Wot I Think: Anomaly – Warzone Earth

Go into the light!
11 Bit Studios’ clever (and budget-priced) tower-defence-in-reverse game, Anomaly – Warzone Earth, is out today! The concept and presentation look neat, but is it a towering inferno, or a creepy cinder? What does that mean? I just don’t know. I’ve been up all night playing videogames. But that won’t let stop me telling you wot I think…

It’s an interesting experience when something appears at first glance to be quite familiar, but actually turns out to be entirely unfamiliar. The experiential equivalent of From Dusk Til Dawn, if you didn’t realise it was a vampire movie. (Which is quite a thing to behold if you can convince someone the film is a straight up heist movie before they watch it…) Anyway, that’s what happens with Anomaly, which looks like a tower defence game, but is actually tower defence in reverse. You think you know what to expect, but in this case you are the invading creeps, and the towers are your enemies, trying as best as they can to kill you up from the world.

The titular Anomaly is the result of an alien spacecraft breaking up and crashing onto the earth. It’s a big bubble of weird that has landed in cities across the globe, and you have to go in and deal with whatever is inside it by poking it with some soldiers. What is inside it is alien stuff. And gun towers. The concept for dealing with the towers is this: you control a tiny man, who runs along next to a convoy of vehicles. He is the commander. Using a map screen you can plan the route of the vehicles, but not what they shoot at or how fast they move. They always move at the same pace, which is slow (unless you hit the speed-up-time key to make them move slightly faster). The vehicles shoot at the towers as they come along, and eventually the towers are destroyed. The slow pace of the vehicles gives the commander a chance to aid the convoy with a series of area effect power-ups. Without the use of these power-ups they will surely die.

For example, one power-up simple repairs your vehicles. You set it off, they drive through it, and damage to them is repaired. Another creates smoke, so that towers can’t shoot directly at the vehicles, but only in their general direction. Another still creates a decoy that makes all the nearby towers shoot at it. The final one is an air-strike: useful for dealing with towers that you don’t want your team of rambling vehicles to have to face. When things get really hellish you might be firing off a couple of power ups at once – smoke to reduce the damage taken, repair to keep them buffed up. As towers are destroyed by the fire from your convoy, then new power ups will drop, and you’ll have to dash to collect them. The commander can take damage too, although he’s self-healing, and difficult to get into too much trouble.

Aside from power-ups and route-management, there is one other thing to think about: the convoy itself. As you travel you are able to collect up some alien resources to earn cash. This allows you to fit out your convoy with either more vehicles or upgraded vehicles. Finding a balance which suits your tastes is the challenge, although I suspect there is a very definite optimal set up for any given convoy. Having an APC or tank at the front, for example, means you can soak more damage. The cash thing also means that you might want to plot more difficulty or more lengthy routes through the city so that you can pass – and therefore collect – the deposits of resource. Having a well upgraded convoy is, ultimately, more satisfying than having simply beaten the level by choosing the route of least resistance.

While overall the game escalates pleasingly, the pacing of Anomaly occasionally gets me down, because it’s constant, and slowish. Not slow like a snail, but more like a conversation where you want the person to skip to the end. Sometimes you have to circle a block, perhaps, if you destruction has been inefficient, and that feels like a bit of my life getting away. In fact the constant pace of the game felt a little, I don’t know, constrained, maybe? Like when you are stuck behind a driver who is crawling along but you should be doing twice that speed? When the game is hectic and you are rushing about with the commander then it’s great, and truly engaging, but that only happens occasionally, and there are big lulls. I also felt that the game could have been a bit more inventive with its challenges. It became pretty obvious how to get through everything after the first couple of hours. I was also livid that the route changes I made were always reset when I failed a level. This is, of course, because the only point the game saves is at checkpoints, and I made changes after each checkpoint, but having to do it over and over – especially on the more convoluted maps – did cause me to grumble in a vocal way that made my cats move into the other room.

