Release Date: November 17, 2011 Game Type: RTS / City Building
Custom Features: World Events, Voting, Underwater Building, Trade Infrastructure, Research Strengths: Graphics, Fun Factor, Complexity, Multiplayer, Unique Persistence Weaknesses: Learning Curve, Complexity, Useless DRM Notes: The best RTS / City Building Sim created to date Play Style: Single-Player and Multi-Player with persistent hook-in to the “online community”
Anno 2070 is a Masterpiece. The beauty, flow, scale, scope and replayability factor of this game is unprecedented. Not only is it a RTS/City Building hybrid, the player can actually grow and evolve their ARK (which is the base ship each player has) from game to game, thus building a base of operations that grows with the player’s research and accomplishments and can be carried into the next game. Pair that growth with the numerous achievements, enhancements and multi-player capabilities of the game, and what you have is not just a RTS / CB game, you have what is the next great step in this genre.
The core goal of Anno 2070 is to rebuild the game worlds you participate in. This includes growing your ARK (your mothership) and building up your underlying profile with achievements and upgrades which you can carry from game to game. This allows you to take on greater challenges while creating more complex and rewarding worlds, either by yourself or with other players.
But don’t be misled. This game is not for the faint of heart. It is very complex, in-depth, and will require your complete and total focus to properly play. You don’t just build cities and command units, you run and manage them in a living breathing beautiful sandbox which offers quests, trade routes, disasters, diplomacy, research, wars and more. Even if you build the “perfect” infrastructure, it cannot sustain itself without your support and management. By creating a living environment you can share and grow in with others that carries persistent values from one game to another, the team behind the development of the game (Related Studios in Germany) has done a fantastic job.
Anno is not a single or multi-player game; it’s equally both, but it requires an online connection to play. This creates a persistent online presence regardless of a player taking on only NPCs vs. other people. This is nice because it makes you feel like you are part of something even greater than just the current game you’re playing; and you are, as I will cover in more detail as I review the content, features, gameplay and overall mechanics of the game.
Factions, Storyline, Game Types, World, Resources, Production, Structures, Vehicles, NPCs & Enemies, Tutorial, DLC, Mail
Anno 2070 features three factions: Tycoon, Eco and Tech. The Tycoons represent the “Global Trust”. They like to exploit resources quickly, but as such they cause more ecological problems. The Ecos represent the “Eden Initiative”. They rely on green tech and while eco-friendly, their cities are not nearly as efficient and prosperous as the Tycoons. And finally, we have the Tech faction, represented by the “S.A.A.T” (or Scientific Academy for Advanced Technologies). They are the supreme inventors and masters of the underwater world. They designed the ARK and the EVE computer system (the in-game advisor). They build advanced units such as aircraft, underwater ships and missiles.
The Storyline tells us it is the year 2070. Global Warming has melted the Arctic ice cap, which has raised the sea level so high that it’s changed the face of the planet. You are the controller of an ARK, or a “mothership” which represents your society. It’s up to you to rebuild and control your upcoming empire.
There are four different game types available for play: Continuous Games, Campaigns, World Events and Single Missions. Continuous Missions are the most common with three difficulties: easy, normal and difficult. Continuous missions are also the core multiplayer games as well. Single missions can also be played as multiplayer (some actually require it), but Campaigns and World Events cannot. However all of them count for your overall gaming progression. Completing Campaigns, World Events and Single Missions may be more rewarding based on what you are trying to achieve vs. simply creating sandbox worlds in the Continuous game type.
The World revolves around multiple islands and underwater plateaus where the player can build and expand. The world is vibrant, alive, and absolutely beautiful. Deer wander the woods, seagulls fly around your fisheries, and whales call to each other underwater while scuba divers check the integrity of your domes.
