Anno 2070 Review
Anno, has always received a fairly decent reception for its cross between city building and strategy, giving players a huge amount of depth in terms of city and resource management, but I always personally found the series to be somewhat behind the times, lacking in areas that I would consider fairly fundamental to the modern gamer.
Now with Anno 2070, we see the game abandon its colonial era settings, instead looking to the not so distant future for inspiration for its sim. Taking players to a world where the ice caps have melted and left most of our coastlines as we know it underwater, humanity has been forced inland and require more energy and resources then ever to survive. As one of a select few with access to a mobile research station known as an “Ark”, its up to you to help resettle lands, and provide power and stability, whilst also having to decide whether to preserve our ecosystem as best as possible, or exploit it for all its worth.
I guess the first thing to say is that Anno isn't the best series for somebody interested in having their first strategy experience. Players must colonise an island by creating a warehouse to store goods, and a city centre which will allow the construction of houses, and then create additional buildings to produce your needed power and resources to sate the needs of your people and expand your structures further, to meet the demands for more variations of resources.
It may sound simple, but even creating a low level resource like tools requires 5 different kinds of building, and when some high level resources require multiple lower tier resources. The need to balance out the various processes, the land you use and your economy can become a struggle to keep up with.
Whilst you spend your time gathering and producing resources, you'll also need to trade with other factions for things you cannot produce, defend yourself from pirates, deal with various emergencies that can be the death of you if left unresolved and even explore the ocean depths.
Different islands only produce certain fertilities or natural resources, forcing the player to expand themselves to different islands, or be diplomatic and trade with other factions and players to obtain what they need.
Diplomacy can be a bitch however so sometimes it just more fun to go out and take what you want from your enemies … except in this case it isn't. Combat in the game is done between boats and aircraft, and strategy doesn't go much further then making sure you have the right vehicle to take down the right enemy (in a very rock/paper/scissor type fashion) and just sending a mass of your troops at the enemy and overwhelming them. It's not fun.
Anybody looking for more depth in their strategic combat should look elsewhere, because this is clearly not the games focus, and it makes me wonder why they even put it in there at all and not focus on making players deal with things like emergencies or disasters instead.
The game has three factions that you will play as. The Industrial Tycoon, the Eco-Friendly Eden Initiative and the scientifically focused SAAT. These factions all have their own build trees, their own needed resources and their own effects on the general balance of the game. Tycoon buildings gather resources more quickly, but have a more adverse effect on the natural environment, which can damage crops and have an detrimental effect on the happiness of your people. The Eden folk are pretty much the polar opposite of the Tycoons and the SAAT scientists are a higher tier group required to access some of the games later technologies.
As the people working for these factions level up, (giving you access to higher tier'd buildings) their needs as a people will grow and not fulfilling those needs can leave your economy crippled and your workforce abandoning you in their droves. Getting a healthy balance between your people's happiness (which effects your tax income) and the costs of other buildings that you need for all the resources you'll be gathering is tough to master, even more so when the game does a poor job of relaying important information to you.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, I always found the Anno games to be behind the times, and unfortunately this is no different. The game fails in numerous ways to convey important information to you that will make the difference between success and defeat.
If you're running into debt, the only resource you have to help you is the very basic information telling you how much you earn against how much you spend, but gives you nothing to tell you what tipped the balance, or how to best fix it, leaving newer players pissing in the wind and left to prod and probe until they work out what has gone wrong.
Quests and quest items very rarely get explained to you properly, leaving the player struggling to figure out where an item is on the map, or why the buildings they need either aren't working … or aren't unavailable.
The biggest issue I have, (which I'm sure is shared by many) is the lack of any time control options. Once players get used to the games mechanics, have their economy balanced and their quests in order, they're guaranteed to hit a point in the game where all they can do is wait. Wait for either a resource to gather or their populace to level up, and in some cases this can take well over half an hour. The lack of any kind of time control has lead to some mission times being doubled as a result, which in this day and age, (where most of Anno's fanbase are probably people with full time jobs and not huge amounts of time on their hands) shows a lack of understanding of what players in the modern age want and need from their games. I'm sure I speak for many (if not all) gamers when I say that I want to spend the time I do spend playing games, actually playing them, as opposed to sitting there watching a very pretty screensaver.
To have access to all of Anno's features, you have to be logged into Ubisofts Uplay system, regardless of where you buy the game from. This is usually a practice I'm firmly against, however in this case is far more forgiveable considering how its being used..
The game amasses huge amounts of information about players day to day goings on in the game, keeping track of populations, resources gathered and general ecobalance, compiling those into worldwide statistics, giving you a feel for how the game is being played by others around the world.
Alongside the 10 mission campaign, a series of single missions and a freeplay mode, connection to the U-play service also provides players with daily single missions to undertake, limited time “mini-campaigns” as well as a persistent voting system which provides additional options in game as well as buffs and bonuses to players.
Players can take part in regular community votes for these bonuses by voting for one of the games three factions, who will each provide a different type of bonus. This adds a whole layer of persistence to the game that you rarely see, and would certainly love to see more of. Giving players a reason to come back to the game, and even showing how players as a community feel about different scenarios and how they would vote on them makes for interesting viewing.
If there's anything for other game developers to steal from this game this would certainly be it, seeing as it provides developers with a lot of insight and feedback on their games and allows them to better update them in the future. (if they choose to)
Taking part in things like daily missions and the mini-campaigns can also provide people with bonus “Career points” which can be used to purchase things like skin changes and other unlockables in-game. There are also plenty of achievements and “secrets” to be done in the game to keep players coming back if they feel the need to feed that desire for points.
All in all, Anno 2070 is for the most part, more of the same as far as the series goes. Providing a lot more content for the modern online gamer rather then re-working mechanics that could do with a bit of fixing.
The game looks gorgeous, plays well for the most part and easily provides dozens of hours of content to keep players entertained.
The new setting doesn't do enough to change up the series, other then laying the groundwork for all of the new back end mechanics like the voting, and saving us from having to look at more wooden ships and listen to more bad European accents.
If you're already an Anno or strategy fan, looking for a decent amount of depth and a lot of content that you can play both solo or together with others, then this is a good game to tide you over, until something else comes along.
If however you're not familiar with the genre, or not a fan of management focused strategy over combat, I wouldn't waste your time with this game. Games like Tropico 3 and 4 are both cheaper and do a better job of explaining things to you, as well as being less punishing when things go wrong.