OXCGN’s Anomaly Warzone Earth XBLA Review
Is the best tower defence tower offence?
©2012 Alex Hilton
Tower Defence games are very popular with gamers and non-gamers alike.
They are available on every popular platform, from PC to the Xbox 360 to smartphones. They consist of waves of enemies moving on a set path to a destination and your job as the player is to stop them from reaching it by building different types of towers.
Anomaly Warzone Earth, developed by 11 Bit Studios, reverses this whole concept as it is advertised as a Tower Offense game.
But what is a Tower Offense game and does it work?
What is Tower Offence?
You play as a commander who directs a convoy of units, called a squad, through an urban environment to reach an objective. There are many possible routes to this destination with different concentrations and types of enemy towers so it is your job to choose the safest route to the destination.
Your destination can be anything from a safe zone to a major enemy target that needs to be destroyed. The different types of destinations allow for a diverse range of objectives from ‘reach the target’ to ‘search and destroy’ to ‘escorting’ missions.
There are even missions where you have to destroy every enemy unit on the map which can be quite difficult if your squad only composes of units with light weaponry.
At the start of most missions you get to choose your squad composition from the different units you have available. Although there aren’t a lot of units you can choose from, each of them has different characteristics and some even have a unique ability, such as creating a shield around your units, that can help you on your missions.
Many times during the game I had to alter my squad composition to suit the mission I had just failed, which means that strategic thinking in regard to your squad composition is required to complete the missions.
Once your squad has been constructed you then have to set a route for the convoy to take and this is done by navigating to the tactical map which turns the landscape into a much simpler form so you can easily spot the enemy towers and your objective.
You set the squad’s route by changing the direction the convoy takes at each intersection in the road.
After you have chosen your squad and set your route your commander now aids the squad in reaching the destination. He does this by using abilities to help your units survive or to damage the enemy’s towers.
The abilities available to your commander are: repair, which heals any damage done to your units, smokescreen, which conceals your units from the enemy so the towers just fire randomly into the smoke and hope for the best, decoy, which places a decoy which all the enemy towers in range target, and airstrike, which calls an airstrike to damage the towers in the area chosen.
Leading from the front
However, there is a limited supply of the abilities so you have to use them wisely. Fortunately though, as you progress through the mission and destroy the enemy’s towers more abilities are given to you through air drops.
However these ability drops have been a hindrance as many times as they have saved my units.
Why? The abilities are dropped in places off the road and your commander has to step onto the abilities to pick them up, which removes him from the convoy.
Therefore you have to pick your timing to collect them because if your squad moves into a dangerous area then you could lose some of your units which is ironic when you are actually trying to get a repair ability to fix them.
This is being brought up as an ‘issue’ and not a ‘difficulty feature’ because I have played the Android version of this game on my tablet and this problem is not even present because you play as a commander who doesn’t appear on the battlefield, meaning that you can just tap the abilities that drop rather than having to walk to them.
An improvement to this very annoying feature is as easy as having the commander move faster because you just don’t have enough time to pick up abilities when you are in an intense fight, without losing your whole squad.
The dusty urban environment of Baghdad is just how I would imagine it and the visual effects of the different towers and units made the game feel like a warzone, especially when the enemy towers spring from an exploding building.
The sound track and audio of the game also suits it very well; the tense moments where your main units are fighting with slivers of health remaining and your commander is sprinting to save them almost gives you a heart attack due to the screaming of your men for help and the thumping of the music.
Overall I found that the experience that Anomaly Warzone Earth offered was unique and enjoyable despite the minor flaws with the use of a controller.
However it has always been a hard task to make real time strategy games work with Xbox controllers and although the flaws with the controls did cause frustration at times, it is still a worthy addition to the XBLA line-up.
The startlingly good audio visuals combined with the unique strategic gameplay make Anomaly Warzone Earth a fantastic game that can be replayed and enjoyed as much as most great Tower Defence games- which is to say a lot!
©2012 Alex Hilton
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