Born of a need to spend money (because the high street apparently refuses to stock the one Lego model I want) at any cost, I picked up Anomaly: Warzone Earth last weekend. It was a close call because my CD key wouldn’t register, so I couldn’t install the game until Thursday when support did their magic.
This game is an inverse tower defence, because every game in the entire world (that isn’t a triple-A FPS) is some kind of tower defence.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
The game actually plays like a bit like top-down hack ‘n’ slasher. You control a little man in an armour suit as he runs around the battlefield, protecting his platoon of vehicles as they wind their way through streets lined with alien point defences. The little man runs around pretty fast and has regenerating health, but apart from deploying some special effects he can’t actually do anything.
Of course the main focus is the platoon. As you play you switch out to a strategic view where you can see money, towers and the routes you can tell everyone to take. The idea is to plot a route that, while completing the objectives, means you don’t get mashed on killing floors and collect more money to spend on upgrading the platoon (either by paid veterancy or throwing in more men). Beyond the route, though, you have no control over your bods, so they’ll naturally focus fire on the wrong enemy tower and take a load of hits when you’ve not got any repairs left.
And, well, that’s about it.
Personally, I’d have given the commander man some kind of gun, even if it was a shit one (or, hell, wrap it up with money and let you upgrade that too). While movement is controlled by the mouse, the camera is locked top-down (it can be scrolled away as far as having Mister Suit in the corner, and then springs back to centre on him — another nice Middle Way) so it really does feel like playing a hack ‘n’ slash around the actual game. Maybe some additional ground troops to fight with your bloke while the armoured column has to take on the towers down the roads…
More abilities in general wouldn’t go amiss. I was also hoping that my platoon would stay with me through all missions, so I could build it up and upgrade it and turn it into a powerhouse (along with a coincident upward gradient of enemy tower difficulty, natch), but each mission is sadly stand-alone.
Not that it’s exactly an easy game. It looks easy (and I’ve been playing it on “Casual” mode… Whatever happened to “Normal” as the base before “Advanced” and “Stupid”?), but during areas of concentrated towers while you’re trying to pick up the repairs and smokescreens and stuff (because I invariably have no repairs left) it can get a bit hectic — your man doesn’t run that fast (though still pleasantly fast) and he can only deploy his abilities when he’s standing on the target spot.
Story-mode provides missions with lots of in-game commentary from a small cast of Englishmen, and there’s a girl whom I am hoping will develop into a romance sub-plot. We did rescue her, so she’s bound to be greatful to Mister Sounds-Like-He-Was-On-a-Territorial-Army-Advert.
It is a pretty game, portraying near-future ruins in the vein of a slightly over-bloomed Tiberian Sun. However, everything that can shoot or be shot has one of those fashionable coloured halos around it, which ruins the atmosphere a bit (especially when you can’t actually touch anything but your main man). I rather think I’m capable of recognising things that can kill or be killed without obvious halos, but I suppose not everyone has my eyesight.
All in all, a fairly pleasant experience, if a very shallow one. It’s a beautiful little engine I’d be well up for modding, assuming I could ditch the tower defence thing and turn it into an RPG.
Okay, I can’t help but look at any game and think about turning it into an RPG, but a combination of interaction paradigm and camera angle certainly make Anomaly: Warzone Earth engender that feeling to a stronger degree than is perhaps healthy.
More units, more enemies and more stuff to do in general would make this game a much stronger prospect.
As the old saying goes — “what if you could talk to the towers?”