Saturday, 29 December 2012

Anomaly: Warzone Earth Game Design Review

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a reverse tower defense game by 11-bit studios. Instead of building towers to fend off attackers, you control a commander with a convoy and have to attack towers to travel to the end of the map. Gameplay revolves around buying units or upgrades for your convoy, deploying your commander's special abilities and telling your convoy where to go using the strategic map.

Your commander's special abilities are absolutely crucial for ensuring the survival of the convoy. The commander is an actual unit on the map that will be attacked so you have to be careful when deploying special abilities. The game ends up feeling  more like an action game than a strategy game at times and can get quite busy when you're in the midst of action.

What I liked:
Solid graphics, sound and animation- The presentation is very well done and solid for an indie.

Usability- The gameplay is fairly easy to grasp and well explained considering its unusual concept. You use a map to tell your convoy which turn to take at each intersection and you also get a number on how long it will take to reach each point and the total time to the goal. The strengths and abilities and cost of each unit are well represented and overall easy to understand.

What I didn't like:

Needs more unit variety and strategies- The commander also has limited number of abilities and there are only a handful of units and a handful of slots in the convoy. The combination of fewer units means that the basic strategies are quickly learnt and it became a bit too repetitive.

Commander unit is limited- The deliberate introduction of an in-game commander that has health and can be attacked is clear game design move to improve the action in games like this. Your commander will often weave in and out of fire deploying support abilities while your units take out the towers.

I feel the commander is a bit under utilised because he can't attack directly and can only deploy a very limited number of support abilities. He's no different from your standard tower defence special abilities that a player can normally deploy except he's vulnerable. In other words, he doesn't add enough to the game play. The android version of the game does away with him completely and I don't think anything was loss in the process.

More interesting levels- In a game like this, the levels themselves start to get repetitive because of the nature of the game. There's only so many ways of street combinations and towers before it gets a bit stale. There are some minor missions and challenges but levels themselves are mostly static aside from the towers. I wonder if there's a way to make the levels more dynamic by introducing even more environmental effects, friendly units, optional timed objectives, multiple paths etc

Doesn't feel enough like a true tower defense- In a tower defense game, you'll often have lots of enemy units being thrown at lots of towers. Being a much more intimate game with very few units makes it feel a bit sluggish compared to games like Defense Grid: The Awakening. What I really want to see is a game where you have tens of units streaming past towers and you have to decide which group of units to assist.

Special effects in the upgrade menu- There's a strange 'pan and tilt effect' in the upgrade menu to make it feel more like a futuristic floating 3D menu. It's small but I thought it was a silly as it adds nothing to the game and ends up being distracting rather than cool.

Warzone Anomaly is an indie game by a small indie studio and it is important to acknowledge it for what it is. It is a solid well put together package but it feels like it needs more of something. I didn't have a great time with Warzone Anomaly after a while as I've never really enjoyed playing Tower defense games but if you like Tower defenses you'll probably enjoy this. If don't already enjoy the genre then you might want to check out the demo first.

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