Ubisoft & Blue Byte’s city-building series is back at it again with another installment in the Anno franchise, titled Anno 1800. This time however, instead of the distant future, we gaze back in time (rather unsurprisingly based off the title) to the 1800’s at the dawn of a spiffing industrial age full of Victorian style social unrest. It’s the 19th century and Blue Byte’s writers have positively nailed the setting. The long-running series offers a complex and challenging experience that History buffs and strategy fans alike will enjoy as they tackle all the drama around that period of Mankind.
The tiny town of "Ditchwater" off to humble beginnings!
What’s an Anno?
If, unlike me, you’ve never seen a single game in the series, Anno 1800 will serve as a pretty good starting point. They’ve taken special care to develop an introductory story mode that works as a solid, albeit somewhat slow tutorial. It’s in no rush, making sure to establish the rules of the detailed supply chain systems the game utilises one element at a time. Now and then, the tutorial even falls a little short and you’ll need a little bit of ingenuity to preempt problems (who knew one needed many fire stations on one’s island?). For the most part, the story mode covers what you need to know. Don’t expect to become a master of logistics all in one go, however. The game has a lot more subtle nuances you have to pick up through playing before you can truly master it.
The campaign, rather bafflingly, tells the story of you returning home and then immediately leaving to a next-door island with you in search of a fresh start. Your father has been accused of treason! Followed by a suspicious demise in custody, your moustache twirling, and power-hungry uncle takes power, and as you’d imagine, he immediately makes your life miserable. After fleeing his Machiavellian grasp, you begin building a new town and trade empire. The tale is entertaining enough, especially with the delightful prose of the Victorian era characters (who’s dialogue is written perfectly!) but it mostly just serves to establish the game's complex web of systems and mechanics.
Through the magic of TRANSFER SHIP we are off to the tutorial!
Complex Web of Systems and Mechanics
As it always has been, the Anno series is about city building and supply chain logistics. Anno 1800 is no different. Starting with nothing, your objective is to lovingly plan and cultivate your island nation, balancing the people's mirth and needs with the economic growth. Any 4X fan will be well at home in this sphere of the game (eXploring, eXpanding, eXploiting trade and, should the worst come to pass, eXterminating your foes). The game is fully real-time, so you certainly feel as if you’re constantly on your feet as a governor, rushing about dealing with trade deals, lack of schnapps, workers unions and commanding your fleets to sail the high seas. Staying on top of the economic food chain is important and it all becomes a lot to take in very quickly. Like its predecessors, Anno 1800 is an extremely dense game, essentially merging what is three games worth of concepts into one. Yes, the campaign will get you started with the basics, but as I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of subtle complexities (and some skill with juggling) you’ll have to pick up to actually master the game.
Like its predecessors, Anno 1800 is an extremely dense game, essentially merging what is three games worth of concepts into one.
I’ve found the best solution is to take the “Thanos” approach, in that there should be balance in all things, both farmer and worker.
Self proclaimed Geek of All Trades, Gregg sticks his fingers in as many hobby pies he can find, until his magpie-like tendencies distract him onto something new of course.
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