Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Yeah, Steam is having another one of its scavenger-hunt-like achievement-based promotions, and, as usual, it’s making me want to play the games that they tell me to play. Not enough to make me buy any new games, of course, but one of the achievements is in Anomaly, a game I already own but haven’t played yet. So I might as well accept the cue to give it a try.

Anomaly managed to creep onto the Stack as part of a bundle earlier this year, despite my not knowing anything about it. Despite? No, because! The unknown stuff is half the point of bundles. I probably wouldn’t have bought it by itself, because the title doesn’t exactly stand out, but I’m already glad I did, because it turns out to be a fairly interesting work, gameplay-wise.

It’s not quite in any familiar genre, being, in a sense, composed entirely of escort missions. The whole idea is that you’re shepherding a sort of convoy through hostile alien-infested territory. Or perhaps the convoy is shepherding you: your vehicles are all weapon systems, capable of exploding enemy gun turrets and other defenses that would simply kill you if you tried to hoof it alone. But the vehicles defending you can only do so if you, in turn, defend them. So you keep them in good repair, and erect smokescreens and decoys and the like to help preserve them from harm.

The entire thing is presented from a top-down view. You control your avatar’s movement by clicking on where you want to go. The convoy, you don’t control directly. Instead, you set up a route through a network of streets, telling it which turnings to make. You can alter this route at will, responding to changes in the road ahead. Generally speaking, you want to follow the convoy, but it’s sometimes useful to dash away briefly to collect air-dropped supplies.

So, we have slow progress of attackers along an assigned route, opposed by stationary gun emplacements. This makes it feel a lot like a tower defense game, but one played from the opposite side. But in other ways, it feels a bit like League of Legends — and presumably other DOTA-like or “MOBA” games as well; I’ve only recently started to sample that genre, and LoL is the only one I’ve become familiar with. The point of similarity here is that you have one character you control amidst a bunch of minions that choose how and what to attack autonomously, and you have to support them while they support you. It’s like someone decided to combine features of these two genres. Interestingly, tower defense and MOBA are both genres that originated as RTS mods, so there’s a sort of diamond-shaped inheritance hierarchy going on here. Which isn’t unusual in games — every RPG/strategy hybrid does essentially the same thing, the root in that case being miniatures wargames.

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