Updated Tue, Nov 29, 2011 by Stow
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.
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!
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.