Ah, tower defense. From the first time I discovered this often simple yet addictive genre, I’ve been in love; it’s hard, though, to find quality titles among the mass of quickly-produced, minimal-effort shovelware. Every now and again, though, something breaks through and brings this forlorn style of game into the modern era. Today, that something is Anomaly Defenders. The latest in a three-game series following a war between humanity and an alien invasion, this wonderful defense game puts players in the command seat of the alien forces as they struggle to repel the humans’ brutal counterattack.
The first two entries in the Anomaly series were innovative in their own right, turning the whole idea of tower defense on its head by putting players on the offense, utilizing battlefield tactics to get your squads through the field of turrets, towers, and other structures to destroy key mission targets. Here, though, we’re swapped back to the more familiar realm of building, planning, and staging a defense against the oncoming human armies. Anomaly Defenders brings in all of the elements that I, or any other tower defense veteran, would expect, delivering them all in a polished, well-built package. From graphics to sound design, control scheme to upgrade trees, it’s got a lot going for it and does a great job at putting together what feels like a full-featured game in a genre typically associated with the likes of hand-drawn Flash games.
Enough about the series and how Anomaly Defenders fits into it, though. The straight, simple fact is that this game takes the genre to a level I’m not used to seeing it at, and it does everything about it with flair. The graphics are beautiful, crisp, and well defined. The sound is good – maybe not great, but certainly not terrible. The flow and control of in-game action is simple, effective, and well-executed; players can pause at any time to consider their position, or speed up the pace when they’re sure things are set up right. A two-pool resource system, consisting of Carusaurum for building and Energy for using special powers like Repair or Shields, keeps things flowing nicely as you attempt to withstand the onslaught, and a sprawling upgrade tree offers a lot of variety to units and tactics.
One of the coolest yet simplest features that Anomaly Defenders offers is the option to “sell” your upgrades at any time, recouping points spent to retool the way that you progress. With this, and the fact that any available units and upgrades can be used to replay earlier levels at higher difficulties for additional research points, there’s really nothing stopping you from retooling often to see what suits the situation you’re in if the going gets tough. Other unique elements, such as levels with meteorite impacts that devastate anything on the battlefield, bring a lot of great content to keep the game from growing stagnant as you work your way through. Enemy units can even morph mid-journey to adapt to the weapons you’ve laid out, prompting a need for quick thinking and on-the-fly rebuilding of entire sections of your carefully constructed defense.
In case it’s not clear, I really, really enjoyed Anomaly Defenders. It may be that, as a sucker for the genre, seeing an honest-to-god fully-developed and complete entry in the mix made me too excited to see the flaws. It might be that, as a pretty simple and straightforward style of game, the advantage is that there’s not as much that 11 Bit Studios could have done wrong. I’ve definitely played tower defense games that were awful, though, so it’s not as if there’s nothing that could go wrong; I just think they hit this one out of the park. For a mere $9.99 on Steam, there’s little reason (other than holding out for a nigh-inevitable sale price in the future) that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone — and I don’t hesitate at all to say this is probably a must-play for those who, like me, love the genre and wish it had more high-quality titles to offset the flood of terrible browser-based entries.
[+Great, clear graphics] [+Intuitive, effective controls] [+Expansive upgrade possibilities] [+Probably the best Tower Defense game I’ve ever played] [-Somewhat lackluster sound]