Last week I went along to see the first game from 11 bit studios, the new independant developer that's made up by a collection of ex-CD Projekt staffers. The first thing the gentleman demoing the game did was apologise for the game's title- Anomaly: Warzone Earth. The second thing he did was explain that it was a tower defense game, which he didn't apologise for. That's because Warzone Earth is a tower defense game that you play... in reverse.
In the world of Warzone Earth a big ol' UFO has crash landed on our planet, and where each chunk of the ship lands an enormous dome of energy springs up. You play the human military commander safeguarding the teams sent into this dome, so it's your job to get your boys to the bit of ship in the centre so they can investigate it, or write their names on it, or something. I'm not sure 11 bit explained that part to me. Along the way various fleshy laser tower type things will try and slaughter you, and your job is to make sure you, instead, slaughter them.
How that works is that you pick four different units from a selection including tanks, heavy tanks, shield generators, aggressive mech type things and so on, and these four units become your "wave". They'll then advance along a path you specify in a small column formation, coming under fire from whatever towers they pass while returning fire themselves.
In all of this your commanders takes the shape of a tiny man who runs around on foot, and most of the game is in you using the special abilities of this little guy to keep your troops safe. One of his powers drops a small circle that heals any vehicles passing through it. Another creates a larger sandstorm that reduces the accuracy of any towers firing at targets within that circle. Your third ability creates a decoy that draws all enemy fire, and a fourth ability that's available in Endless Mode will call in an airstrike. You've got a limited number of each of these, but more show up in the form of floating pickups as your progress, with the aim of leaving you balanced on the edge of your seat.
Finally, by blowing up towers on your route you'll also earn yourself cash than can be used to upgrade each of your four chosen squad-members along the way, making them harder, better, stronger, but certainly not any faster. There will be no skipping quickly past these turrets. You've got to just sit tight and take what's coming to you.
In terms of mechanics, that's pretty much it. There will only be 6 different types of enemy turrets and 6 different units for you to choose from. While it's true that tower defense games often lean on variety to boost longevity, Warzone Earth looks to be going for something a lot more arcade than that.
I got a sense for it watching the developer play. Despite the sluggish pace of your units, the pace of the game itself is relentless. You're constantly weaving your commander back and forth, dropping sandstorms and decoys, repairing your units the moment before they're flattened by an energy beam, and bringing up the tactical map just before your team reach a T-junction to make sure the team travels down the less painful-looking road.
In short, it looks like good, clean fun, delivered in a pretty little engine that 11 bit developed themselves. When I asked the developer present why they left CD Projekt, he replied that it was simply because they wanted to do their own thing, which sounds to me like as good an answer as any. Anomaly: Warzone Earth will out early next year, and you can be sure that we'll be posting footage just as soon as 11 bit release it.