You can’t go into the Anno franchise expecting a traditional real time strategy experience. The genre has become synonymous with a few core aspects: building a base to gather resources for the purpose of building an army in order to beat your opponent and destroy their base. And generally speaking the faster you can accomplish those tasks the better you are at the game. Anno 2070 presents you with enough of those elements to quality, but takes that category of games and flips it on its head. It’s a game that makes you want to reclassify other titles as real time action-strategy and leave the real time strategy for games of its ilk.
The core aspect of the Anno series is building and balancing our base. We build houses in order to gather population, and must gather resources to keep that population happy. While creating the various buildings we must also be mindful of keeping a positive monetary balance — the effect of our buildings on the ‘Ecobalance’ of your settlements — as well as keeping a positive reserve of power to run everything. Everything works against one another; generating power can harm the Ecobalance, which in turn can harm farms, which in turn produce fewer goods, which can lead to an unhappy population, which will lead to less income.
That’s it in a nutshell. Playing the actual game is only a fraction of the entire experience. We also have to take into account what islands on the map can produce the resources currently needed and where those islands are located in order to establish effective trade routes, all in the name of satisfying the increasing needs of our population. As the population grows they demand more items to keep them happy, which forces us to expand to accommodate them, once again looping back into juggling income, Ecobalance, and power.
It’s a game of balance, and achieving that balance is the truest aspect of real time strategy that I can think of. It is strategy in the same way SimCity is strategy in that we need to carefully plan out building layouts and city layouts in order to achieve an optimal efficiency.
That is probably the broadest, yet most accurate explanation possible for Anno 2070 and the series as a whole.
There’s a vast amount of granularity in everything we do that can impact the different factors, and our choice in faction has advantages and disadvantages to those to consider. Playing as Global Trust, the industrial-minded faction can net a speedy early game growth and cheap buildings that can provide a surplus of power, but their buildings impact the Ecobalance in a devastating way. The Eden Initiative, on the other hand, have buildings designed around mitigating that deterioration but suffer from an extended time in producing even the most basic of goods and larger power production.
The most important aspect to know about Anno 2070 is what we’re getting into. It isn’t the type of strategy game where we jump in to play through a vast campaign. The campaign is relatively short, and is more or less a tutorial to help us understand the variety of mechanics required to succeed. The real hook is the game’s Continuous Play; where we start a map and just build endlessly. There are no mission requirements or game ending objectives to complete, just try and build the best civilization possible.
There comes a point where we realize that, sure, we’ve got resources being produced but it looks awfully messy and perhaps there is a better, more compact way to organize your buildings. Chances are that notion will strike everyone eventually, and chances are you will find yourself looking up building layouts online to help conserve space. It’s that spark of an idea that is the defining reason of why Anno 2070 is an excellent game. We get a handle on what we think is the game, until we realize that we’re doing it poorly. We step up and get a handle on a larger aspect of the game, and the process repeats itself once again.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, there is the brand new feature to Anno 2070 called the Ark. Essentially a base of operations, the Ark allows for the storage of goods and items and can carry them between games, as well as having the capability to equip upgrades that offer global benefits. The third faction, the S.A.A.T, can be built up and used to research and develop those upgrades – upgrades that can be integral to the success of any given game.
The downside to the Ark is that it is tied to being online as part of the game’s DRM. Lose connection to the Ubisoft servers and we lose access to everything the Ark offers. It isn’t just the Ark that is tied to always being online, either; the main menu offers a global chat function as well as several other functions which can impact the actual game. Daily missions which earn career points with the faction of our choice, voting for representatives in a pair of political positions that in turn offer unique benefits to the maps played on, monthly global events as well as multiplayer scenario missions and multiplayer continuous games are all part of the online aspect.
Anno 2070 is an amazing game. It’s the type of game we can begin playing and lose hours upon hours to, and is an excellent example of a game that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. It is, hands down, one of the most pleasant gaming experiences currently available.
This review was based on a review code provided by Ubisoft.