Anomaly: Warzone Earth is one of the best “reverse tower defense” concepts we’ve seen to date.

It’s about two in the afternoon right now and I’m operating on about three hours of sleep. I’m exhausted and I blame Anomaly: Warzone Earth for everything. Billed as a top-down mixture of action and strategy with a generous heaping of ‘inverted tower-defense’ for good measure, 11 Bit Studios’ maiden title is one of the most surprisingly compelling things I’ve played in a long, long time.

At a glance, Anomaly: Warzone Earth functions much like your average game of tower defense. There are a variety of turrets, a labyrinth of paths, enemies that spawn from one end of a map and a specific spot in their migration route that must be protected at all costs. Obviously, you’re not in charge of the fortifications here. As members of the 14th platoon, your job is to infiltrate alien territory and accomplish certain goals or, in other words, reach the end.

 Warzone Earth

Players will play several roles in 11 Bit Studios’ brilliant little project. One one hand, there’s the tactical overview; you’ll have routes to plot, upgrades to consider, vehicles to purchase and position. On the other hand, there’s the responsibility of ‘leading by example’. Armed with a phenomenally advanced combat suit, players will also spend much of their time following their convoys. There’s a good amount of strategy to consider among the frenetic action.

While there’s no mistaking the fact that there is a lot to do here, I can’t help but expect a little bit more. On ground, players will spend most of their time divided between deploying one of the four special abilities available to them and collecting supplies that convenient jet planes air-drop. Granted, it’s here where the immersion slackens a little too. You see, the tale behind Anomaly: Warzone Earth is a pretty straightforward. Space debris, later discovered to be chunks from an alien mothership, had crashed into various parts of the world with Baghdad being the first point of interest. These fragments then emitted a giant forcefield, killing a massive quantity of people. As you can imagine, this is where you come in and as the investigative team, your job is to look around and try not to die. At the same time, because of the seemingly perilous nature of this mission, you have to wonder how those jetfighters get in with so much ease.

 Warzone Earth

Having said all that, the control system is one of the most impressive aspects of the game. 11 Bit Studios did a brilliant job here. Everything in Anomaly: Warzone Earth is either executed with a mouse button or the mouse wheel which contributes to the effortless quality of the gameplay. It’s almost enough to excuse the fact that the voice acting is, by normal standards, somewhat subpar. Curiously enough, the spoken dialogue isn’t so much bad as it is, perhaps, peculiar; the cadences sound wrong to me. However, for the most part, this is just a minor complaint – it isn’t bad enough, after all, to destroy your enjoyment of the game.

The sound effects and graphics are more than serviceable, and players will find themselves staring at a well-rendered, devastated landscape, accompanied by a rather moody soundtrack that forms the perfect counterpoint to the action. Still, I do wish there was more visual variation between levels, as all the ones I played through had the same palette of gray, brown, black, and (for the many turrets looking to blast you into tiny bits) bright red. Still, I can easily forgive the developers for focusing on their excellent gameplay over shiny pixels.

Overall, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is by far the best production of the “reverse tower-defense” concept I’ve seen to date, and considering the price – ten dollars – it’s an excellent value as well.