EMP (which stuns the enemy towers for a short while). Destroying enemy towers gives you more abilities sometimes which you have to collect with your commander. More abilities might be added later in the course of developing the game.
The troops currently available in the game have two distinctly different units that can morph into another unit; the Assault Hound and the Sledge Hammer. All the units have different capabilities; the Assault Hound for example is a good all-rounder but once you morph it into a Hell Hound, it becomes a walking mech that shoots with high-powered flamethrower at the cost of distance it can shoot. All the units are nicely balanced and you really need to think carefully which one to use at which point. You can also purchase new units or upgrade your current ones using the in-game currency, Carusaurum, which is gained by achieving goals and destroying enemy towers.
The Tactical View sets the game on pause and shows an overview of the battlefield. Here you can plan your route by clicking the arrows on the map to set the direction of your units. You can switch between the Battle View and the Tactical View at any point during the game so you don't have to worry about making the wrong decisions. Once you're satisfied with the route you can switch back to the Battle View and your fearless troops follow your route.
The enemy towers are very varied and range from hard-hitting behemoths that can't shoot very far to charging 'decoys' of sorts that turn into a nasty flame-throwing tower once they get hit enough. Walking by them or destroying the towers requires some good strategy and the clever use of your commander's abilities but the press build's easiest diffculty seemed just perfect for me, a novice of the genre. The game is also paced nicely so you're never out of stuff to do (you can even accelerate the time in hopes to get some bonuses after the mission).
The graphics in the game look excellent, even at this stage of production; the levels are filled with details and the explosions look great. The units and towers themself look superb and 'realistic'. The sounds do their job (same with the voice actors) but the music deserves some extra credit; especially the menu music set my blood pumping.
Overally the game feels very finished already. I noticed no bugs and the press build was extremely stable. I'm not quite sure how the few units can hold on through the whole campaign but if they manage to add some extra content into the game without breaking the balance, this could very well be a small hit once it gets released sometime in 2013. There's even going to be a multiplayer in the game (unavailable in the press build) which puts the other player defending and the other attacking so that should really add to the replay value of the game. This is definitely a game to look out for.