Developer: Blue Byte
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Price: $59.99 (or $79.99 for the Gold Edition)
Rating: E for Everyone 10 and Up (some mild violence)
Release Date: November 3, 2015
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a large simulation fan. I like to play games where you build something, let it go, tweak it from time to time and see the results. Sometimes I like to micromanage every little thing, sometimes I’d rather sit back and watch. I like all kinds of sims, as well, and the Anno series has always kind of ridden along that sweet spot. Ubisoft offered us the chance to review Anno 2205, and so I volunteered to give the press review demo a fair shake out.
That’s right – I’m reviewing a Press Demo version. Please keep that in mind as I go over all the talking points of Anno 2205.
If you’ve never played an Anno game before, it’s basically a simulation city building game that relies on a player setting up multiple settlements to send resources from one area to another to support an object the game has given the player. Maybe you’re trying to build a Shipwright’s Guild or set up an embassy or something essential. By building up population, creating a gathering point for a raw material and then a processing point to turn the raw material into the resource you need, you eventually achieve the goal and move on to the next goal. Of course, there’s sometimes transporting the resources from this island to that island, then the new resource to back, etc. It’s a semi-economical sim, relying on your ability to plan placement and develop resources to continuously grow your population into one that dominates the region (or the world, or what have you).
Only recently has Blue Byte transformed the game enough that it’s more about building beautiful cities than creating giant empires on smaller landmasses. Anno 2205 moves in this direction, and it also moves to copy a lot of other mechanics from similarly popular city building franchises in the hopes of creating a aesthetically pleasing game. It definitely is a prettier game with a focus on very pleasing graphical upgrades, nice music and well-done voice acting. It’s a combination of sandbox and mission threading, instead of two options of one or the other. You create your mega-corporation, pick some land, and you’re off to the races (literally).
The theme of Anno 2205 (other than it being in 2205) is that humanity has just come through a climate/ecological disaster and is now looking to space for resources to continue survival (which was the subject of Anno 2077). One such location is Earth’s natural satellite – the moon. So the large Global Union board is looking to fund several corporations in a race to achieve reaching the moon and harvesting Helium 3 for cleaner, better fuel. This means following a series of objectives planned out ahead of time by the Union, while trying to build a very prosperous, very pretty main settlement on Earth. Your little ocean base becomes the tether to a space elevator that leads to a space station that needs more stuff to do more things. It also gives you a sense of competition going on (although never once did I feel threatened by the other corps).
You have many resources to manage, one being people. You attract people to your settlements by building housing. Those people then provide your basic labor force. They do things like mine, grow food and work in menial jobs. As you expand into new materials and refine new items for your population, you will be able to manually promote that same labor force to fill new, more technical roles.This is a nice touch, since you don’t want to have too many specific, promoted workers and not enough of the menial laborers. You advance your population as you see fit, providing resources they need to be happy so they will be ready to promote when you need them, and only as many as you need. As you meet little requirements, you’ll unlock more facilities to provide more refined items that your population will need to be promote even further still. See where this is going?
Other resources will require you to pop around the world, staring new settlements to harvest new materials for refinement. These additional areas may present new challenges to the old formula – for example, in the arctic zone, workers will only live in habitats that have heat, and heat is generated only by certain industries or other buildings. You’ll need to figure out how to place your workers among your other buildings, trying to to spread anything too thin or create habitation outside of survivable areas. Same with transportation, as you’ll need to set up hubs to keep materials flowing to processing plants and other areas to keep things moving at a nice, brisk pace. Plan foolishly and … well, you’ll either run out of cash or land, forcing you to start over.
This is all well and good, save that you’ll find yourself running into a lot of hurdles pretty quickly. For one, there’s not enough ROOM to do everything you want to do. You’ll either bounce between maps to manage your assets to keep the resources flowing and the people happy, or you’ll end up playing the “What do I keep and what do I throw away?” game. Part of the problem is that settlement layouts are the old block-by-block format of things that must always stay connected by a road. You’ll throw down grid after grid of buildings, which do progressively look nicer as the game goes on and you promote certain facilities. It started to feel very Sim-City-ish in the later stages (see more below).
One unusual addition to the game is sea battles. At various points in the game, you’ll run across hostile forces trying to stop you or your fleets from completing your overall mission of reaching the moon. One faction is a group of people who believe the moon should remain pure, never seeing human development. Which sounds fine, and I was like, “Can’t we just make a deal with these people?” Yet, the missions don’t allow for much diplomacy other than completing mini-missions for other people and trading. Which seems odd, considering we just came out of a time where combat almost destroyed the world in the previous installment. It also seems to detract from the aesthetic and flow of the game. You don’t really need a combat element to a settlement building simulation.
Stunning graphics, interesting premise and nice music are all crammed into this game, making it a very nice simulation. I enjoyed my time with Anno 2205, even though my designs and plans never really grew to model the fantastic cities and/or lunar colonies portrayed in the opening cinema. It’s a logical progression of the series, which I hope then goes into deep space and to far off alien planets to do even more aesthetically pleasing building.
And now –
Much like Sim City which is an Electronic Arts property, to play Anno 2205, you need to have Uplay running in the background. Which means – if you haven’t already – you need to sign up for Ubisoft’s always-on, attempt at anti-piracy. Which isn’t horrible, but you should be aware that it’s definitely something that you’ll have to do to play the game.