Even if it feels like a step backwards for the series, Anomaly Defenders is still an entertaining tower defense game.
The Anomaly series has always felt new and refreshing in ways most tower defense simply don’t. But what makes the series so refreshing? Technically, previous entries in the series weren’t tower defense games, they were tower offense games, so instead of assuming the role of a commander who sets up towers as invading waves of enemies attack your base, you controlled the enemies. On top of that, the inventive gameplay was accompanied by exciting online modes, a solid single-player campaign, colorful visuals and more. Interestingly, Anomaly Defenders turns the tables and adopts a traditional tower defense style of gameplay and believe it not, this feels like a fitting conclusion to the trilogy even if the game lacks some of the most entertaining and distinct aspects of the series.
In terms of gameplay, Anomaly Defenders couldn’t be simpler. Each battlefield has pads where you place towers. Enemies come in waves and there are different foes to take into account, including tanks with rotating cannons, helicopters and so on. Analyzing the advantages of disadvantages of enemies and changing your strategy on the fly is a must if you want to complete all 24 missions from the single-player campaign. If at any point you find yourself overwhelmed by the multiple enemies though, you can pause the action and upgrade towers, repair your towers, enlarge the field of action of towers, explode your towers to damage enemies and so on. By the way, if the enemies destroy your launchpad, you lose the mission.
Once a mission has started, you need to build different types of towers which cost you Carusaurum, a rare element that serves as a sort of currency. To obtain more Carusaurum, you need to destroy enemies, sell towers you don’t use or mine the mineral using a special type of tower called Harvester. Towers come in different flavors: there are basic towers that shoot everything that move, towers that launch missiles at incoming targets, towers that create a wall of fire, towers that electrocute enemies and so on. But if their basic firepower isn’t enough, you can use the towers’ special functions, such as rage (which makes towers stronger for a short period,) heal (self-explanatory,) pulse (removes shields from enemies,) sniper (towers can shoot enemies who are far) and so on.
All the technological advancements your towers have depend from an upgrade tree. When you successfully finish a mission, you receive technology points you can use between levels to upgrade the level of your towers, perks and functions. Investing technology points makes towers more powerful, harder and faster and carefully balancing your tech points between tower upgrades, perks and functions is also important for success.
Most missions are bite-sized which is great, since it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to finish most of them. On top of that, you can play them at your own pace, since you can accelerate or pause the action whenever you feel like. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much content as in previous entries in the series. The absence of a multiplayer mode is the most conspicuous one, especially taking into account that the previous game in the series (read: Anomaly 2) had multiplayer modes and they were terrific even though the competition was fierce. Unfortunately, such mode is nowhere to be found in Anomaly Defenders.
So there’s only a 24-mission single-player campaign which should take you around 8 hours to complete and that’s pretty much it in terms of content. If you want to, you can always go back to previous missions and try to complete them in harder difficulty levels or try to unlock as many achievements as possible, but that’s it.
Also, something I found frustrating about the game is that you never know which route the enemies are going to take and while you know where they come from and their destination, their path tends to vary. Therefore, you feel woefully unprepared when a bunch of enemies suddenly change their route and use an unprotected lane.
In the end, Anomaly Defenders is a competent tower defense game that’s entertaining to play, but lacks some of the features you’d expect from the series. I enjoyed playing the 24 missions from the campaign and the flexibility offered by the technology tree, but the lack of a multiplayer mode does nothing but hurt what could have been a terrific tower defense game.