Tower defense games are incredibly addictive. There’s no denying that. Yet, most of the time, they deliver a rather passive experience. Therefore they are often relegated to the recesses of my iPhone and only played in waiting rooms and long lines. Anomaly Defenders, however, is just as addictive as any well-designed tower defense game, but retains an energy other games of the same genre most often lack. Anomaly Defenders doesn’t feel like a game to pass the time, the game is kinetic; it feels like an active experience and I can’t get enough of it.
11 bit studios‘ Anomaly Defenders is (as the cheesy title of this review implies) an incredible amount of fun. But what sets it apart from dozens of tower defense games? The most readily apparent distinguishing feature: its finesse. It’s the third installment in the Anomaly series, which is evident as Anomaly Defenders is noticeably polished.
However, it is my responsibility to point out that I have a slight bias: I have an Alienware PC. How does this make me biased? Well, just as the PS4 controller augments the experience of Transistor, the pretty programmable lights of my Alienware PC augment the experience of this tower defense game. The lights change during key moments in the game, they turn a pale grey at the menu screen and red during a “massive attack,” for example. Some PC games utilize these pretty lights in a noticeable way and others don’t. Luckily (for me and the other lucky Alienware owners), Anomaly Defenders utilizes this feature. Does it completely change the experience? No, but it adds a certain amount of polish to the game; it’s a nice little touch that I appreciated very much.
But there’s much more to enjoy than the pretty lights on the Alienware. There’s the pretty lights on the screen. Anomaly Defenders has a bright neon palette, befitting its sci-fi tone. The level design, the graphics, the bright colors all demand your attention, yet one never overpowers or detracts from the other. The levels were obviously created with care, and there is a good amount of variance between them, which keeps the game visually interesting. It’s not the most gorgeous game I’ve ever played, but it’s a surprisingly good-looking tower defense game at the $10 price point.
Then there’s the soundtrack. I was very surprised that the sound effects and the music were so good. Again, it wasn’t the most impressive score I’ve ever listened to, but it was better than expected. The foreboding music and the high-quality sound effects really weren’t necessary for the mere $10, but their presence supplemented the solid graphics and gameplay.
Of course, what really makes this game stand out from all the other tower defense games is the fact that your towers have active abilities and enemy units attack those towers. So, instead of wiping through your enemies as they travel down a line, they fight back. This makes the game, as I stated earlier, less of a passive experience. It also is somewhat impossible, in my experience, to overpower your units. And while each round starts off as fairly simple, by the end of that round, the enemies become way more challenging. I never really found myself bored or waiting around for something to happen or waiting for the level to finally end because of these reasons. The game had a fair difficulty and winning each level required attention. I seldom used the fastforward button. In fact, I usually only needed at the start of a level when the enemy units were fairly easy to neutralize.
What’s more, there’s three difficulty settings, which honestly feel different from each other. The hardest difficulty actually felt somewhat challenging, which I’m sure many fans of the tower defense genre are looking for. I wouldn’t say that this game completely satisfied my love for tactical gameplay, but it satisfied it in some capacity and still proved to be thoroughly enjoyable.
While Anomaly Defenders isn’t the most replayable game or the most magnificent tactical game I’ve ever played, it solidly delivers on all the important points. It doesn’t feel like one of the countless tower defense games that inundate the gaming market. It’s a unique experience that supplies what it promises: entertaining tower defense fun. In fact, Anomaly Defenders can really reinvigorate those who are suffering from fatigue from the tower defense genre. So, fans of tower defense, or even real-time strategy games in general, should give Anomaly Defenders a shot.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
The PC version of Anomaly Defenders was used to review this game.