I will take your towers good sir, and raise you a convoy!
Recently we did a preview of Sanctum 2, a tower defense game with FPS elements and all of that fun stuff. There are a lot of tower defense games out there in the world, but there aren't very many that let you play the invaders. Anomaly 2, just like its predecessor, is here to scratch that itch.
Rather than placing towers everywhere, players will instead deploy a variety of vehicles to build a convoy of death. Hopefully this will survive and destroy every single tower of scrap on the way to the convoy's destination, and the human survivors of Anomaly 2 have quite the arsenal to chose from, including gatling tanks, artillery and main battle tanks. There are even a few support tanks to add more versatility to the convoy's arsenal, and trust me, you're going to need more than just big guns to survive the hell you will go through in some of these missions.
But that's not everything available to the human survivors. Every single unit available to players is actually two in one. For example, my favourite offensive unit in the game is the Sledge Hammer, a mobile artillery cannon. It has amazing range and hits like a truck. There's only one itsy bitsy little problem with it - the cannon can only shoot directly in front of it. Well, that just makes it an entirely worthless vehicle in segments with lots of turning or a lack of line of sight doesn't it? Wrong! With a swift double click of the unit, or a tap of the space bar to pause the game, players can command any of their units to transform. In this particular case, the Sledge Hammer transforms into the Rocket Hammer. This changes just about everything about the vehicle - looks, function and stats. The Rocket Hammer, unlike the Sledge Hammer, can fire all around it. Sure it has less range and damage than its bigger, angrier direct fire counterpart, but in CQC it's still the hardest hitting vehicle outside of a fully wound up Assault Hound.
In most tower defence games, most of the enemies going through the maze of death die with relative ease, especially when more towers are thrown into the mix. How can a small convoy of only six heavily armed vehicles hope to cope with that? Well, your convoy is still incredibly squishy even on normal difficulty, as the game will no doubt make you aware of right after the tutorial levels. So what exactly gives players the edge they need to slip past the mass of deadly alien towers keeping them from their objectives? The Commander and his special command suit in direct control of players, that's what!
The commander doesn't have direct damage options, which makes sense considering small arms are probably not very helpful against the huge metal towers, but what he does have is much more important than simple damage. He has support abilities! Need health regeneration to tank your way through a particularly tough stretch? You got it. Need a distraction? It's kind of squishy but it helps a great deal! EMPs disable towers for a while, but the best one in my opinion is the aim power. Not only does it increase the damage done to all towers under its effect, it also guides all of the convoy's guns towards it to focus fire. It's the only way to tell your convoy what to shoot at, which is a bit unfortunate early on in the campaign, but it saves the player's convoy so much grief by taking out high threat or value targets.
Competitive Multiplayer? In my tower offense game? Oh yes.
Earlier this month we actually got a chance to preview the multiplayer offered in Anomaly 2. While we found it a great deal of chaotic fun, there was a big problem with balance between the tower and the convoy player. With two inexperienced players the towers have a bit of an edge on the convoys, simply because you can make points from plinking away at the convoy whereas the convoy had to score actual kills. With both players having a fair deal of experience it was quite an uphill struggle for the convoy, while the towers simply became progressively more powerful until the convoys only real option was to suicide rush the cores. To a degree that was fitting though. Humanity is struggling to survive against the alien hordes, but it felt pretty one sided.
So has it changed since then?
Some things have! For example, rather the five tech levels have been reduced to three and the tech tree has been simplified. This is great for getting matches rolling and makes it fairly easy for both sides to keep up with each other in the tech race. Balance has also changed quite a bit. While the tower player still does earn points from plinking away at enemies, these points have been greatly reduced. Normally I would be pretty happy about this, but when playing the towers side this time around it felt as though they were much squishier and didn't do as much damage as before, so the advantage of durability goes to the convoy player. It now feels like the winner is going to be decided by convoy and tower set ups along with the proper use of skills. Towers might need a wee bit of a damage and durability buff, but over all, multiplayer feels like it has better balance.
Aliens have made themselves a little too comfortable on our world.
The story of Anomaly 2 takes place after the events of the original Anomaly, in which mankind's efforts didn't quite succeed in pushing back the alien invaders. Since then the world has become a frozen wasteland - the machine's attempt to kill off humanity when simple force didn't do the trick. But being the resilient creatures that we are, we survived in even the harshest conditions and continued to fight the invaders, practically waving a heavily armed middle finger at them with each attack. One of these attacks didn't go so well, after something incredibly important called, Project Shock Wave was discovered. This is supposedly the key to repelling the alien invasion. While the transmission of the projects data was a success, the 14th platoon did not survive its delivery.
Don't worry though! The main character is still very much alive, if a little wet behind the ears when it comes to leading convoys against the aliens. Players take on the role of Lieutenant Lynx, who is just finishing up his virtual reality training when fate decides to intervene, thrusting him into a trial by fire to see if he is truly worthy of wearing his command suit and leading the precious convoys. Watching this scene unfold after having the VR training interrupted was actually pretty cool.
From here on out it is Lynx's job to lead the convoys and save a band of scientists and engineers to try and assemble Project Shock Wave, in the hope that it will finally repel the invading aliens. It's a pretty straight forward story really but it was interesting enough!
A great game for the price.
Love tower defense games but want a change of perspective? Anomaly 2 is a great game to do just that with. Fans of the original will still love this one and will probably find that the transforming vehicles to add a variety of tactical options to their convoy's build. If tower defense isn't your cup of tea I don't really see that playing the assaulting team doing much to convince you, although I would still say it's worth the try.