Anomaly 2 isn’t just a deviation, it’s the exceptional exception that demolishes the supposed rules about tower-defense games. While there’s an option to use a variety of nifty towers in the game’s unbalanced multiplayer, the meat of Anomaly 2 (like its PC and IOS predecessors) is in the fine-tuned reversal and redesign of the genre to create a tower offense game.
No longer are you passively creating deathtrap-filled mazes, but actively navigating them, using a tactical overlay to reroute a convoy through ruined, frozen-over cities; dense, ambush-filled jungles; and the metallic, twisted landscapes of Anomaly 2’s robotic invaders. On-the-fly decisions must be made about the composition and order of your vehicles, and your controllable commander must wisely run in and out of combat to repair his allies while disorienting his enemies. It’s a hectic game, especially if you’re attempting to speed-run a level (you can hold down the SHIFT button to move faster), but not unfairly so, and forgiving checkpoints are generously spread throughout the lengthier levels, should you want to experiment with your tactics.
The game forces you to stay on your toes too: While the first few 10-minute tutorials can be completed simply by toggling between the two forms of the Hound unit (the rapid-fire Assault version or the dual flamethrower-wielding Hell type), later missions and tower types force you to swap out units. For instance, Charger towers do nothing—unless they’re attacked by a quick-firing unit, at which point they become the devastating Storm Reaper. On the other hand, an Enforcer’s shields can only be taken down by a steady stream of bullets, while a Predator’s potent ability basically neuters the force field-generating Shield Guard. Moreover, once you’ve gotten down the vulnerabilities of your units and their towers, the game throws additional challenges at you: One mission has you fending off a seemingly endless wave of enemies, while another requires you to reroute an EMP laser through a series of infested terminals, or to protect an explosive-filled drone from taking even a single hit.
While it lasts, the game is a challenging blast (and that’s on Normal; Hard and Nightmare require entirely different magnitudes of coordination and skill), even if the story offers only the skin-deep and all-too-familiar choice of siding with a potentially mad scientist to defend and use the Anomaly for mankind or to work with the vicious military liaison who would eradicate every trace of these evil machines. (Even the Anomaly itself seems an afterthought; it’s a barrier that appears to be leeching Earth’s heat in order to nurture and protect a new organic species.) Unfortunately, whereas the original game offered a few arena-based survival modes, Anomaly 2 missteps with a frustratingly designed multiplayer mode. Whereas the campaign emphasizes foresight and planning, the Versus mode forces both sides to throw down units, rush blindly ahead, and hope for the best—with a severe advantage on the side of the player controlling the Towers. You can’t pause to precisely position your tools and although you can still sell, transform, or replace vehicles on the fly, so can your opponent, meaning that the winner is the player with the faster response time.
That said, it seems unfair to penalize Anomaly 2 for continuing to take risks with its design, especially with such a strong single-player experience. The improved visuals (useful when attempting to toggle between distinctly marked unit types), lush new locations (Rio’s rendition of the Statue of the Redeemer, for instance), well-implemented buffing units (there’s one to make your convoy invisible and another to boost your commander’s powers), and the depth of strategy to be found in a single, diverse mission, all demonstrate that this anomaly is no mistake.