Anomaly 2
Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Price: $15
Platform: PC
A PC code for Anomaly 2 was supplied to us

It’s been a while since Anomaly: Warzone Earth gave us a clever twist on the tower defense formula and while Anomaly 2 is mostly more of the same, that’s not exactly a bad thing.

It’s been a while since you defeated the aliens in Anomaly: Warzone Earth, but if cheesy sci-fi movies ever taught you anything it’s that alien scum never stays dead; they’re are back and they’ve turned Earth into a frozen tundra. You’ll play as a new commander as you search for a professor who has a machine that might be able to tip the scales in your favor, unfortunately there’s a horde of aliens between you and him. The story isn’t anything impressive and is clearly just there as an excuse to tie together all these missions, but it’s decent enough. I’m sure fans of the first game will be happy to know that the campaign is a few hours longer this time around.

I played Anomaly: Warzone Earth with a controller so I jumped into this one with my controller as well and while it still plays well with a controller I quickly realized how much better the PC controls are. With just a flick of the mouse wheel you can quickly access the tactical map and the space bar brings up your squad menu. My only gripe was that controlling the commander with the keyboard didn’t feel as smooth as it does with the controller. My main gripe about the first game was how relatively easy it was until the very end where the difficulty suddenly ramped up drastically and thankfully it’s been fixed this time around. The game stays consistently challenging throughout and didn’t feel sadistically hard for the sake of being hard besides a moment or two later in the game.

The core gameplay in Anomaly 2 remains practically the same with you controlling a human character you can move around the battlefield while your squad moves along a path you select. You can quickly jump into the tactical menu to plan out the path you want your squad to take and you can easily make quick changes. You’ll go through various missions that feel more like puzzles as you plan out the right path that will allow you to complete the mission with as little casualties as possible. The strategy comes in when deciding how to customize your squad. You’ve got six slots to place units in and five different unit types. Unit placement is key to getting through a situation and you can instantly rearrange your squad with the push of a button. The biggest change to the gameplay comes in the form of morphing your units; by double clicking an assault hound (machine gun unit) you can morph it into the hell hound that wields two flamethrowers. Now you have to consider a unit’s morphed form when choosing what you want to bring along with you in a mission as they all have their pros and cons. Repair and decoy return as abilities your commander can use on the battlefield with EMP and Aim being the two newest. EMP will shut down any enemy for a brief moment and aim will make all your units target a specific unit with increased damage.

While the game itself is great, it does feel more like a glorified expansion than an actual proper sequel. Almost all of the new units are either the exact same or just slight variations from the original game and almost all of the enemies return with a few having slight variations. Instead of the APC from the previous game you’ve got the assault hound, the tank is now both the sledge hammer and the heavy support, and the dragon is now the hell hound that the assault hound morphs into. The regular enemy, the blaster, now gets a variation with shields and the scorcher can now fire horizontally as well as straight ahead. There’s a few new stuff like the gripper guard that slows down enemies or the shadow servant that can make your squad invisible, but there’s less actual *new* stuff than recycled ones; although considering the low price I don’t mind it too much. If this was a full retail series I’d feel a little more annoyed about it.

The biggest addition to the game is of course its multiplayer mode. Although it only has one mode and I would’ve liked to see some sort of co-op mode, it’s still interesting enough to be worth your attention. It’s a two player versus game where one player controls the commander and the other plays as the alien menace. You earn points for attacking each other, but the big points come from destroying each other’s units with some big points available to the squad player if they can manage to destroy one of the generators the alien player is protecting.

The alien faction plays more like a tower defense game. The alien faction has eight units comprised of enemies from the campaign but they can’t be upgraded like how you can with the squad. The main difference between the two factions is that the aliens get a continuous flow of cash coming in but can’t upgrade their units. Unlike the morphing units the human faction gets, aliens instead get these wave attacks that do things like remove a squad’s shields at the cost of some health from the tower. It’s a neat idea but in hectic fights it can be a bit difficult to remember which tower has which ability. Thankfully there’s a helpful box that gives you quite a lot of info on whatever you move the mouse over and it’s not obtrusive at all. They also get their own abilities like the commander that work really well when combined together. Unlike the commander’s abilities that sort of work separately, you can cast an ability like taunt on a behemoth to force the other player’s squad to focus solely on a single unit while casting a healing ability on a nearby tower to keep that behemoth alive.

Another layer of strategy (for both sides) comes in when leveling up your tech level. This grants you a permanent passive skills like increased health for all units and also unlocks the next tier of units for you. The neat thing about it though is that the passive skills increase in strength the longer you wait to purchase them which leaves you wondering whether you should go ahead and get the health upgrade now or wait to get it at the third tier where it’ll grant you a bigger bonus. Both factions felt fairly balanced and I liked that you have to approach how you play both factions with different mindsets which is going to make the multiplayer really standout.

Graphically the game pretty much looks like a shinier version of the first, but it’s still a pretty damn nice looking game. Everything from the way the concrete heats up from scorcher burns to the satisfying as hell explosions all look great. I only wish there was some way to play through the perspective of the commander so that you can get a real sense of scale. You’re fighting these massive aliens that don’t particularly look very big so it’d be neat to be able to play from the ground issuing orders and such.

The Final Word
Like I said, Anomaly 2 is pretty much more Anomaly but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anomaly 2 will scratch that itch you likely have for reverse tower defense games and with a longer campaign, new units, plus multiplayer you’ll definitely be satisfied with what this game brings to the table.

- MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good