Anomaly: Korea. A Noteworthy Sequel, Barely.
When other developers start attempting to clone your game, that’s when you know you’ve made something unique. This was the case for 11 bit studios Anomaly: Warzone Earth, whose paradigm shifting ideals threw the Tower Defense community for a spin with a intriguing story, new gameplay elements, and various other features shunning the elements commonplace within the realm of Tower Defense. With such a radical pedigree, can Anomaly: Korea be considered a worthy successor?
This certainly isn’t your grandparents Tower Defense, that’s for sure. All the basic elements exist… there are towers there, and they definitely exist to shoot and kill things, but unlike traditional games of this genre you control the individual units having to work their way through a maze of deadly towers hell bent on their destruction. You direct them through this maze of towers with an overhead view, telling the units which way to go at any specific intersection. Overall it’s quite tactical.
In addition to this you have a small selection of abilities which you can place down at any point in time. These allow some deeper tactical decisions, allowing you to time and position exactly where you place a smokescreen or decoy for maximum effectiveness, or what towers you should destroy with a precision airstrike. These get replenished by destroying towers, so you have to contemplate whether the risk is worth the reward.
As the game progresses, you unlock more and more units to tackle the enemy with. Originally you start with a standard rapid firing APC and a piece of Rocket Artillery, but quickly you gain things like Shield Generators, and Dual Plasma Tanks. These units can be upgraded steadily throughout a map, and some even have special abilities that can only be activated after a certain amount of enemies have been destroyed. The enemy towers are of course just as varied, and it feels like the moment you get a new unit, so do they.
Visually the game is extremely appealing, with nice color depth and incredible explosions that simple screenshots don’t do enough to illustrate. The game also has fairly amazing audio, with everything except the voice acting being pretty much top notch. It also seems to perform amazingly on my tablet, which is definitely something in its favor.
One way that Anomaly: Korea breaks from traditional Tower Defense games is that it doesn’t give a ‘wave-like’ approach… You generally have a set level with a distinct goal to try and accomplish. You start with a certain amount of finances, gaining more from destroying towers and capturing resources, however once a unit is gone those resources are gone with it, so smart troop choices are seemingly a must. Unfortunately much of these tactical decisions fall down when you realize on all but the hardest difficulty the missions can be completed with just two tanks
Much of what I’ve mentioned so far already existed in Warzone Earth, and Korea’s differences are mostly gameplay oriented. You don’t have a commander to control like you did in Warzone Earth, and this allows you to free up your fingers to use units special abilities and remove the effects of enemy fire. The difficulty curve, which was incredibly frenetic in Warzone Earth, has now been significantly improved to provide a slow ramp up of challenge over the course of the game. There are also new functions for some units and towers, but none of the changes to units are considerably amazing.
One place where Anomaly: Korea really fails to live up to its predecessor is in terms of story. While neither games story is particularly impressive, Warzone Earth described an intergalactic conflict between two different races using your planet as a battleground. It had all the potential of a sci-fi epic, and if it was just a little more polished it could have succeeded. Korea on the other hand tells of a small unit trying to get through the ravaged warzone around it, picking up upgrades and new units with the cooperation of the locals while being self-referential of the first game… it’s really quite plain and boring.
Some minor issues still exist with the game, such as the only way of pausing being a tactical view of the map which allows course corrections, but no ability use. Frequently I found myself wanting to nuke a tower two screens away with an airstrike, but coming back to a smoking wreck of a tank because the camera took so long to pan there and back. Sometimes the game also seems to misunderstand a hold and swipe as a tap, using up an ability if you have one selected.
A wonderfully immersive experience on a tablet that takes great advantage of screen real estate and higher end device specifications. A great choice for tablets.
Finally there is the issue of length. Anomaly: Korea is simply not long enough to be considered a standalone game when compared to the length of its predecessor. Overall, the game feels like a DLC or Expansion Pack, rather than an entirely new game, and there is proof of this right in the opening cutscene which shows a commander standing in front of a tower which was a functionality removed between Warzone Earth and Korea.
Despite all of these problems, however, Anomaly: Korea still provides a technically amazing experience. While its changes from its predecessor aren’t huge, almost every single one of them is an improvement over the original formula and make for a more enjoyable game. While Warzone Earth should be played for its storyline and unique approach, Korea should be played for its streamlined improvements and larger tactical options.