It’s a good time for tower defence/offence games at the moment. Two sequels to the genre’s most lauded titles – Defense Grid 2 and Anomaly 2 – are being released in close proximity (although, Anomaly 2 was released a while ago for PC – this review is for the PS4 version), and both are pretty damn good (keep an eye out for our Defense Grid 2 review, coming soon).

I didn’t play the original Anomaly; however, it received very positive reviews and caught people’s attention due to its unique spin on the genre. You see, the Anomaly games take a slightly different approach to “tower defence” by turning it around. You don’t play as the towers defending, but the forces attacking; and I must say it’s a refreshing and strategically exhilarating difference.

In your attacking force, you are able to create a convoy of up to six units of varying uses, for example: the Assault Hound, which fires a Gatling gun, increasing its speed the more it shoots; the Sledge Hammer, which fires a powerful artillery shot, but can only fire straight ahead; and the Gripper Guard, which slows enemy turrets. Basically, your task is to traverse the map, choosing which path you take and dealing with the challenges that ensue.

Combat 1

There is a fair variety with the units. Not only are there five main classes of unit, but all of them can be morphed into a second variety, each being useful in different circumstances. For example, while the Sledge Hammer is a powerful long ranged unit that can only fire straight ahead, its morphed version can fire in all directions, albeit with a shorter range.

As I’ve already intimated, you have the choice of which path your convoy takes. The map will show the destination of your convoy, and can be changed at turns in the lanes. This creates quite an engaging strategy and presents a multitude of options – maybe you want to avoid a certain well defended passage, or maybe you are willing to risk it for the extra resources.

Resources can be gathered in a couple of ways – destroying towers, and shooting clusters of them along your way. The resources can be used to upgrade your units (three times each) – generally upping their armour, damage or whatever particular skill they have – and, of course, to buy the units themselves.

As well as having a convoy of units, you’re put into the shoes of a commander. The commander has free roam of the map, although sticking around your units is advisable, as you can’t really do anything on your own and are quite susceptible to dying. However, you are not entirely useless, as you have a selection of abilities at your disposal – Repair, Decoy, EMP, and Aim. They are pretty self-explanatory – Repair will heal your units, Decoy distracts enemy fire, EMP temporarily immobilises enemy turrets, and Aim steers your own units’ direction of fire. When placed these abilities form a little circle, and basically everything within the circle’s range will be affected by the ability. You can gather abilities by killing enemy turrets or, a little later in the game, you will be able to utilise a unit that produces them.

Map

The abilities, combined with the need to direct your convoy, create a very involving, fast and tense challenge. Particularly on higher difficulty levels, a considered use of abilities in response to the challenges you are facing/going to face (you have some indication of what sort of enemies lie in your path on the map, but occasionally it will surprise you) is crucial to succeed. Additionally, you are able to change the order of your convoy, and you will be required to do so in some circumstances – one particular enemy turret charges the more you shoot it and morphs into a more powerful tower when fully charged, therefore you will need slow firing, powerful units at the front of your convoy to try to take it out before it morphs.

On the subject of enemy towers, there’s a fair variety of them too. They range from standard shooting towers, to shielded ones, to flame towers that can fire in three directions. There’s always some combination or set-up of towers that will keep you changing up your convoy and working hard on the spot to keep your units alive. And it’s no easy task – if I’m honest with you, I lowered the difficulty level for the last few missions.

The singleplayer campaign is a unique and engaging affair, but the multiplayer I think is a bit more interesting, or at least the concept is. Unfortunately I was unable to secure a game, and so was left with the multiplayer tutorials instead. The essence of what multiplayer has to offer though is quite clear. You can choose to play as either the towers or the attacking forces. Attacking forces will play out much like the singleplayer levels, but the towers are obviously quite different. You will need to place towers along the lanes – adapting to deal with whatever your opponent is doing – and protect a generator. It’s a lot of fun getting to use the various towers and their unique abilities, against which you were fighting in the campaign; and this actually creates quite a deep strategic experience. You can build harvesters, which will gather resources, thus allowing you to build more towers, raise technology levels giving perks such as increased tower health and damage, as well as the various abilities that belong to your commander and the individual towers – each tower has its own type of special ability, which can be activated by pressing circle on them, ranging from shocking foes to de-activating the other team’s abilities.

Anomaly2_PS4_01

It’s a very interesting concept, but my one concern about it is the difficulty. Maybe it’s a lack of experience on my part, but the transition from attacking to defending was crushing. Dealing with the attacker’s abilities, building towers on the spot and adapting clearly requires quite a bit of skill and quick thinking. This isn’t helped by the fact that your towers take damage when you use their abilities. I appreciate that this is probably a mechanic designed to balance the game, but it seems rather harsh – one situation saw me deplete half of the health of two of my towers to shock and de-activate the attacker’s healing ability, only for them to just use it again, get back up to full health and kill my towers immediately. But as I’ve already said, I haven’t played a proper online game, so take this with a pinch of salt.

Despite being very interesting, the multiplayer does highlight a criticism I have of the campaign. It gives a faint impression of being just one big, glorified tutorial. Not that it isn’t engaging with its narrative, or that it doesn’t offer a compelling and challenging experience; but ultimately it isn’t very long, and you only just finish learning/unlocking all the units and their variations by the end of the game. It felt as though I didn’t get a chance to really play about with all the game had to offer. Additionally, the tower aspect of the multiplayer clearly works, so I wonder why a separate campaign wasn’t created for them – that would have helped flesh out the game and offer more content (especially if you aren’t into multiplayer or, like me, it doesn’t work).

Generally speaking though, it’s a great tower offence game. There are some fun objectives in the levels and the mixture of juggling abilities, your squad’s set-up and their direction is quite a thrilling challenge, which makes for some very satisfying gameplay.  Anomaly 2 is available now for the PC and PS4.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29