At this point, everybody knows what a Tower Defense game is. They seem to have been around since the birth of Flash gaming. Most rely on the same old formula, with only the odd exception standing out (such as PixelJunk Monsters). So how do you take a tired genre and liven it up a bit? You reverse the point of view. Anomaly Warzone Earth (AWE) takes the idea of a TD game and puts you in the shoes of the targets, as opposed to the turrets.
The story is set in the near future, with the war in Baghdad still going strong. All of a sudden, UFOs crash land in Tokyo and Baghdad, and it is down to the British forces to find out what is going on. The downed UFOs have erected a force field around the crash area, known as the Anomaly, and it’s your job to guide a fleet of armored vehicles into the zone to investigate. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds, as the aliens have placed turrets throughout the Anomaly to impede your progress. The first half of the game is set in Bagdad, with the action moving to Tokyo half way through. The story is told to you through radio communications from your ’higher ups,’ but the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, as does with the script; with it all being a bunch of clichés and ’Kick Ass Hoo Ra’s!’
At the start of each mission, you are given a birds eye view of the area. In this view you can see the position of the enemy turrets and the multiple paths that can be taken. You then plot a path through the streets, with the aim of making it to a pre-designated end point. This view can be called up at any time with just a press of the Y button, enabling you to change your path and tactics on the fly.
Once a path has been set, you then get to select your vehicles. To start of with, you just get two types to choose from, a Crawler that launches missiles and an APC, which lacks firepower but makes up for it with better armour. As you progress through the game, more vehicles become available to you; including a shield generator and a tank. As you destroy turrets, you are rewarded with cash, which can then be used to increase your fleet or upgrade your current units. You can have up to six vehicles at any one time, which means more firepower. However, this requires more attention to ensure you don’t lose any units to the turrets.
The first few missions break you in gently, but you soon find yourself in the thick of things as the missions become more intense and require you to think more strategically. The game introduces a new type of turrets every few missions, and it is very important that you discover their weaknesses fast, if you are to make it through the Anomaly.
Luckily, you have a few tricks up your sleeve. Along with your fleets, you also have four power-ups at your disposal. These allow you to gain the edge in the heat of battle. One of the power-ups enables you to heal your fleet, one launches a decoy to attract enemy fire, one creates a sandstorm that makes it harder for the turrets to hit and the final one (not available until the second half of the game) calls in an airstrike. You have a few in your locker at the start of each mission, but every so often, a support plane will fly overhead and drop some for your to pick up. These are vital if you want to survive, especially against some of the bigger enemies.
The main campaign does become a bit repetitive, with a very ’rinse and repeat’ style of gameplay. It also becomes very frustrating in places, with the difficulty spiking sharply. Still, it does keep you on your toes, forcing you to adapt quickly to changing situations.
The game also has two other modes: Tactical Trials and Mayhem/Raid. The Mayhem/Raid mode is essentially a wave-based mode, with you having to move from area to area, taking down the big boss turrets. Tactical Trials is almost the same as the main campaign, but set in Virtual Reality. Not exactly mind blowing, but at least it adds a little to the package.
AWE is a great idea, wrapped up in a bland package. Visually, the game is fine, but it just seems to lack punch. If you are a fan of Tower Defense games, and are looking for something a little different, then it certainly is worth checking out. Ultimately, AWE is missing a certain something and probably has little lasting appeal.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.