For gamers unfamiliar with the concept of reverse tower defense, aka Tower Offense, it’s not immediately clear what exactly you’ll be doing in such a game. Will you simply play the part of the obnoxious AI general who sends that damn wave of planes on their opponent who has been dutifully preparing for a ground assault? While we can all agree that nobody likes that guy, the folks over at 11-Bit Studios have been flipping the idea of tower defense with the Anomaly series in a much more interesting angle than what you might expect.
The basic concept is indeed assaulting a fortress, whether it is a specific endpoint or a series throughout the map depends on your current objectives, but rather than focusing on the sheer number of waves you send, you instead play a much smaller more focused group.
The game plays as essentially an RTS with a mostly fixed path. The player is in direct control of one unit on the battlefield, who is able to heal his teammates and set various buffs, while also creating traps and distractions directed at the defending team. The player dictates the path that units take using a rather snazzy tactical view, but never directly decides who their units attack.
It seems simple at first but, but as was quickly evident with the 3 campaign levels provided for preview, things get very hectic very fast.
The story goes: after an alien invasion leaves most of Earth’s cities devastated, humanity has banded together in small groups to stave off extinction and reclaim what’s left. The 3 stages seen here were set on the East coast of the US, in and around New York City, and featured notable landmarks like the Statue of Liberty.
The settings were surprisingly varied visually considering how easy it could have been to rehash the beautiful cityscapes that each highlights. The story and characters themselves seem to fit fine, if a bit banal for the alien invasion setting, but the real character comes in the gorgeously demolished urban habitat, and the alien forces.
The alien machines that take the place of towers provide the bulk of the strategy at the games core. Each requires a different tactic to defeat. Where some are best served by distraction (pulling their attention to another spot while your forces relentlessly blast the alien buggers) other require a more nuanced approach. One particularly interesting type will soak up sustained fire from say, your Assault Hound, and morph into a much larger and powerful type if allowed. So it is much easier to attack it with a high damage, slow rate of fire style like the Sledghammer.
Changing the style of your attack requires the player to morph their units into different types of mechs. Each unit features two distinctly different mech styles, each fitting a particular style of enemy. Each type may be capable of destroying any enemy, but played correctly, specific types can dominate specific enemies.
What it all requires is a constant awareness of upcoming enemy towers and the strategy to defeat them. Particularly on higher difficulties, where one wrong mech type can leave your whole team destroyed.
A wide variety of areas have been shown, in addition to the urban landscape players will traverse jungles, ice covered valleys, deserts, and swaths of different locales. A multiplayer mode will also ship with the game, but wasn’t playable at the time of preview.
While the tower defense genre has its detractors, what 11-Bit is aiming for with Anomaly 2 is worthy of your attention, even to those who have grown tired of the style.