Resources serve as the core of everything in Anno and come in different forms based on whether they are on land or at sea. Both islands and underwater plateaus have something called fertilities. These are the base attributes that tell you what can grow there such as coffee, rice, wheat, fruit, algae, etc. Plateaus have fewer fertilities than islands, but are far more exotic. Next we have raw materials; this defines the core materials available in the island or plateau. Many common resources are copper, oil, coal, etc. The resources are accessed through either Mineral Resource nodes (such as a riverbed slot) or Mines. Players can also tap into resources with structures, such as a Rotary Excavator which pulls coal from the island (but only at a rate that’s 50% that of a mine). The resources in Anno are all measured in tons, so a new island may have 10,000t of coal which can be extracted, but once it’s gone; it’s gone. That is unless you have the technology to replenish the resources – and yes, it’s possible to keep replenishing resources to play a game world indefinitely (and some people do this and use it for their “research center”). There are two common resources which never quite disappear: Fish and Trees. Although you’ll need a tree farm to keep the trees coming in an area you harvest them from. Note the different factions each have needs that require different resources. While you start as either Ecos or Tycoon (tech is acquired later), as you expand to support all three factions (which you can), managing the resources becomes a monumental task.
Resources are gathered for one core purpose: production. The most basic and common produced item is a Building Module. This comes from a smelter which takes granules from a basalt crusher. Later on, you can produce things like Heavy Weapons, which take Copper and Coal and Uranium which must be refined into Iron and Detonators before being produced into the actual weapons themselves. This production “tree” can get fairly complex and requires skill to manage, but the game does a good job of starting things off slowly and introducing the more complex solutions as you grow. The real bread and butter produced items of the game are building modules and tools; these are required to build all the starter structures, so the first thing a player generally focuses on is producing energy to build modules which build houses which allow for growth to the next tier which allows the building of tools, bigger houses, more people, more structures, and more production which can lead to battleships, aircraft and even nuclear weapons.
The sheer number of structures can be overwhelming to new players, but they unlock based on your management of resources and growth. The structures come in multiple tiers which focus on infrastructure, production, public, harbor, emergency services and special. Most structures can be upgraded multiple levels. The core structure for every island and underwater plateau is a warehouse; this is the first thing that must be built. After the warehouse, the Depot serves as the cornerstone structure, which serves as the trade center for the region in which it’s built. For example if you build a coal mine all by its lonesome, you can hook it up to a trade depot to make sure the mined coal is entered into the island’s warehouse to be distributed anywhere on the island. If you build a mine without a trade depot, you’ll never see the coal even though the mine will produce. Don’t worry, the game lets you know if this happens so you can fix it. Every structure that produces anything must have access to a structure which consumes the produced item, the warehouse or a trade depot. Roads serve as the main means of transporting goods, but as the trade depots and warehouses are upgraded, they feature air-based transport units which can remove the need for roads altogether. City Centers serve as the core of your cities and establish a build radius for houses. You then build houses and other support structures which give the residents of the houses what they need to “upgrade” to the next level. The needs of the residents can be in the form of both structures and produced goods. Because of the structure need and influence radius, planning is very important in Anno, especially if you’re shooting for a big city and infrastructure. Defining the layout of your casino (which is required to upgrade tycoon residents to level 2) to ensure it influences the maximum number of houses is very important. The same rule applies to production centers. For example, defining the layout for oil extraction and refineries before you begin to build them can make a huge difference in efficiency and overall productivity. Later in the game you can build highways which double the speed of the transports that move between production facilities and trade depots.
Vehicles come in three flavors: ships, underwater ships (submarines) and aircraft. There are no land vehicles. This actually works out very well and I never found myself missing the land-based death machines. While Anno is mainly a city-building game, the vehicles allow for the production of small armies which can make or break a faction’s grasp in the world. Destroying the local pirates, or that oil tycoon who has been harassing you is rather satisfying. And hitting an enemy city with a nuke is a visual spectacle of utter destruction.
There are a number of static NPCs & Enemies in Anno. When you come across Vadim Sokow the oil tycoon, you know what he represents. Same with Yana Rodriguez, the eco-savant who never combs her hair. Hector is the local pirate leader who will harass you throughout the game unless you either impress him, pay him off or take him out. They all have different personalities and can be rather entertaining, and with the online nature of Anno, I’m sure the developers will add new NPCs in future versions and DLC.
