It looks like the Anno franchise is going back to its roots by exploring an event from the past for its upcoming game, Anno 1800. The last two games explored the future and its almost after a decade that they have created a game set in the past, this time, during the peak of the Industrial Revolution. It doesn’t really include any historical figure but tries to recreate all the technological advancements that we were going through in that time period. Anno 1800 introduces several new aspects to the gameplay that not only feels rewarding but at times, it got overwhelming to handle all of them together. Your objective is simple. You’re the ruler who needs to meet the demands of the inhabitants of the island. Apart from that, it’s completely your wish whether you want to level up and create a peaceful relationship with other factions to establish trade routes or take the ruthless path of conquering other islands and factions using warfare. We got our hands on the preview of the game and spent a healthy number of hours building our own city.
Anno 1800 has three game modes including the single player story Campaign, Sandbox and multiplayer modes. The preview we played allowed us to experience the first chapter of the Campaign mode and the Sandbox to its full extent. In the campaign mode, you’ll be directed by the story where you will receive mandatory and a few optional quests to progress. While you’re fulfilling the tasks dependent on the story, you will also get to build your city and explore the region. There’s a lot of family drama in the story that involves tragedy, deceit and moves on to revenge to finally a fight for justice. Although it was only the first chapter, we got to experience the potential of the game. It also worked as a tutorial to the new world and getting us familiar with how things work in this age. Once the first chapter reached its conclusion, it moved to a Sandbox mode in that existing game.
You can either continue with the default selections in the Sandbox mode or customise as per your preferences. There are three difficulty modes including Normal, Advanced and Expert. If you aren’t a fan of presets, then you can build your own custom difficulty based on the enemy factions you want to face, your own faction, world settings and amount of resources available in the map. When you’re in the game, you will be guided with quests if you chose to accept them while picking the Sandbox mode. It usually solves the confusion of where to begin. While you’re building your city and spending all the money, you need to keep a close eye on your income. It’s denoted by ‘Balance’ on the top left. In the beginning, it’s completely fine if it’s in the negative. However, if it continues being negative when you’re running out of funds, you will soon be out of money.
Workforce struggle and the press
An interesting feature is the introduction of workforces or rather occupations in Anno 1800. You start off with farmers initially. As people settle in your city, they will require certain amenities to be fulfilled that will be indicated from the quests or tutorial in the form of buildings and production houses. Once you’ve completed the requirements of the farmers, you will be able to unlock the next workforce which is workers. Every workforce has a distinct role to play in your region. Messing that up will lead to an imbalance in the structure and affect your overall gameplay as you progress. Hence, you will have to keep a close eye on which workforce needs more numbers since you will have to simultaneously change things up for the seamless functioning of your city. For instance, if most of the people are farmers and there aren’t enough workers, you might have to pause that particular industry or rather not build them at all. If certain industries don’t have enough workers or farmers, you will have to build more houses so that more people move to your city. In the preview that we played, we started off with farmers then upgraded to workers and then to artisans. They can be upgraded by upgrading the residential houses once they are fully occupied. As mentioned earlier, make sure you don’t upgrade too quickly because you will need people belonging to every workforce throughout the game. After workers come artisans and they further unlock more buildings.
You can build Trade Unions for workers to boost their productivity. Buildings like these have a radius of influence so the factories and workshops falling inside it will be affected. Another type of a similar building is the Church. When you’re building residential houses, selecting them will show you the Needs and Happiness of your people. Their needs are of more importance and you need to ensure that the bar doesn’t fall too low. We built a few residential houses too far from all the important buildings and completely forgot about them. We found riots happening in those areas and unless you haven’t reached a certain level to build police stations, they could get ugly. Hence, you have to pay close attention to them. The other tab has the Happiness metric and it will start dropping if they aren’t given attention. Your citizen’s happiness is dependent on five factors including News, Pollution, Working Conditions, Island Peace and Luxury. The news is important because the city’s press won’t shy away from printing stories that question and criticise your way of ruling. However, you do have control over the press but that comes at a cost. You can choose to completely replace the negative news with propaganda or be truthful to your people about your failings as a ruler. Printing propaganda is done in exchange of influence points and every propaganda news except the distraction type needs some of those points to be spent. Pollution is important and you have to ensure that heavy industries should be built away from the houses. Working Conditions should be taken care by ensuring you provide the required amount of people. Island Peace depends on whether you’re being friendly to other factions or not. There will be times when you have the opportunity to attack a faction. Your actions will determine the level of peace on your island. Finally, Luxury is something every workforce craves so you need to ensure that buildings such as pubs, breweries, variety theatres, etc., are built in their vicinity. Different workforces require different buildings.
There is a lot of micromanagement that has been implemented in the game. So, if enough goods aren’t being produced, they can’t be traded or used for the construction of your buildings or goods. On the other hand, if you don’t have enough warehouses for storage, manufactured goods will start stocking up and force the workers to stop production. This becomes a hurdle to trading and the next line of manufacturing in a certain chain of a production line. It’s also important to keep in check the distance between the industries, farms and warehouses. Place them too far apart and they won’t even use those warehouses. Hence, you have to build them along the green zone marked over the roads. The road network is important as well and better-connected roads will only ensure smoother and quicker travel.
Anno 1800 is an impressive city simulator where you’ll lose track of time once you start playing. There are several parameters and upgrades that you need to be constantly monitoring while meeting the demands of your people. As you build more houses, more villagers will move to your city. Rather than focusing on upgrading the workforce, we observed that a better and sustainable approach was to fulfil the needs of the existing folks first. This ensured that you don’t run out of funds after a few upgrades. If you’re new to this franchise then it could be a little overwhelming since there’s a lot going on simultaneously. However, once you get the hang of it, you will be able to determine which tasks or quests are more important. The preview showed us what the game is capable of in the Sandbox mode and we had a lot of fun building the city. The graphics look great throughout the game as well as the sounds and music. Experiencing just the first chapter of the Campaign mode obviously wasn’t enough and we’ll be covering the rest of the story in the full review of the game. Not just the Campaign but multiplayer is also something we want to explore, considering there will be navy battles between enemy factions while building the city.
Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey
This ape-descended life form believed that coming down from the trees was a bad idea until he was introduced to video games. Has spent endless hours playing Prince of Persia, Hitman, Assassin's Creed, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead. This makes it three sentences, Half-Life 3 confirmed.