Reverse tower defense? Wait, wouldn’t that be trench capitulation?
“It’s reverse tower defense,” senior writer at 11 bit studios, Pawel Miechowski, tells me, adding that a better name might be “tower attack”or “tower offense”. It’s a little counter-intuitive at first, but after sitting down with the Xbox Live Arcade version of Anomaly: Warzone Earth for an hour, I wondered why the idea hadn’t caught on sooner. The game turns the tables on the tower defense genre, allowing you to play as a commander of one of the “waves” of enemies, making tactical decisions as you make your way through alien towers.
Previously released on Steam, iOS, and most recently Android, the game puts you in control of a caravan of military forces investigating an alien artifact that begins spawning, uh, defense towers. Limiting the movement to paved roads, a tactical view pauses the game and allows the player to change the direction of their caravan at intersections, plotting new paths as conditions and goals change. During this view, navigation in this view automatically snaps to the nearest intersection, making it a fast and easy process.
While the game may have been styled as “reverse tower defense”, you still purchase and upgrade units in a similar way to traditional tower defense, spending money achieved from destroying towers or gathering resources. The game has an active element during its real-time section with an on-foot commander who can gather resources drops from planes and destroyed towers, and execute special abilities. It’s a similar role to the little Tiki-guy in Pixeljunk Monsters, if he could put up a smoke screen or call in an airstrike.
The vehicles available in the caravan vary in armor and firepower, maintaining a solid balance, with more expensive vehicles having better qualities of both. For example, the most expensive vehicle, The Dragon, is a large tank with flamethrowers that can attack to either side of the road, whereas the two weakest are the heavily armored but poorly armed APC and the four-legged tank, the Crawler. While I enjoyed my experience in early tutorials and one of the game’s two horde modes, I was glad when Miechowski took the controller to show me the diverse enemies towers from later levels: The Scorcher, which fires a strong beam in a single direction; the Particular Hacker, which creates a circular area inside which your own units attack the commander; and Stormraids, that shoot a chain of electricity down the length of the caravan.
In addition to the campaign, there are two of the aforementioned hoard modes, Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, where the game randomly spawns enemy towers and a power generator as a target, with the towers becoming progressively more advanced and numerous as the mode continues. Exclusive to the Xbox 360 version are Tactical Trials, challenge maps that take place in a virtual environment that Miechowski likens to Metal Gear Solid’s virtual missions. These missions are puzzles that involve finding the right line to take that will deliver the assets necessary to make it through the map successfully.
From my brief time with the game, its novel concept, strong execution, and a heavy dose of polish, I could see that there’s no mystery why 11 bit studios is bringing Anomaly: Warzone Earth to Xbox Live Arcade. When I asked, Miechowski told me he hoped that it would share the same price-point as it does on Steam, $9.99, but that the price for the Xbox 360 would ultimately be up to corporate overlords at Microsoft. Expect it to arrive on April 8, 2011.