Getting through the game, which will take about six hours, unlocks some extra “endless” game modes in Baghdad and Tokyo, which allows you to drive a convoy around while the baddy turrets spawn all over the place. So that might keep you entertained if you are desperate for more. As for difficulty, well, I found the “advanced” middle level (read “normal”) to be pretty competently balanced, with a very occasional spike to make me, as metioned, hiss like some kind of threatened animal. Anomaly is a novel idea, and well executed.

Now we can conjure a conclusion: I would conclude, spining the wheels on the Conclud-o-matic 2000, that this a rather decent budget title. Just about the appropriate sort of length to digest in a couple of sittings, with the right kind of “oh this is a bit different” to make you feel like life isn’t all the same action RPG. Anomaly isn’t exactly going to fundamentally change our collective consciousness, and I’d be surprised if anyone bothered to copy or remember it, but it’s that kind of pleasant challenge – like say Defense Grid – that manages to be both well-presented and consistent. And that makes for a satisfied Jim Rossignol. Well done, I say.

Carry on.


  1. bill says:

    I watched Dusk til Dawn with some friends who had no idea it was a vampire movie. That was funny. I wish i hadn’t known it was a vampire movie when I first watched it.

    • Flameberge says:

      Yeah I agree actually, the idea of watching it with no idea that Lolz! Vampirez! were going to occur would have been a genuinely awesome experience

    • Baboonanza says:

      I saw it with no prior knowledge. It’s an awesome moment when you realsie what the hell is going on.

    • princec says:

      Me too. I nearly dropped me spliff.

    • SAM-site says:

      Also watched it with no prior knowledge, and it does make it doubly awesome.

    • tomeoftom says:


    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      lol, ^^ for what it’s worth SPOILERZ

    • Ian says:

      @tomeoftom: If only you could’ve stopped reading right as he mentioned the film’s title before giving away the spoiler.

    • qrter says:

      Jesus, it’s not as if the film hinges on you not knowing beforehand, it’s a nice extra, at best.

      (In my case, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching it if I hadn’t known beforehand.)

  2. Teronfel says:

    Interesting,i may buy it

  3. N says:

    Stunning visuals though. Looks better than the last C&C lol.

  4. mojo says:

    link should be fixed obv.

  5. V. Profane says:

    Ha, you lot as well. I just finished reading “How early reviews hurt sales of indie games” on Ars which gives a link to the Steam page… which doesn’t let you buy it yet.

    • trjp says:

      It’s out on Gamersgate – Steam seem to be obsessed with preset release times tho (6pm and 10pm UK for example)

  6. trjp says:

    No price on it yet – which I always think is a bit crap when a game is due to release within hours…

    I like the idea but 6 hours isn’t a long time – that would effect the price I’d pay for sure…

    • trjp says:

      Updating myself and everyone else at the same time – it’s already on-sale/available at Gamersgate for £6.99 so that seems the likely Steam price too I guess??

      Sounds about right too – much as I love deeper games (like Defense Grid) I never finish em!

    • trjp says:

      and just to prove myself wrong they’re going for £8.99 on Steam – 10% off at £8.09 but it’s £6.99 still on Gamersgate so there…

  7. kascade says:

    Oh no! We’re all doomed! “errors in the quantum field processor.” 404!

  8. Sergey Galyonkin says:

    Sounds interesting, but I’d like to try demo first.

    Never understood why some indie developers don’t release demo, BTW.

  9. razgon says:

    “Anomaly isn’t exactly going to fundamentally change our collective consciousness, and I’d be surprised if anyone bothered to copy or remember it, but it’s that kind of pleasant challenge – like say Defense Grid”

    I hope you are not saying that Defense Grid isn’t anything special. Personally, I think Defense Grid took a genre and pretty much destroyed any competition.

