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Anomaly 2 | Review

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Anomaly 2 is the newest edition in the Anomaly series staking a foot in the tower defense genre. Its last and first known entry was Anomaly: Warzone Edition released just two years ago from 11 bit studios. They continue their efforts to provide us with a better experience in Anomaly 2 with more upgrades, new modes and story as well. It’s a different kind of tower defense game than you’d normally see on the market today but it’s an interesting game that should hold your interest as you play through the single player campaign. I do have a confession to make however: I have not played the first game in this series, Anomaly: Warzone Earth. Therefore I will be judging this game on its own merits instead of comparing it to its previous original release.

Anomaly 2 is what they call a real time strategy defense game that takes what makes tower defense and utilizes it in a different fashion. You’ll control a soldier and a convoy of vehicles that travel a pre-determined path. You have the power to change that path as you delve deeper into the campaign but in the beginning you are guided through the level as you defeat the alien race that is invading and keeping you from your objective. The different vehicles you get to control determine how your progress will be made through the game. It’s up to you to upgrade your units and purchase new ones in order to tackle the current objective that’s handed to you. There is plenty of action as the game provides a challenge making you think of which unit to use at any given mission.

The world map is what you use to navigate across each mission that you move forward through. The overall design of the game is pretty simple to follow and doesn’t do anything too intrusive to interrupt your experience. The game has a pretty decently long tutorial and training area, but it is intertwined with the main story of the game so you’ll be able to jump right in the game once you are given your first real mission to take on. There is a lot to take and you make complete use of your keys and mouse controls. Using the mouse allows you to control your mech units, whether you want to upgrade them or purchase new ones.

The game’s story feels like it’s there but you never completely get a sense of character development, especially if you haven’t played the first game. While I did understand there was a previous element to the story that was introduced in the first game, this second entry made it difficult to follow along being a newcomer to the series. The story is presented to you with pictures of characters; whether during cut scenes (which are pretty much glorified story boards) or as you see them on the ground in the over-head camera view.  There is a pretty well written script, but it doesn’t feel like you’re gaining any sort of value or empathy for the characters involved. There is a narrator here that provides you with an overview of the mission you are about to undertake or a brief tutorial of the new mech or weapon or skill you have acquired during your missions.

For what the game lacks in storytelling and writing it makes up for in the visuals. The game looks great and provides very intricate and unique detail to every mission level as you progress through the game. It’s nice to see this level of effort to be able to make it run smoothly (at least as advertised) on an Alienware platform. You’ll be fighting through the Antarctic to the jungles and even encounter many urban warfare battles in various cities as well. The level of detail shown in the aliens themselves are quite interesting and lends itself to the overarching story that is being told making it that much more believable. While you don’t get to see any of the main characters up close the character designs and mech designs all seem to be in top shape as you experience what the game has to offer. I won’t say the voice overs starting from the narrator all the way up to the in game character voices are the best by any means, but it gets the job done as far as you being invested in the game. Unfortunately, that aspect of the game isn’t memorable, however, and it doesn’t capture your imagination and bring you along for the ride. But, for what it is, Anomaly 2 does provide a grand scale to work with for a tower defense game. You won’t be disappointed with a 15 dollar price tag, so feel free to dive right in if you are given the chance, it certainly is a time killer when it all boils down to it.

Overall, Anomaly 2 doesn’t break any boundaries or shatter worlds, but for what it is, Anomaly 2 provides decent entertainment if you are looking for something to pass the time or warm up for your gaming night. Anomaly 2 has its creative style and with the nice production values in this game you’ll definitely have something easy on the eyes. Be sure to give Anomaly 2 a try if you are a looking for a PC game that won’t hurt your budget.

(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied on behalf of 11 Bit Studios)

ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE

Story – 6/10

Gameplay/Design – 7.5/10

Visuals – 8.5/10

Sound – 7/10

Lasting Appeal – 7/10

_______________________

Overall – 7.5/10

(Not an average)

Platforms: PC, Mac

Developer: 11 Bit Studios

Publisher: 11 Bit Studios

Ratings: T (ESRB), 12+ (PEGI)

I'm a veteran gamer with a passion for writing and the video game industry is where I plan to stay. In between playing/reviewing the latest console releases and the latest news you'll find me reading and watching NHL games rooting for my team (New Jersey Devils) Outside of college taking over my life I enjoy a very active social life.

Review

Etherborn Review — A Brief, Beautiful Defiance of Gravity

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Etherborn

Indie developers in 2019 truly have the freedom to create the games they want. When Fig-funded game Etherborn reached its funding target, developer Altered Matter set out to craft a gravity-shifting puzzle platformer. Players sold on this concept have a lot to look forward to as Altered Matter has delivered on its promise. The mind-bending mechanics of Etherborn force players to approach the world from a new perspective amidst some stunning visual landscapes. 

In Etherborn, the player takes control of a voiceless, newly-born being who follows a bodiless voice in search of meaning. Such a philosophical premise promises an experience that will answer key questions regarding self-identity and the quest for meaning. The answer plays into the age old cliche that we are born to create our own destiny. The game’s narrative discussions around these topics are disappointing, though they do demonstrate that the narrative is less important than the themes behind them. 

Etherborn

One of the biggest frustrations with the story is that the language used complicated the simple message the developer was trying to tell. The soothing yet commanding tone of the omniscient voice would have been enough to carry along a more refined script that served the themes with clarity. Instead, Altered Matter opted to write something poetic by using lots of really big words that sound like they have lots of meaning, which instead detract from the actual meaning. 

Etherborn has a linear structure that takes place across five distinct levels. The levels are completed by solving gravity-defying puzzles to collect light orbs that open the pathway forward. Once all levels are completed, a new game+ mode is unlocked, creating replayability through the additional challenge of new, well-hidden light orb locations. Including this game mode offers players a chance to enjoy a more difficult experience without an additional learning curve. 

What sets Etherborn apart is the unique mechanic that underpins the gameplay. To traverse the landscape, players must jump and use ramps to change their perspective, turning walls into floors to move through the level. The opening level does an exceptional job of introducing the player to how this concept will be manipulated throughout the game. Controls in Etherborn are simple and intuitive, allowing for an experience that focuses the challenge purely within the design. Despite being able to run, the movement speed of the character seems sluggish for the most part, yet can be too fast for easy maneuverability in levels that require finesse to execute. 

Etherborn is deeply beautiful. The soft hues and subtle colour palette create a truly ethereal experience that carries through until the final level where the tone shifts into something somewhat dark, yet utterly breathtaking. Skeletal bodies, frozen in time, dwarf the character to create a visual masterpiece that captivates the viewer. Accompanying the divine art direction is killer sound design that makes the world feel complete. The ambient music creates an atmosphere that indulges in the landscape it calls home in a way that elevates the experience. 

The short length of Etherborn leaves players wanting more. In OnlySP’s preview of the game in 2018, the Alpha build contained the same five levels that are seen in the final game. Having spent so much time on these levels has meant the final product is highly polished yet disappointingly short. The gravity bending puzzles at play are so clever, well designed, and satisfying to complete that a lack of experimentation through more level designs to satiate the player’s hunger for more is disappointing.  

The challenging gameplay, gorgeous sound design, and stunning aesthetics all make Etherborn a worthwhile experience, even for those not fond of puzzle-platformers. Every level demonstrates a craftsmanship that encourages the curiosity to think and engage with the world. Completing puzzles is satisfying, even if the length of the game is not. Some minor issues may crop up along the way, but Etherborn is still a clever, fun game that challenges players and their perspective of the world. 

OnlySP Review Score 3 Credit

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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