Anomaly 2 Review - Taking Something Good and Making it Better
Anomaly: Warzone Earth was one of the many games I've purchased on Steam over the years on a whim, but it has always stood as one of the better impulse purchases I've made. The RTS/tower offense hybrid was just as good in action 11 bit studios had conceptualized it to be.
Handling the challenge of investigating the anomalies with the Commander and his combat-ready squad was a treat in Warzone Earth.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Anomaly 2 improves on the formula that made the original unique in just about every way.
Instead of building towers to defend against waves of enemies, the Anomaly games put the player in the place of the "baddies" trying to make their way to their goal. The player must choose the route and squad units as they traverse the alien machine-riddled streets terrain and protect their squad mates.
You must be willing to adjust your strategy as the situation changes as Anomaly 2 does not pull any punches even in Normal Mode. The tactical map, which players of the first game will be familiar with, allows you to see the routes available as well as the machines along the way. You can pause the game at any time and adjust your route accordingly, which becomes an absolute requirement later on in the campaign.
Perhaps what surprised me most about the core of the game was the difficulty and variety of missions found in Anomaly 2. While those in Warzone Earth did vary, the sequel adds more memorable and interesting tasks to take on. I won't spoil this bit for you -- but veterans and newcomers alike are sure to be surprised more than once during their efforts to take the Earth back from the machines.
Graphically, 11 bit studios has completely outdone Warzone Earth and Anomaly: Korea in every way.
The game boasts a new engine that, frankly, looks pretty great in action. The team's use of distortion graphical effects, especially in the beginning missions of the game, is a nice touch to an otherwise primarily gameplay-focused experience. The ending to the prologue is perhaps one of the best uses of graphical distortion I've seen in a game; though sadly the game's story does not live up to the high standards the gameplay and visuals have set.
The story of Anomaly 2 follows Commander Lynx as he and his squad attempt to eradicate the alien forces once and for all. While the means of dealing with the alien menace varies greatly from one mission to the next, the storyline itself is nothing to remember.
Simply playing the game is entertaining enough on its own, but at least some characterization or twists would spice things up a bit.
Making my way through the game, I didn't care about how much I wanted to eradicate the machines and take the Earth back. I thought about how I was going to progress with the most ease.
The lack of plot-focus is acceptable in this type of title because it's all about the gameplay, but having at least one character to connect with would have been a huge bonus. When I think about the game, I think about the units and machines; the people behind it all don't even cross my mind. Giving the Commander a little personality would have helped tremendously with giving the game some personality, and in egging players to push on.
Perhaps the only true disappointment I found in Anomaly 2 was the short campaign. 11 bit studios really came up with some great mission concepts and pulled them off masterfully; but with so many unique and challenging tasks to take on, I can't help but feel like the game could have been stretched out longer.
The campaign includes 15 missions, which only take four to five hours to beat on Normal Mode. Perhaps six or seven hours if you're having difficulty. I would love to have more missions where the Commander has to go off on his own, or where I have to defend a building from impending waves of machines! Unfortunately, those new facets of the game are not used enough.
The short campaign is partnered with a new multiplayer mode which puts one player in command of marching squads a la campaign mode, and the other player is tasked with setting up machine towers along their opponent's route. This is labeled as tower defense vs. tower offense, and that label fits fairly well. Players can learn to be on the offensive simply by playing through campaign mode, and there are three tutorial missions to train players in the fine art of machine placement.
In many ways, Anomaly 2 took all of my expectations of the series and made them a reality.
The new units (and their ability to morph) make squad customization even better than before, and the new tasks to take on along with the impressive visuals more than validate this as an improvement over the original, even if a single run through the campaign can be a little short. Going for medals and achievements, and duking it out against other players in multiplayer can more than make up for the game's initially short single player offerings.