    • trjp says:

      I’d agree with that – Defense Grid is the TD game others aspire to be and mostly fail…

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Quite a recommendation, then. :)

    • wakeupandsmelltheashes says:

      Fair though, it really is rather good.

    • trjp says:

      Defense Grid is amazing because it has a huge variety of content BUT never feels overloaded by it. It’s progression is good – the variety is there – the atmosphere works – it’s a lovely thing.

      It even works on a 360 with a controller tho I prefer the desktop version personally…

      It’s actually one of the most unsung masterpieces in gaming IMO – if you have the remotest interest in TD games and haven’t played it, you’re missing out (and it’s cheap in almost every Steam sale!!)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, that comment doesn’t reflect well on Defense Grid, which I like enormously. Defense Grid is the better game.

  10. Kismet says:

    Sounds (and looks) interesting, pity they took the SecuROM route for the GamersGate release :/

  11. HungryDave says:

    Could this be considered the Rescue Raiders of 2011? Sounds delicious!

  12. Navagon says:

    You make the idea of a reverse tower defence game sound very interesting. I think I’ll add this one to the list of future purchase possibilities.

  13. Baines says:

    I’m still surprised that “reverse tower defense” didn’t become popular shortly after tower defense exploded. Maybe it was because reverse tower defense was seen as too oldschool, considering stuff like it used to be just called “games” (the player navigating AI defenses) or later “escort missions” (the player escorting something else through AI defenses), and tower defense was the new hotness.

    I can’t help but think that Anomaly would benefit from user-creatable levels, or specifically user-placed defenses on pre-built maps, that could then be uploaded and distributed online. You’d then have a more evolving game, as players both learned to overcome defenses and tried to build stronger and new defenses for others to overcome.

  14. mattjb says:

    I played the living crap out of Defense Grid (loved that game) so if Anomaly can reproduce that joy in gaming, I can’t exactly say no to it, can I?

    Also, I’m loving these reviews of indie titles. With the influx of awesome indie games on Steam, I’m finding that I’m buying them a lot more often than AAA titles. Of course it helps that their prices are a lot more reasonable, but their fun-factor tend to also be pretty great.

  15. MCM says:


    It’s “besiege dungeons” not “siege dungeons”. Christ I was told you people invented this language.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      @MCM I think you’re missing the point of the headline there. The intention isn’t to be accurate, it’s to say that it’s about Dungeon Siege. And why are you commenting in this thread?

  16. phenom_x8 says:

    For a while, after read the title in my RSS reader, I thought it was Warzone 2100 sequel. Played it for the first time in my old Playstation and never ever realised until a few weeks ago that it has its own PC version FOR FREE (sorry forgot the link)! Nostalgia, come to papa!

  17. ran93r says:

    I must have been living under a rock as I have only just heard about Defense Grid, would you say pick that up (as it’s less than ten marlboro at the moment) or pick up Anomaly which does sound a little more interesting to me.
    ninja edit – going to stop being a lazy arse and download the demos. Although it looks like the Anomaly demo is a lie, curse you Steam and your shiny button.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Pick up Defense Grid. It’s well balanced, seemingly has more depth to it, and it’s very satisfying when you top your friends leaderboard on any given level after a number of oh so close attempts.

  18. Coldblade says:

    I quite enjoy this game. It’s fresh and helps pass the time.
    Though I must say, I’m not a fan of the humour on Anomaly. It’s cringeworthy and it feels extremely out of place.

  19. 11 bit studios says:

    Concerning the demo – we’re going to make it available as soon as possible.

  20. PodX140 says:

    And no mention on the absolutely stunning visuals? I’ve seen Crysis 2’s visuals maxed and I was much more impressed with this, it seems to have a life in the details that nothing else compares to. Top down or not, I was extremely immersed and impressed.

