Anomaly 2 Preview: Transformers, Roll Out

Anomaly: Warzone Earth made a splash on PC and mobile when it first showed up in 2011 by reversing the usual tower defense rules: instead of defending, you were playing offense against enemy towers.

It’s a rejiggering of the tower defense formula that added a lot of interesting new strategy to Anomaly. Building a convoy and keeping up with it was important from a number of standpoints — you’re responsible for keeping your vehicles alive and repaired, distracting towers and utilizing the best tools for the job. And unlike tower defense titles, Anomaly’s reversal of the usual elements made the game much quicker and required players to remain agile in order to keep from being annihilated. You often had to adapt to new scenarios very quickly.

Developer 11 Bit Studios isn’t wandering too far from the path it established in Warzone Earth and Anomaly: Korea for its next title, Anomaly 2. I got a chance to go hands-on with Anomaly 2 recently, and while it feels much like both the PC and mobile versions of Anomaly that players have had access to for quite some time, it adds a lot of elements that are going to create new strategic situations and require players to be even quicker with their mouse clicks.

Anomaly 2 takes place several years after the end of the last two games, with the alien machine invasion of Earth having resulted in occupation of the entire planet. Pockets of resistance hold out as they smove about the country in convoys, and there’s a special technology out there called Project Shockwave that might be the key to destroying the alien threat. In the meantime, just like in the previous game, you’re tasked with moving through a number of urban levels with your convoy of military vehicles, blasting away at towers and choosing the right route for the job.

As with the previous game, players don’t control the vehicles, but rather their vehicles’ commander, who runs around on the ground and wears a special suit. That suit allows you to deploy a number of nifty gadgets that apply area-of-effect abilities either to enemy towers or to your vehicles. The vehicles themselves are always moving forward, just like in tower defense titles, although you can pull up a tactical display of the map and adjust their route at any time. You can also earn money by destroying towers and from pickups that allows you to purchase additional vehicles, or upgrade the ones you have.

All this is pretty much like the original Anomaly, with the one minor upgrade that you can now move your on-foot commander character around with WASD instead of just clicking, which makes it much easier to navigate the map, grab additional pickups, and save your squad before it gets taken out. The biggest change in the few missions I played, which included the tutorial, a prologue, and three missions of the main campaign, was that vehicles now pull double-duty because they’re actually all Autobots.

Well, okay, they’re not quite Transformers, but they are “transformers.” That is, it seems that every vehicle in your arsenal — or at least the first two available in the game — will be able to transform on a dime to handle different responsibilities. The first vehicle available in the game, the Assault Hound, is your standard light attack vehicle with a mounted machine gun. But transform it and it becomes a bipedal mech equipped with two independently targeting flamethrowers, called the Hellhound, which are ideal for close-combat situations with towers on either side of the road.

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