The original Anomaly was a unique twist on the increasingly popular tower defense genre. Billing itself as a “tower offense” game, in Anomaly you had to guide the convoy of attacking units through the towers, using the special abilities of your character’s suit of armor to protect the convoy and help you achieve the mission’s objective. Anomaly 2 contains everything needed to make a good sequel: more of the same core gameplay, but with enough new features and improvements to keep things interesting.
In the years following the events of the first game, the alien machines (aka the towers) have returned to Earth and reduced it to a barely inhabitable wasteland stuck in a perpetual winter. It’s your job to lead your convoy in humanity’s last ditch effort to win the war with the machines and retake Earth. The writing and voice acting in Anomaly 2 are a step up from the original game, but it can still be pretty cringe-worthy in places. Luckily, that isn’t what you play this series for.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Anomaly games, the basic formula works like this: At the start of each mission, you have to buy units to fill out your convoy of up to six vehicles. You then plot your route through the map to your objectives. Each mission’s map is actually quite big and allows for many potential pathways to your objectives, and because of scripted events you’ll often find yourself returning to the tactical view to re-plot your course.
Once you are in the actual mission, you control a single commander in an advanced suit of armor that allows you to deploy various special abilities to protect or buff your convoy. This adds an element of twitch skill micromanagement to the game, as you’ll have to run your character all over the place to collect suit powers and deploy abilities at the proper time to maximize their effects. The Repair and Decoy abilities from the first game return, but the Smoke and Airstrike powers have been replaced with EMP and AIM. EMP allows you to temporarily disable towers, while AIM makes your convoy focus their fire on a particular tower, gaining a damage bonus in the process.
One of the major new features of Anomaly 2 is the introduction of the Morph mechanic. Anomaly 2 has reduced the number of units in the game down to five, but each unit has an alternate form that it can transform into by double clicking on it. For example, the basic Assault Hound is a small tank-like unit with miniguns. The miniguns start out firing slow, weak shots that gradually build up to a constant stream of fire over the course of several seconds. In its alternate form, the Hell Hound, it becomes a mech with dual flamethrowers that it can fire at two different towers simultaneously.
The Morph mechanic gives you much more flexibility. You’ll be constantly swapping modes to counter specific towers, and it also ensures that every unit will get regular usage. The larger number of units in the original game created some redundancies later on in the campaign. Once you got the tank there was little point in taking the APCs anymore since they both served similar roles–that of a heavily armored spearhead to your convoy–but the tank was just better at it.
The campaign is 14 missions long and has a nice variety of objectives and scripted events that change things up and keeps the experience fresh. The game also does a great job of pacing itself and gradually introducing you to harder and more complex objectives. The early missions are simply get from A to B. Later missions have you destroying specific towers, or giving you fragile units you must escort that take up slots in your convoy. Mission 8 is particularly memorable, where you must defend a central building as waves of towers spawn from all sides. The battles can get really hectic as you must micromanage your commander and his abilities, morph your units to best counter the current situation, and even alter your routes or switch around the formation of your convoy.
The campaign will last you a little over six hours or so, more if you obsess over getting all gold medals in every mission. Unfortunately the Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid score attack modes don’t make a return, instead being replaced with a new tower defense vs tower offense multiplayer mode. The multiplayer mode is a fun distraction, but there isn’t really enough content to keep you playing it for long. From what I’ve played, Anomaly 2 does a solid job of balancing the two sides and their special abilities, but it could use more maps and gameplay modes. I feel that the campaign is where the most enjoyment will be had with this game, with the multiplayer just being a side mode to occasionally dip into with friends.
The graphics also got a nice upgrade in Anomaly 2. The original was always a pretty nice looking game, but this time around the particle effects and explosions are noticeably better, as is the texture quality of the units, towers, and environments. The game also plays around with your keyboard’s lighting effects if you are playing on an Alienware system, a feature that you only see in a handful of games.
Anomaly 2 is a great sequel that improves upon the original in just about every way. Any fans of the original cult hit should definitely look into getting Anomaly 2. If you’ve never played an Anomaly game, this is a good place to start. It is a unique and frantic take on what is traditionally a somewhat passive genre, and there is a nice amount of content for the rather cheap price of $15. You can find Anomaly 2 on Steam, where until May 31st you can get it for 10% off if you own the first game. Alternatively, you can buy it straight from 11 Bit Studios and get a free copy of Anomaly: Korea, which as far as I know is the only way to get this mobile/tablet spin-off on PC.