    /end mini-rant that sounds like a paid advertisement (don’t eat me spam regulator! I’m a good guy! :P )

  21. trjp says:

    So the demo arrives (see a Steam client near you) and – erm…

    Visually it’s impressive – a lot of work gone into what’s effectively a budget title. The fact they’ve gone for a lot of voiceover is nice too – the writing is a bit dodgy in places (I realise they’re Polish so can cut them some slack on that!) but the same person voicing multiple people in conversation sounds naff.

    My first game/tutorial was going well until it decided to screw me tho – to the extent I just quit out and uninstalled it. It’s walking you through the way you plan your route and about halfway through you’re attacked an have a TINY amount of time to react. Fail to do this and it’s game-over and start the tutorial again – and the only reply I have to that is “FUCK RIGHT OFF”.

    Punished for following a tutorial and not being able to guess what’s going to happen?? WTF!??

    What I saw seemed nice but I’m not being slapped-down by a tutorial so…

    • 11 bit studios says:

      What was the issue? Sorry, my English is not goog enough to get what went wrong with the demo when you played it.

    • trjp says:

      On the first level there’s a point about 2m from the exit – on the right-side of the map – where you can go 2 ways around a small square.

      As my convoy entered the square (with it’s direction set to the left) a lightning bolt hit the road ahead of it. This meant I had to react instantly to change it to going to the other side of the square.

      As I was healing units/collecting resources,I was a bit slow to react (maybe 1-2 secs at worst) and the front of my convoy passed the point it could change direction – meaning it was heading straight at the hazard – nothing I could do about it – game over…

      Nowhere upto that point had it been explained if I could stop the convoy – reverse the convoy or (as per the amazing Defence Grid) just jump back to a checkpoint. I expected something like “Aha – you died! – now here’s how to avoid that” but it just sent me back to the menu to start afresh!?

      Given that I really didn’t fancy doing the whole tutorial upto that point again – I quit…

  22. 11 bit studios says:

    “As I was healing units/collecting resources,I was a bit slow to react (maybe 1-2 secs at worst) and the front of my convoy passed the point it could change direction – meaning it was heading straight at the hazard – nothing I could do about it – game over…”

    Hmmm, this is not true. You simply did not load a checkpoint. Please see the pitcure below to check the “revert to last checkpoint option”
    link to img687.imageshack.us

    • trjp says:

      My point was that I’d just been walked into an almost unavoidable death in a tutorial – presumably for no better reason that to slap my wrist and demonstrate the futility of life!?

      There’s a lot of games out there which need playing so I headed-off to play one which didn’t punish me for playing it – if your game is going to be mean and nasty in a demo/tutorial/first level, I’m really not going to spent the time – let alone the money – sorry and all that but…

      I play games for fun…

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Yeah, those lightning bolt thingums aren’t great design, I sent my commander chap pootling on ahead, had one land on his head and lost the convoy in the confusion, but it’s worth sticking with the demo a bit longer as the lightning bolts are only present in the tutorial section. It’s also worth noting that scrolling back to the strategic view pauses the game so you can always replan routes at your leisure.

  23. 11 bit studios says:

    First you say there’s no checkpoint loading, while there is. Then you say “My point was that I’d just been walked into an almost unavoidable death in a tutorial – presumably for no better reason that to slap my wrist and demonstrate the futility of life!?”. Now, in games you die when you perform badly. I am trying to talk to you gently, but you seem to prefer different way.

    • trjp says:

      I appreciate you coming back on this but I’m sticking to my guns, that kicking players in the teeth during a tutorial is wrong and will lose you custom.

      What should have happened at that point was that Ross Kemp Lite should have said “AHA! – not quick enough – but don’t worry, we can take you back to the last checkpoint and we won’t try screwing you like that again!! – but PAY MORE ATTENTION NEXT TIME”.

      Just leaving the player dead – as if it were entirely their fault – undo’s all the good work you did presenting a great looking game.

      Tower Defence is all about ‘step back and retry’ – handling this slickly (as DG does so well) is key to success I think.

