Tower defense strategy games, like Defense Grid: The Awakening and Plants vs. Zombies, usually challenge you to hold out against waves of aliens, zombies, or other enemies by building defensive towers. Now, developer 11 Bit Studios, founded by industry veterans from CD Projekt and Metropolis Software earlier this year, is looking to mix up your role in the tower defense relationship by placing you on the receiving end of the beatdown.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth marks 11 Bit's premier release and uses the developer's own in-house engine designed from the ground up. In the game you take control of a single commander unit placed in charge of up to six military vehicles. This convoy will fire independently at enemy targets as it moves through each stage on a designated path. As the commander, you can move about the battlefield freely, but since you're unarmed, you won't get far without your convoy's armaments. Conversely, the convoy won't last long without its high-tech babysitter's special abilities.
Even without a machine gun or an oversized rocket launcher, your commander is still a powerful force on the battlefield. The first of your four abilities, the repair ability, drops an area-of-effect repair field on the map that will heal convoy vehicles as they pass through it. Smokes bombs and a decoy marker round out the next two abilities and add a touch of cunning and deception to your arsenal. When trickery fails, however, and you're forced to cut through the center, an air strike, which serves as your only offensive ability, can help even the score.
Smoke, the decoy, and the air strike have to be purchased for your commander before they can be used, and all of your abilities have a limited number of charges. Fortunately, these charges can be replenished in the field through air supply drops or as rewards for defeating enemies. Be careful, however, for an overzealous commander trying to snatch up a far-off supply drop might find himself temporally knocked out if he draws too much enemy fire. Though he can't die, your commander's temporary absence from the fight leaves the convoy to fend for itself.
In addition to having an arsenal of special skills, your commander can designate where the convoy is headed. Should you round a corner only to come face-to-face with an enemy death laser, it might be time to call up the tactical view. This top-down perspective can be pulled up on the fly and displays both the map and your convoy's selected route. From here you can redirect your vehicles and avoid certain destruction, or collect a cache of currency you spotted down a side street.
Once you have some cash in your pocket, this in-game currency can be spent to upgrade your convoy, unlock new powers for your commander, or purchase new vehicles. In addition, buying, selling, and upgrading units in your convoy can all be done in the field. So if you spot an enemy blockade up ahead, it may be time to add a few levels to your lead vehicles or mix up your vehicle order so they can weather the onslaught.
Anomaly is set to include 14 missions and two endless modes at launch. While this may not seem like a lot, 11 Bit Studios is pushing replayability with new objectives for completed missions and leaderboard support. There's even a combo system that will reward you for defeating strings of enemies in a timely manner. Anomaly is clearly taking a creative approach to the usual tower defense formula. The game will be released in early 2011.