Tower defense games are everywhere, so it’s nice to see a developer take this overdone genre and twist it into something creative and fresh. Anomaly Warzone Earth began life as a PC game, but makes the transition to the iPhone/ iPad beautifully. The game is essentially a tower defense game played from the opposite side, so perhaps we should re-term it a “tower offense” game.
The story is a bit muddled, but aliens have invaded and the military is out to get rid of them. Starting off on the war-torn streets of Bagdad, Anomaly offers 15 levels in its main campaign, fast-paced strategic action, and gritty, realistic settings. The goal of each mission is to essentially guide a small group of vehicles through a turret-strewn landscape.
To that end, the game allows an amazingly deep level of strategy. The biggest facet of the gameplay is the way that you can change your units’ route on the fly. While an initial route is chosen at the start of each mission, you can switch to the planning map at any time and make adjustments. Unit control is based entirely on junctions– you can only change the direction at intersections, but you can’t actually order them to stop.
Alien turrets, prepare for extermination.
This tactical control fits perfectly with the variety of turrets you’ll face. While many can track you in 360 degrees, the speed at which they turn is variable. So you can conceivably change direction and circle around slower turrets. Other turrets are massively powerful, but only fire in one direction, so getting behind them is imperative. Each map has specific targets that must be taken out, along with plenty of targets of opportunity and even resources to gather. This means you’ll have to balance out the ultimate map goal with the urge to destroy as much as possible.
Your units cover the basics of an average real-time strategy title. There are tanks, UPCs, walking missile launchers, shield generators, and more. Each unit costs money, and you can generally only pick a few at the start of a mission. As you move through a map, there are special resources units will automatically gather which bolster your funds. New units can be purchased on the fly, and current units can be upgraded to become more powerful.
Your units will automatically fire on the nearest enemy emplacement, but they’ll need help to survive these gauntlet runs. Anomaly offers players a variety of on-the-fly aids to select and place on the map. A smoke screen obscures the enemies’ targeting in a wide area. A decoy unit will attract the fire of any turrets in range, and the repair tool will refresh any unit that drives within its radius. There’s even a weapon of mass destruction that lays waste to anything nearby. Each power-up has a specific range and time limit, so proper placement is critical.
Should’ve picked the other route…
The one problem with the controls is how easy it is to accidentally use power-ups. Since the map is always scrolling to keep up with your units, it’s easy to highlight a power-up icon and then slide the screen to scroll the map. Unfortunately, when a power-up is selected, any taps on the screen activate the power-up in that spot. It’s a minor complaint, but something to watch out for.
Destroying a tower is usually rewarded with an additional power-up, and there’s seldom a dull moment. The mix of route-planning, power-up usage, and proper unit selection and upgrading compound to create an amazingly deep strategy game that feels original. Of course, the gorgeous visuals don’t hurt either. Anomaly Warzone Earth HD is certainly one of the best looking games we’ve seen on the iPad/ iPhone, with superbly realistic landscapes, terrific special effects and animations, and great-looking units.
Without a doubt, Anomaly Warzone Earth HD is a great game that breathes life into a tired and overdone genre. By switching sides in tower defense, developer 11-bit Studios has managed to create one of the most engaging and interesting strategy titles available on the iOS platform. Add the incredibly well-done presentation to the mix, and you have one of the best mobile games of the year.