After reviewing one of the bigger disasters of the year , I had my worries about this holiday season as a strategy fan. Anno 2070 has answered our every prayer. Taking control of an island, you establish zoned housing, materials for building, commodities for trading, and the ever escalating needs of a populace as they increase in class. While other city builders have attempted to mimic the Anno formula over the years, no one has ever really succeeded, and I’m happy to say that the magic is still with the series in the futuristic sequel.
Regardless of what its rated, the Anno series is a very deep game that requires a good knowledge of ratios, strategy, and some micromanagement, and isnt for the faint of heart or mind.
Gameplay - 95 / 100
Contrary to most games, water is your friend in Anno 2070. Everyone starts on islands and the name of the game is all about the management and resources on these islands. Most islands will only have a few mining points, and you’ll need several including multiple of a few critical resources like Coal and Iron to fuel a magnificent empire.
The path to a magnificent empire isn’t through going up in ages, but in citizen class. You start off with workers that require a few simple things, and eventually work your way up to executives that require everything but a full body massage. Like the older Caesar games and their ilk, the only way to improve your citizenry and thus your tech level is to meet the needs of your current citizens.
With that in mind, many a barrier exists to your expansion. Most notably, your resources are not shared between islands. Each island has its own individual economy, power, ecology rating, and more. You must ferry resources to and from each island in order to prosper, and I can imagine you’re groaning at the thought. However you can easily set up automated trade routes with any ship that has cargo space, both to pick up and drop off, and even set thresholds for leaving a reserve amount at each dock. It’s fairly quick and most of all, not frustrating in the slightest.
Logistics are incredibly important. Depots and warehouses have a limited number of supply trucks, so you can't just place industries wherever it's convenient.
The lack of frustration playing such a deep game is a surprise, seeing as there are a billion resources in play that are all required. Each resource has a simple progression tree that you can see when you click on the respective resource type, such as coal + iron ore = iron = tools or weapons, or can then be further refined into steel. You can then monitor the supplies of these resources and add or subtract facilities as needed to maximize your resource utilization—all of it being quick and easy due to a functional and effective interface.
The campaign is a lengthy tutorial at best, as the first two campaigns are a complete joke that has you doing fetch quests with higher and higher tech buildings or units essentially. The third will test your mettle if you have the patience to go that far. It’s not that they’re poorly designed, and they even have a fair bit of in game cutscenes and solid voice work to complement them… they’re just boring. Much of the time you’ll be holding the speed up button and just watching units whiz between objectives or waiting for resources to pour in.
But even with a glorified tutorial of a campaign, the gameplay of Anno 2070 never disappoints. With a random seed map creator and a multitude of single missions, you’ll always have a new empire to build… on land or on the ocean floor! With a certain level of tech, all kinds of underwater production and research become possible, and the importance of trade between outposts is further magnified. The radar and zooming into and out of the sea are simply immaculate, and I only wish a series like Heroes of Might and Magic could adopt such beautiful camera work.
You do have a fair amount of combat In this, but diplomacy is also an option. Other factions will offer quests and behave differently with regards to expansion and sharing of land, and that leads to a lot of strange situations…and horribly one sided betrayals. All combat is done via air or sea though, with land forces being absent oddly enough. If you’re looking for action in your RTS, you should look elsewhere. The combat is solid, but the buildup to getting a good military will be a while!
Graphics - 87 / 100
Oil spills never looked so good. The art of the land is beautiful, the sheer number of designs for buildings of the same time is incredible, and everything even looks good in motion, which is a surprise for this type of game. Hell, even the faces and player avatars have good animations. For a game with as much water as this, it better look good—and no disappointments there, whether you be above sea level or below it. The only disappointment is the military units themselves—which have rather lackluster detail compared to the buildings. I suppose that’s fine, given the proportion of time you spend looking at the two though.
Sound - 82 / 100
A compelling score keeps you pushing your populace further and seeking to meet their needs or refine your economy further. Campaign voice work was done independently of the subtitles themselves, which is probably why it has some personality to it. Despite the lack of combat units and similarity of the weapons involved the actual gunfire and explosions sound pretty damn good. Some more ambient noise of your empire would be appreciated though, as having 500 things going on at once to a tiny bit of industrial noise seems wrong.
Multiplayer - 65 / 100
You’ve got a great co-op experience to be had here, that is, if you can stand some more of Ubisoft’s draconian DRM. Even though you bought the game on Steam, you’ll have to connect through Ubi’s servers every single time you play the game, and if they’re down? You lose access to a bunch of in-game features. I don’t care if supposedly ‘95% of PC users pirate our game’, you don’t punish the 5% who do.
The maps are full of great detail, and thankfully the gameplay is slow enough that you have time to admire it.
Ramblings aside, the random nature of the maps as well and in-game events lend well to a lot of fun in multiplayer. Games do take some time, so you’ll likely need friends to get the most out of this.
Value - 90 / 100
With two different factions and a whole lot of missions and random maps, the hardcore strategist will be pleased even on launch at $49.99. It has been some time since a strategy game came out that I was truly satisfied with at launch, and didnt feel cheated after buyingeven if Ubisoft tried pretty hard with their forced login stuff.
Lasting Appeal - 82 / 100
While it does a lot right, a lot was also right in the previous games. 2070 is just a few centuries after the previous game, and in terms of design changes, its only about a year or so ahead of their last offering. Solid as it is, its not the end all that makes you forget about the classics of the past. But, it is a beautiful game that you can use to introduce your shallow friends to the series, with its intuitive interface and tutorial campaign; they wont be lost for long!
Pros and Cons
- The best looking strategy game out there
- A very deep, but manageable economy system thanks to a stellar interface and intuitive controls
- The two factions play very differently in use of space and generation of resources, which is a surprise for a strategy game of this nature
- Ubisoft forced multiplayer shenanigans are here—do they ever learn?
- Campaign is seriously lacking in substance until the last third
- Random seeds are wonderful for some games, but man does it suck to spawn on an island that has none of the resources you need early on.
Anno 2070 is a game for the slow-paced, economy-driven game fans. It packages a beautiful game of capitalistic supremacy with radiant graphics and an interface that has been tried and tested over the years. Yet with the introduction of the underseas empires and combat, it attempts to branch out and make a name for itself in the series, and for the most part it succeeds on all counts. Whether you are new to the series or a fan over the last decade, the armchair strategy gamer will be right at homeso long as you dont mind that home being an island that is!