Anomaly Defenders delivers deep and engrossing strategic action

anomaly defenders lead

With so many free and cheap Android games, it’s tough to take the risk on a game that costs even a few dollars. But with a premium price often comes a premium experience. Each week, we’ll highlight a game that costs $3 or more, but is worth every penny. Don’t get suckered into a “free” game that’s not really free—support great games by paying a fair price up front!

Anomaly: Warzone Earth was an attempt to put a twist on the burgeoning tower defense genre, putting you not in charge of the alien turrets that line the pathways, but rather the humans’ armored vehicles trying to survive the pummeling attacks on their route. Two strong sequels proved how rich a concept it was, but for a final installment, 11 Bit Studios opted to undo the previous switcheroo and make a traditional tower defense game. The result might be a little too familiar to genre fans, but Anomaly Defenders ($4) adds a lot of welcome nuance to the typical tower defense formula.

Get defensive

anomaly defenders visuals

Like its reversed predecessors, Anomaly Defenders is a fantastic-looking game, with loads of detail found within its glossy environments.

The environments and enemies in Anomaly Defenders are unique, but the basic game premise is the same as other tower defense games: Enemies pour out from one side of the map, you have a base on the other end, and must use limited resources to build turrets to destroy the enemies before they reach your base. You play as tech-savvy aliens attempting to fight off the humans, who arrive in vehicles that can transform to throw off your strategies. Luckily, you have a lot of firepower to choose from, not to mention some interesting special techniques.

New towers unlock slowly across the campaign, but each offers a different type of attack: rapid bullets, piercing lasers, or explosive energy balls, for example. And once you dig into the various abilities on the between-mission technology tree, you gain the ability to use boosts that may turn the tide of battle, such as extending a tower’s range or amping up its attacks. Whatever way you tackle each map, the missions require a keen eye towards resource management and smart turret placement—plus quick reactions when your best laid plans (and towers) are vaporized.

Have a battle plan

anomaly defenders blasters

If there’s a knock against Anomaly Defenders, it’s that it takes quite a while to unlock the wide arsenal. You’ll use one tower type for a few missions, and then finally add another, and the initial strategies feel very limited. That changes, luckily.

anomaly defenders tech tree

How you expand the technology tree helps determine your available tactics. You might focus on buying new towers and upgrades, for example, or specialize in bonus abilities or other in-battle perks. And you can change it up after each mission.

anomaly defenders boosts

Each tower starts off relatively weak, but tap it and you can spend your Carusaurum (resources) on upgrades to its firepower, range, and rate of fire, or use energy snagged from fallen enemies to temporarily boost your turrets with special abilities.

anomaly defenders strategy

The winding paths around the gorgeous locales offer strategic opportunities. In some stages, you can draw enemies down certain paths by activating reactors, effectively pulling prey towards your most powerful towers.

Why it’s worth your money

Anomaly Defenders is a largely traditional tower defense entry, and the genre isn’t thin on great Android options—Kingdom Rush and Fieldrunners in particular come to mind. But it’s a really strong and well-considered strategy game that makes smart tweaks to the typical template, forcing you to balance two types of resources and use the environment to your advantage as powerful attackers swarm.

Beyond being an attractive and well-designed game, Anomaly Defenders also features quite a bit of content, with 24 distinct campaign missions to tackle on three difficulty levels. And there’s real incentive to replay missions once you unlock new towers and perks, especially on higher difficulty settings, as you can access more abilities and upgrades on the tech tree. Immense polish, satisfying action, and excellent replay value all make Anomaly Defenders well worth the investment.

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