Back to the roots, but also new

Developer BlueByte delivers with the newest entry of the roughly 20 year old real time strategy city building franchise Anno 1800. This entry delivers a back to the roots experience with smart additions. By ditching the future setting and focussing back on what its long time Fans were looking for.

Small beginnings

You start Anno 1800 with a ship and a few supplies on a map hidden by fog of war. You can deactivate it, but that does take away from the discovery element of the game. Once you have discovered land and laid down your claim the fun begins. You build a few wood producing buildings, a lumber mill, a marketplace and a some farm houses and from that moment on watch your people and town thrive and develop, if you please your people by producing the right goods.

There are five types of townspeople in the old world and two in the new world. Farmers will do the “lowest” of jobs, but also have the lowest basic needs of all of your people. The higher the tier the more your people want. Clothes, alcohol and sausages are only a few of the production cycles that you need to place strategically. You also need to ensure that enough of the required workforce is available to run them. Buildings are sorted into the people type, so that the complexity makes more sense and is easy to learn. What a farmer wants is in the farmer tab, for example.

Options and decisions, decisions decisions

Anno 1800 is the type of game where the old phrase “easy to learn, hard to master” fits like a glove. In the beginning you try to place all available buildings near the harbour and marketplace. The longer you play, generally a game will take 40 hours, the more you want to give your town your own personal stamp. Do you arrange the houses in 2×2 or 2×3, do you create districts, will all types of people live next to each other? How far away do you place production buildings away from your living areas? Is that island close to you the right fit for an expansion or maybe that island closer to an opponent? All very good and important decisions.

You will also be able to fight your opponents, but this is limited to naval combat. BlueByte stated that creating a full real time strategy land battle system would have taken too much time and resources that they felt would be better spent on other systems of the game and that shows!

Modus operandi

Anno 1800 offers three modes. A campaign mode, a sandbox mode and multiplayer. The difference between the first two is, that in the campaign mode the game delivers a nice story and the islands are more predetermined. In sandbox mode everything is random generated, based on your selection of difficulty or custom game settings. I was unable to test the multiplayer mode, due to the time factor of the beta only lasting a weekend. I hope to get some time into the mode once the game is released.

What a view!

One might not expect it for a strategy game, but Anno 1800 looks gorgeous. The shimmering and depth of the water, the swaying of the trees, the animals scuttling about, the people on the streets, farms, in shops and factories are all designed with so much love and skill that it is hard to not just sit back, relax and watch life go by.

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Just one more…

Anno 1800 will release today, on April 16th, to fans both old and new. I was fortunate enough to put a good few hours into the game during its open beta phase last weekend and have to say that not a second was lost. This is the sort of game where you just want to do the next little thing and BOOM it’s 3:00 AM. I for one cannot wait for the final version, build my town, expand and sometimes just sit there and watch life be life.

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