Review: Anomaly: Warzone Earth Isn’t Your Typical Tower Defense Game (Xbox Live Arcade)

A deep sense of strategy and ongoing activity make this oddly named XBLA game better than you might expect.

Tower strategy games aren’t usually my thing.  There, I’ll say it.  I’m more of a hands-on sort of guy, taking command of a unit and delivering damage rather than issuing a command for someone to do it in a turn-based approach.  However, some people really get into this genre, so, for the sake of argument, I thought I’d give Anomaly: Warzone Earth from 11 Bit Studios a fair shot, especially considering the game fared rather well on the iOS market before transitioning to Xbox Live Arcade.  And you know what?  While my general feeling about the genre remains about the same, this game made me want to play longer than I anticipated.

Anyway, the way that the game is set up is that you have to fight off an alien infestation.  They’ve taken over a good part of the world, including Baghdad, the main setting of this game.  As a commander running around on the ground, it’s your job to not only lay down some suppressing power-ups to keep particular invasion elements at bay, but also guide an automatic convoy to the right place, using a secondary map system where you can guide them in a different direction, out of harm’s way.  You’ll need to act quickly, though, because these guys are the gung-ho type, and if you don’t warn them properly, they’re walking right into a death trap.

Strategy is the name of the game in Anomaly, so it helps if you have some experience in the tower defense genre, or else you’re likely to get a little lost.  Fortunately, the game’s opening mission gives you an idea of your mobility and how your decision-making will help get your team through the mission.  From there, you’ll learn new techniques while keeping your teammates alive, such as serving as a distraction for turrets (on occasion) and even laying down a nuke when the situation calls for it.  Who says one man can’t make a difference?

The later scenarios can certainly be challenging, but once you get a hang of the management system and everything your hero is capable of, Anomaly’s systematic set-up kicks in, and it actually turns out to be a little livelier than expected.  Yeah, you’re still commanding and such, but there’s a sense of raw energy that comes from taking on the enemy invasion and successfully taking back one piece of terrain at a time.  Picking up items and running other secondary tasks adds to the complexity, but fortunately never gets to the point where you’re screaming and wondering what the point is…unlike some of the other lackluster tower defense games out there.