We go hands-on with the next installment of the reverse tower-defense series.
In the not-too-distant future, 11 Bit Studios will be releasing its next installment in the Anomaly series, titled Anomaly Korea. We've recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with the single-player component of this latest edition, getting a closer look at the first four missions of the campaign in particular.
At the start of each level you get the chance to decide just how tough you want to make things for yourself. Casual mode's quite the breeze until you reach the end of these teaser missions, while Advanced makes thing considerably trickier. The beefiest challenge, Hardcore, is reserved only for those who seriously know what they're doing on the tactical battlefield.
As you'd expect, the first mission is designed to ease newcomers into the game. It starts with an explanation of the core route-building mechanics, and how you should carefully balance the need to reach your mission objectives with avoiding the more intense defenses on the ground. Route-shaping works very well in this strategic section of the interface, with light and precise finger taps changing the direction of travel at junction points.
Once you've settled on a route it's time to move onto the battlefield itself. This being a reverse tower-defense you're on the back-foot, rolling slowly passed the vicious ground defense units while managing the survival of your own forces. As one unit takes damage, you'll need to reorganize the squad formation to minimize any further damage to it. Boosts you lay on the ground temporarily increase the power of all units that pass through it, which is handy when you encounter a particularly mean cluster of turrets.
In the second mission, you're tasked with getting your squad in one piece to an airlift rendezvous point. It's here you'll get a taste of your army's deadly Crawler unit, perfect for delivering ferocious rocket-fire from range, although fragile and requiring deft use of repair boosts on the ground to keep the rockets flying.
Visually the game is very impressive, with richly colored but grungy skyscrapers looming up from the city streets. Animations are slick too, while sound effects are suitably explosive, and a handful of Asian instruments are thrown into the typically rocky soundtrack to give this particular version of the game its own flavor.
Similar to the second mission, the third is a squad rendezvous affair where you need to slowly snake your way towards the rest of your team. It's also the first time you'll need to select a balanced squad for yourself at the beginning of a level, and build the perfect assault force for the job at hand. It's in this mission that you'll also master the upgrade system, and the hard choices between spending rare cash on upgrading a powerful but fragile unit (that might just end up evaporating at the first sign of trouble.) or simply expanding your available fleet.
The fourth mission introduces the deadliest enemies of all, the gigantic Flamer turrets that inflict molten damage that not only stings on contact but continues to inflict damage over time. Fortunately this is where you'll get your first use of an equally deadly tank unit, the Horangi. This new unit acts differently to the others, charging up a special devastating ability with each kill it achieves before unleashing hell on the battlefield.
With access to only a few missions designed to introduce the newcomer to the reverse tower-defense gameplay, it's a little early to make any kind of judgment on Anomaly Korea. From a technical perspective however it's made a very strong impression. With the game due out before Christmas, we don't have to wait too long to find out how the finished product turns out.