anno big thumb 02 Nov

Ubisoft’s Blue Byte studios are back with another entry to the acclaimed and cult-beloved, city-building, real-time strategy Anno franchise. After the success of Anno 2070, they’re taking players to the future once again, this time allowing colonization of the moon as the surface of the planet is running low on resources.

Governments seem to be a way of the past. It’s corporations that rule the future here. You start up a company and establish new working cities in uncharted parts of the globe. You need to supply clean water, power, security, and food while maintaining a proper budget and pushing your future technologies.

You even get to name your own corporation, and pick your own logo. I thought it would be fun to rule the globe with an iron fist under the name of “Randy’s Pleasure Products Inc.” but apparently that moniker was too long. I fell back on using “Planet Express” since I was going to be running deliveries to the moon. Seemed sort of fitting.

Unlike the recent Cities: Skylines, Anno is a grid-based city builder, so all the roads and structures you slap down will have right angles. This older methodology still feels really comfortable and it fits well with the approach that Anno is going for, a modular, and movable city design. I found myself scooping up buildings and structures and replacing and reorganizing a LOT to accommodate my proclivity for overcrowding, but also to account for learning new things about the game and what made my city-machines run more efficiently as I chugged along.

Similar to what SimCity was trying to achieve in 2013, no singular city in Anno stands alone. They can certainly be self-sustaining, but in order to progress and thrive, your cities need to work together. Your economy isn’t based in one location, it reacts universally. And yes, this is a single player game, so you don’t need to worry about someone else goofing up their town or awkward connection issues.

Your temperate climate cities will be heavily crowded. You’ll have a lot of space at first, so you can house a good number of civilians (and therefore earn more money). You can also grow a variety of crops that aren’t available in the cold. But while this region will be resource rich, they also use a lot of power, and some technologies can’t be developed here.

Your colder parts will rely on the temperate region for different foods, and its income, but in return, they can be repaid with microprocessors and futuristic bionic enhancements for your people. Those enhancements open up new technologies in the temperate region, and around and around we go.

In essence, it’s a spinning plate act with budgets and imports and exports across several large locations. Every time you produce more of one particular item, you’ll run into a shortage somewhere else. And it’s up to you to find that harmonic balance. There’s no need to worry about traffic routes or location of workplaces vs. the location of residential areas. That’s all down to having enough trucks to move products, and having enough butts to fill workspaces.

It’s a slower paced game. But it’s pretty, relaxing, and honestly, very enjoyable. Hours will slip away when you aren’t being careful.

But I didn’t love everything about the game. Anno also has naval combat. You scoot your cruisers through mission objectives to help out neighboring corporations. They repay you in cash, or precious resources.

Some resources in the game cannot be grown or developed. They can only be awarded to the player by doing little missions on side while building, or through military skirmishes. When you destroy enemy structures they sometimes make it rain these special resources. And these special resources are a unique sort of currency used to attach mods to your various buildings. If a building sucks up too much electricity, you can use the currency to slap a modification on to reduce its usage. If you are in need of workers, you can attach robotic drone workers, etc.

This modular mentality isn’t necessary at first, but as you get deeper and deeper into the game, it’s almost mandatory to use these mods wisely to keep your credit in check. It definitely adds a deeper level to the game.

You can get a huge bonus of these precious resources through war, but the combat is a little underbaked, and sadly, it gets super repetitive. You don’t hand pick your fleet. It’s based on the level of your corporation. You don’t maintain a military base. You simply port into a combat map with your ships and blow up everything you can. Picking up fuel allows you to do some special moves like instantly repairing your fleet or by popping the map with a sonic charge, pushing enemy vessels violently in the direction of your choice. You can also find special power ups like missile strikes, EMP blasts, and support submarine attacks to help wipe out the enemy presence. But war never comes to your towns and maps. It doesn’t directly affect your well being as much as it probably could.

The combat missions repeat a lot. Save the same boats. Destroy the same emplacements. I’d almost ignore the combat in the game, but it serves two purposes. One you gain those precious resources for industrial mods, but two, it helps pass the time when you have a positive universal cash flow and you’re saving up for something big.

Graphically, the game looks great, and it sounds nice too, though the pop up talking heads could cut me a break for just 5 minutes. I loved watching all the flying cars , or the asteroids crashing into my lunar shields, or watching the nifty little animations as my buildings leveled up.

This new Anno really seems to be learning from one of series’ biggest issues, approachability. The design this time around is much friendlier to newcomers. I found menus to be easier to navigate and the data point popups all use pretty basic language and symbols to follow along. So if you’re brand new to the Anno series, this might be a good stepping on point.

It feels so strange to say this, but in a game largely based on logistics of everyday products like fruit juice, the most boring part about it is when you’re blowing stuff up. Performance-wise, the game chugged a bit on me when it would do its dramatic expositorial shots of new maps, but past that, 99% of the game ran smooth. The framerate is uncapped. I saw some dips down to about 35 in mega crowded portions of my map, but also saw times of 120+

I really enjoyed my time with Anno. Great visuals. Nice soundtrack. It caters to a variety of experience levels, and they explore some really cool new ideas with their modular buildings. Fans can put hours, days, or weeks into a single game. If not more. I definitely want to see more Annos in the future. But I’m holding back on saying “worth buying” right away for two reasons. One: that naval combat holds the game back from greatness, but two, it’s hard to recommend spending $60 on a city builder in a post Cities: Skylines world.

Tested on: PC
Developer: Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Windows
Launch Date: November 3, 2015
Review copy provided by publisher