The game doesn’t really have a tutorial per se. Instead it has a campaign which is designed to walk you progressively through the features; but it’s not always easy to understand and takes time. There are systems built into the UI to help you find what the quests are asking you to do and EVE (the computer advisor) helps explain things, but it’s still quite a learning curve.
Anno 2070 was built with DLC in mind, and the first set was released on February 13, 2012. This included the Keeper Package, The Development Package and the Eden Series Package, which included new features like portraits, missions and structures. There are also in-game “progression” rewards you can purchased by obtaining certain achievements, etc.
You will also receive in-game Mail from time to time, informing you of events, voting results, and other opportunities available to you in the game.
Economy, ARK, Upgrade Slots & Inventory, Research, Career Progression, Building & Layout, Transport, Trade & Strategic Map, Quests, ALSU, Achievements, Diplomacy, World Events, Voting, Disasters, and Statistics
The Economy of Anno is solid, and as defined above, revolves around resources, productivity and goods; but there is cash on top of that which is made through taxes, trading and quests. Well-run cities generate millions in cash which is nearly impossible to burn through without a massive catastrophe, war and negative cash flow. Another form of currency in the game is that of licenses, which are required to purchase high-tech goods and conduct advanced research. Licenses can be acquired through completing quests, diplomacy, and research. At this time there isn’t much of a money sink in the game, so once you pass a certain point (i.e. $10M in currency) there’s really no chance of running out of money; or anything to spend it on. Money is not persistent though, so once you enter a new game world, you have to financially begin from scratch.
The ARK serves as your base of operations and acts as your persistent storage and upgrade unit which is carried from game to game. This becomes more and more important as you play more complex games and jump into multiplayer with other players who have high level upgrades; they will smoke you in building and expansion if you can’t keep up, and many of them have ARKs with upgrades from hundreds of hours of gameplay. You can also activate Political “boosts” from your ARK which effect all of your islands and plateaus. The available actions depend on your career progression, voting and overall progress.
Note: you can move your Ark by clicking on the waypoint icon in the upper right corner of the Ark selected window!
Upgrade Slots are key in Anno and can be found not only in your ARK, but on Vehicles and in Warehouses. The upgrades in your ARK affect everything on the map, the upgrades in your warehouses affect the island or underwater plateau, and the upgrade on a vehicle affects that vehicle. Inventory is managed on your ARK, through the Warehouse Storage of an island or plateau, and the “hold” of vehicles (such as transport ships). Inventory items on your ARK carry from one game to another, allowing the player to set up raw materials to be used for an accelerated start at their next map.
This brings us to Research, which is how you obtain the items to load into your upgrade slots. There are two level of research, both through the Tech faction; one is a Research center, and the other is an Academy. The Research Center offers vehicle and warehouse upgrades as well as upgrade “components” which the Academy requires. Once you build your first Academy, you will see the volume and complexity of the items you can research, which come in three tiers (defined by the number of stars). Some of the simple 1-star component items only take 5-15 minutes to make while some of the 3-star items can take hours and require other items which can take hours, making researching top notch upgrades a challenging but rewarding endeavor. You can even research items to unlock items for research. Once you research a few critical ARK upgrades, you are often drawn to try them out in a new fresh game world. So, when you do start over and rebuild again in another world, your ARK will now offer upgraded boosts which enhance the experience and perhaps allow you to increase the level of difficulty.
Some research requires a certain level of Career Progression, which is a core mechanic of Anno where you gain progress with one of the three companies by completing the campaigns (both main and the monthly company specific event), performing daily missions (known as Current events), and voting in the senate. As you gain company progress you obtain bonuses and even access to different ARKs which you can custom configure. This is another component to the persistent growth a player experiences as they play the game.