  24. 11 bit studios says:

    I know, but it is crucial to learn that particular element in the tutorial, becuase otherways it’s much more harder later on. And that’s why you have that revert to last checkpoint thing in our game. Many testers failed to succeed becuase didn’t know how to re-plan the route in tac-map. So you have this moment when the squad is attacked – if you won’t help fast – the squad dies. So you go back to checkpoint to learn how to do that better. Actually same in Defense Grid – I played it on xbox – and failed couple of times in the tutorial until I’ve learnt (learned?…) how to play efficiently. That’s something very usual while you want to say it’s not.

    And I won’t stop posting until you’re convinced to play that bloody demo again till the end! ;)

    • trjp says:

      If you’re brave enough to try to understand the difference between learned and learnt then I HAVE to try to complete that demo!! :)

      For the record – learnt and learned are interchangeable with 1 exception

      The exception is using it to describe someone as well-educated – “the learned game developer” – where it’s pronounced differently (2 distinct syllables e.g. “lern-ed”) – you can’t use learnt in it’s place for that.

      Don’t you just love English eh – through, through, thought, trough, thou, thousand, trousers!! :)

      Now – where’s that demo :)

  25. 11 bit studios says:

    Lovely :)
    It’s here http://www.11bitstudios.com (orange Demo icon) or simply on Steam (link to store.steampowered.com).

    Now, I got it that way:
    Learned stands for possessing of wide knowledge while learnt simply is a past form of the verb learn. Could be learned too but only with the same meaning and usage as learnt. But when listening to pronunciation of both at the freedictionary website, the only difference I hear is that learned (well educated) ends with “D” like in “down” while learnt ends with “T” like in “town”.
    Actually English is so popular not coincidentallym but becuase it’s the only language that fits to the sentence “easy to learn, hard to master”.
    Is this what we’re doing now common for RPS? I guess not :P

    • trjp says:

      RPS educates all!

      The difference in pronounciation between “I learned how to write” and “the learned professor” is small – basically you mostly ignore the last ‘e’ in the first case (lernd) and emphasise it in the latter case (lern-ed).

      As with all languages, accents and regional variations almost bury the the difference and “the learned professor” is a fairly special usage which isn’t very common anyway.

      Learnt and Learned are otherwise interchangeable – well, unless you’re American because they apparently never use Learnt (which is odd because they usually keep the shorter versions of words!!)

  26. sexyresults says:

    lol titular

  27. trjp says:

    Just to wrap this up properly – I went back to the demo, made it through the first bit without being cornered this time and got inside the Anomaly…

    I didn’t get much further tho – I’m not sure if it’s the controls (the whole concept of a guy running around healing a convoy is slightly potty), the difficulty (I refuse to play anything on ‘Easy’ so I’m on the middle one) or just me, but once I encountered the first serious amount of enemies I just died and died and died and died…

    To rub salt in, the same voice samples playing over and over is grating – “Snake – SNAKE – SNAAAAAAAAAAAKE” *coughs*

    Whatever tho – it always seemed I was healing in slightly the wrong place or the supplies which appear when you kill an enemy took a BIT too long to appear or the convoy is just moving faster than anyone with the remotest amount of fucking sense would drive towards an army of badguys – and yes, I tried a few different layouts and upgrades…

    Actually, the whole issue of ‘lack of control’ could be the whole issue for me. Games where your job is looking after/relying on an AI are something I’ve never been able to handle. Escort missions, games with AI sidekicks have – IMHO – generally been something I passed-on.

    I can’t really say much else – i didn’t play this far enough to tell what else happened – it seems I just don’t like games where the purpose is really about making sure the AI doesn’t kill itself!!

  28. 11 bit studios says:

    Fair enough. I can’t make a song that would be sweet melody to every ear. I can’t also encourage people to play chess while they hate being limited to only 16 characters, with 8 of them being pawns.
    Greetings :)