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Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD (iPad)

While everyone might be looking forward to a tower defence title that shakes up what now a basic and stagnating genre, Anomaly: Warzone Earth isn’t that game.

It proudly proclaims that it is doing things differently; rather than defend, with Warzone, it’s all about attacking. But in execution there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better in other tower defence games.

Yes, in Warzone the player controls various tanks and missile-spitting death machines across a number of different levels rather than static towers. Each level kicks off with an overhead map, and by placing arrow markers, there’s some light strategy involved in literally plotting out the line of attack.

There’s some potential in that setup, but it’s never executed that well. Though there are alternative pathways to choose from they are incredibly limited in scope; telling units to turn left has little in-game impact on turning right. For the most part the objectives are in the same, and the differences between the two or three alternative routes are minor at best. Each is guarded by the same enemy units, and each ends up in the same place. In other words, the illusion of choice is just than, an illusion.

To make matters worse, getting the highest scores and gold medals more or less requires players take a single path. As there’s little point to the game aside from the high scores, kicking the game off with such an arbitrary feature is a bad start and first impression.

Once the tanks and missile-spitting death machines start following that line and the game starts in full, control is taken right out of the player’s hands; for all intents and purposes these machines become roving towers. Some interactivity is still involved in this ‘main’ part of the game, though it’s such a light touch that it still feels like autopilot: there’s some powerups that can be dropped on to the map to improve the chance of survival. From the basic ability to heal through to more subtle tricks such as making it harder for the enemies to target units, there’s some challenge involved in using these powerups effectively, especially on the higher difficulty levels.

So it’s all very typical tower defence. On a more positive note, the game does look good, thanks to some detailed backgrounds and some impressive enemies. There’s no framerate drops and though it’s a little soulless, the hardcore marines vs. alien invaders is a well-trodden theme for a good reason; it’s simple and gets to the action quickly.

It’s just a pity that the game insists it’s creative or original when it isn’t. This is in the end a stock-standard tower defence game on a platform that has too many good examples of the genre to give this a second glance. Final Fantasy Crystal Defenders, Two Worlds Tower Defence, and a host of other games have more soul, more challenge, and more interesting design than this game.

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Review: Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD (iPad)
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