Hands-on preview with Anomaly Defenders from 11-Bit Studios

Lately 11-Bit Studios has been hard at work on their new exciting game – This War of Mine. Many of you probably heard about it and with a good reason, it looks really promising. While the attention is focused on that project though, a new one managed to slip in just a few days ago – Anomaly Defenders.

For those of you that are not familiar with the Anomaly franchise, it’s a series of tower-offense games, generally regarded as the best of their kind. The idea is that aliens (towers) invaded earth and the humans sent their forces (creeps) to fight back. In Anomaly Defenders however, you take control of the aliens in their home-world, defending themselves from the human invaders.

Before I continue, I would like to say that my experience with the game is based only on the PC press-build, which contains the first 7 levels (out of 24 total) and the game itself is not yet released, so please keep that in mind when reading, as it does not represent the final product.

The first thing you’ll notice in the game is the level size. Anomaly veterans like me know that the levels in the games so far were pretty big and allowed for some strategic thinking and planning. Here however, they’re shrunken down to much smaller ones, generally taking place on a space platform. While this may sound bad, I think it’s a necessary change to accommodate the new gameplay type. In Anomaly: Warzone Earth for example, there is a single wave of attackers that re-stocks units on the way, while here in Anomaly Defenders, there are multiple waves, so lengthy creep-paths would’ve been a bad choice.

Mechanically, the game follows the standard formula, with some interesting variations. Unlike traditional tower-defense games, the creeps will attack your towers instead of just walking past them. This adds another level to the gameplay as you’ll have to keep an eye on your towers’ HP instead of just build – upgrade – leave it there until the game ends. Each tower also has its strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll have to apply strategic thinking when placing them. The other major difference as opposed to other TDs is the way you use your active abilities. Just like in previous Anomaly games, you’ll have a few abilities you can use to help in tough situations, such as repair, berserk, shield, snipe etc. The way you use them is by gathering AP points, which drop from destroyed enemies, then you select a tower and activate the ability, which will either affect the selected tower alone or a small area around it, so you’ll need to be careful what, when and where you use if you want to beat the level with a higher score.

Usually in TDs you play a few levels to unlock new tower types and abilities. Here however, after each level you get a certain number of tech-points depending on how well you did and the difficulty level selected, which you later spend on unlocking a new tower type, upgrade or ability. You can also reset them in case you feel like you made a mistake, so experimentation is encouraged.

Performance wise, while I can’t comment how it’ll work on Android, the PC build runs fantastic even on a low-end PC. So far 11bit Studios has delivered really solid performance on Android devices with the previous Anomaly games so I believe it’s safe to assume this one will be no different. The graphics are about on the same level as Anomaly 2, though with the environments being so different, it’s hard to tell. System requirements are also not available yet, but my own guess is that if you’re running on a dual-core device with 1GB RAM and a reasonable GPU, you’re good to go.

Before I conclude, I want to add a couple of downsides. First one and most noticeable, is the lack of multiplayer. Anomaly 2 has a pretty good multiplayer mode, but here you’ll have to stick to singleplayer only. On Android, this is a weird thing to comment on since online multiplayer often doesn’t work that well in games (usually because many use a 3G connection), and finding people that enjoy “hardcore” games on mobile devices in real life is not easy in most cases. For me personally, it’s just a slight downside, but nothing that important, however others might find it a deal-breaker.

The other and possibly biggest issue – when you start the level, there is no arrow pointing where the first creep-wave is coming from, which means there’s a chance you’ll have to re-start a level for building on the second creep entrance instead of the first at the start. After you start the first wave there are arrows showing you where the next wave is coming from, so I think this can be easily fixed before release. There also doesn’t seem to be an indicator what enemies to expect in the next wave which I find really strange.

To conclude on the preview build, I think this is a pretty solid tower defense game. While on PC the competition might be harder, I think on Android the only TD of this quality is Kingdom Rush. The game just feels good when playing and there is next to no downtime – you’ll be constantly repairing towers or using abilities. Based on my experience with the press build, I think you should keep an eye out for it. There is no release date set in stone, but according to 11bit Studios, it’s not far away from release.

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