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April 16, 2019
Anno 1800 returns the prestigious strategy and city-management series to its incredibly addictive historical roots. After two mediocre Sci-Fi iterations, Blue Byte’s newest edition is set within the romanticised 19th Century Industrial Revolution. Staple city-building, trading, naval mechanics and new tourism, propaganda, and quest features craft what may be the best Anno title of all-time.
It is an extremely detailed game that players will effortlessly delve deep into. There is much to unpack, and I could speak endlessly about the various mechanics, complexities, and design of this wonderful title. For reader’s sake, I’ll discuss the critical aspects; what really sets it apart from its predecessors and competitors, and why you should or shouldn’t get your hands into the economy of the Victorian Era.
The main campaign encourages players to learn the basics and new additions of Anno 1800. The player inherits a small island from their late-father and begins to learn the hardship of building and maintaining a city in the Industrial Revolution. A relentless Uncle Edvard, with a not so secret vendetta, enforces expectations and debts. Luckily, two fairly helpful friends by the names of Hannah and Aarhant provide support by introducing new buildings, mechanics, and quests step-by-step.
Players will begin with an easy to manage population of farmers and traders. They quickly evolve into workers, artisans and further, establishing interconnected cities, trade networks, and production lines. Propaganda and tourism are welcome additions to the newest entry. Newspaper propaganda manipulates citizens to improving efficiency by spending influence points gathered from periodic quests. The latter provides a return on investment and is collected by placing attractive and commercial structures. Both add a modest yet new layer of control, advancing the distinguished Anno series gameplay without breaking it up or becoming an irritation.
As the mystery of treason and disloyalty is slowly unravelled, the shallow depth of the story quickly becomes evident. Alas, this is not a surprise, purely serving the purpose to introduce the rudimentary game. Regrettably, it sorely lacks advanced guides regarding the complexities of Anno 1800’s economic systems. The only resolution, outside resorting to ol’ mate The World Wide Web, is to tinker around with different selling, purchasing, and trading settings until gears begin to work. This rapidly becomes a severe issue when citizens are harshly over or underworked, begin to revolt, debt arises, and players are left wondering what goods they aren’t micromanaging properly.
Despite the potential difficulty, economy and city management in Anno 1800 are rightfully intuitive and rewarding once understood. Raising and lowering production to meet demands and limited supply or exploiting harbour business by crafting efficient trade-routes is exceptionally pleasing. There is something satisfying about maximising output of lucrative resources and buying necessities to keep citizens happy and cities growing. The Anno series is known for amazing city management and 1800 refines it.
“Booting up Anno 1800 after a long day to simply experiment with a stunning city and mesmerising score is a hypnotising state.”
However, it’s not all rise and fall for newer city-strategy players. The game is suitably forgiving, particularly on easier difficulties. Gameplay can be tweaked to be as easy and relaxing as appropriate. Booting up Anno 1800 after a long day to simply experiment with a stunning city and mesmerising score is a hypnotising state. It certainly meets tranquility of The Sims or Civilization while alternatively providing a more technical game for advanced play.
Diplomacy and combat in Anno 1800 are disappointing. As cities grow and trade-routes expand, new allies and foes will make themselves recognised. Influencing opponents rely on completing tedious quests and hefty bribes. Annoyingly enough, this doesn’t always work in favour either. When war is called, the game falls deeper into a salty ocean of clunky naval combat. The Real Time Strategy (RTS) factors of the title feel like a tacked-on additive. Slow and bare-bones battles between ships, back and forth with little hindrance, is not the slightest bit interesting. With vast societies and intricate production lines to micromanage, these mechanics demand attention like a crying baby. Conquering enemies, particularly in multiplayer where this is the focus, is an unsatisfying bore.
At a surface level, Anno 1800 is one of the best-looking strategy games available. The vivid colours of the sweeping plains, dense forests, mountain sides and bustling cities are immensely beautiful. The oceans, deep blue and mesmerising, show implausible detail in each white flicker as waves slowly rolling over one another. The only downside is the lacking effort in combat visuals, a plague induced from any RTS element of this game. Nevertheless, zooming in up close on different buildings and environments presents Blue Byte’s expert design.
Additionally, the lip-syncing and animation of non-playable characters are laughably awkward. Not only is it stiff, their mouth movements don’t even come close to matching their words. When allies are begging for help like an awfully dubbed puppet, players will immediately be taken out of the experience. It’s an absurd shame as the voice acting is often rather impressive.
Reimbursing immersion is the beyond astounding orchestral score composed by Tilman Sillescu. Unnoticeably having hours fly-by is almost unavoidable with the talented 70-person Brandenburg State Orchestra serenading players through their journey. Sillescu’s representation of industrialisation, mass production, and the labour engine is certainly a masterpiece of its genre. This is heavily complimented by the ambient sounds of factory machines, production lines, and busy city centres. Blue Byte’s audio engineers clearly understand that memorable gameplay is built upon fine sound design. Coupling with the better parts of the visuals and gameplay, Anno 1800’s look and sound are the most remarkable in the city management genre.
Implausible city-management and trading gameplay are married by an almost perfect soundtrack and artistic direction. Building intricate Victorian structures upon gorgeous landscapes, time swiftly disappears with an abundance of enjoyment. The euphoric gameplay flow will noticeably be stalled by bothersome features, particularly if mechanics aren’t fully understood, though it doesn’t kill the entire experience. Blue Byte’s Anno 1800 may be the most satisfying period strategy game yet, despite poor implementation of combat and diplomacy.