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Could Anomaly 2 Turn Tower Defense Into an eSports Genre?
Anomaly 2 made its official debut on Steam this week, to the delight of tower-defense fans around the world. The new PC, Mac, and Linux title from 11 Bit Studios takes the genre to new levels in a number of ways, focusing on a revolutionary multiplayer mode that introduces tower-offense mechanics for an exciting and robust competitive experience. As I played the game, I couldn’t help but notice that Anomaly 2 has all the elements needed to become a successful eSports franchise, which is unheard of in the tower-defense genre. The game is clearly geared toward player skill and competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this title inch its way into the eSports scene after professional gamers catch wind of its depth and emergent, strategic gameplay.
Tower Offense vs. Tower Defense
11 Bit Studios makes it clear that Anomaly 2 is a game focused on multiplayer, and if the game really takes off it will be because of the robust and challenging multiplayer mode. Opponents choose whether to control defense towers or attacking units in each match, allowing for greater depth in strategy development. After mastering the attack game in the campaign, players are introduced to an entirely new set of mechanics in the multiplayer mode, allowing them to master every aspect of the game.
One interesting feature that impressed me and felt like a stroke of genius is the option to instantly rematch an opponent after a game. Rather than silently saying goodbye to an opposing stranger, the rematch feature allows for dramatic mega battles between two opponents who get to know each other match after match. Players also have a quick and easy option to add any opponent as a friend after a match. These ingenious yet intuitive features can only increase the quality of player interactions and strengthen the community surrounding the game.
Emergent strategy is one of key components of an eSports franchise. Put simply, emergent strategy is the ability of players to develop their own meta-game strategies that evolve over time, rather than being forced to employ predictable tactics based on what the game design requires. The micromanagement of attackers and towers alone introduces this crucial component. Add the wide range of possible upgrade combinations, tower deployment strategies, and attacker travel paths, and you have all the makings of an eSports franchise.
Anomaly 2’s single-player campaign could stand on its own without the multiplayer. Far from the usual grind of tower-defense scenarios barely tied together by a loose plot, the Anomaly 2 campaign is a full triple-A-quality experience featuring a satisfying story, deep world lore and eye-catching cutscenes. Graphics and audio quality are higher than any tower-defense game I’ve ever played, taking the genre to a new level of immersion and production quality.
Players control attacking units rather than defenders in the campaign, which itself is a refreshing spin. In addition to strategically purchasing, placing, and upgrading attacking units, players must simultaneously control a commander character, deploying skills and resources in a fast-paced action sequences.
Controlling the commander requires the same level of skill and technique as controlling a League of Legends champion or micromanaging StarCraft II units, which is one of the reasons I couldn’t help but see this as a potential eSports franchise. The game seamlessly mixes intense real-time action and slower paused-game strategy deployment, allowing players to jump from role to role quickly to perform an intricate balancing act.
See For Yourself
Check out the video below for a developer walkthrough of the Anomaly 2 multiplayer mode, and decide for yourself whether this game is destined for eSports fame.