Building and Layout is of critical importance in Anno as you must plan ahead as to what you want to accomplish before you start throwing structures down. How big is the island or plateau? What are the resources? Where are you going to house your population vs. production? Are you focusing on eco vs techs vs tycoons? What resources will need to be traded between islands? Anno makes you think, which is very good – and important. Templates for Housing Layouts and Production Layouts (Eco for this example) are available via the Anno 2070 wiki, which help a great deal. Be patient. Learning the core building techniques will take some time, and in the end there’s no “perfect way” to do things; it’s whatever works for you. That’s one of the great things about Anno – you don’t have to build everything to be ultra efficient; you can beautify your settlement and create trade routes between production structures which are much more aesthetically pleasing than simply bunching them together for efficiency; and it can all come together beautifully.
Transport of goods is of critical importance as your world grows, especially as no one island or plateau has everything you need to reach the final tier for any faction. As discussed above, you must connect production structures to consumption structures, trade depots or warehouses in order to register the productions; this is done on islands through roads and underwater through pipes (unless you’ve upgraded the depots and warehouses to allow flying transport). However the automated mechanism of transporting your goods is done through the Strategic Map, which allows you to assign ships to transport goods between islands and plateaus. The interface is dynamic, flexible and easy to use after you get the basics down. Once you get your trade routes up and running, your empire can flourish; but be warned – enemies will often target your transports, and the single sinking of a key transport can have devastating effects on production which can lead to population and money issues. This is one of the very cool and in-depth aspects of the game; ensuring the flow of goods and more importantly, protecting them. As you play the game you will see NPCs and other players assigning battleships and areal vehicles to protect their more critical transport vessels. There is also the manual mechanism of transporting goods from one location to another (outside of the trade route automated system). You do this by taking a sea vessel to a warehouse or ARK and either picking up or buying the merchandise and manually transporting it to another warehouse. This manual transporting method is always taking place as it’s the only way to expand onto other islands and underwater.
While the Strategic Map allows for creation of trade routes, one can also engage in Trade by selling items at their warehouses. This allows NPCs and other players to come to your island warehouses and buy goods which you have in surplus; you can also buy their surplus as well as NPCs allow you to buy goods from their ARKs and warehouses, which is very important at the beginning of a game as you can purchase a good 40 tons of tools to help you build the structures which… build tools! You can also buy and sell with other players, and actively trade specific items with other players by dropping items overboard, which they can then pick up with their ships.
You will receive numerous Quests throughout the game. Some are random, others are tied to events or campaigns, and some can even be triggered by other players. Some are simple and others are very difficult and/or require some strategic planning. Most of the time they are very rewarding and worth doing, but the important part is the quests in the game keep things very interesting and progressive. The balance is just right so the player rarely finds themselves in an idle mode waiting for something to happen. There’s always something to do.
ALSU stands for Air, Land, Sea and Underwater and each “level” is of critical importance in the game. The player can move the camera between above the sea and below the sea with ease, flying around and looking at both their land bases and underwater bases. Submarines can surface and dive upon command. Aircraft are either parked at the airport or flying around (and can escort ships, etc). The ability to manage any object at any level of the ALSU is a key mechanic to the game and excellently done. It’s seamless and easy.
There are 209 Achievements at the time of writing this review. It may not sound like a lot compared to a MMO, but this is certainly no MMO, and obtaining achievements is much more difficult. Also, some Achievements have multiple levels to them. Many Achievements simply reward the “yay!” factor while others unlock content, award titles, and UPlay points, which can be used to purchase items. You can also configure the game to publish achievements to your Facebook account.
When you interact with NPCs through the diplomacy screen, they will treat you differently based on your influence with them, which is adjusted through quests, war, etc. The green fanatics will get angry if you throw the eco-balance of your island out of whack too much, while Hector the pirate will like you if you defeat others in combat. Diplomacy is a very important part as it allows you to do things like request quests, take out loans, summon fleets, declare war, make demands, trade licenses, and accomplish other goals and tasks; all based on your influence with the particular NPC.
World events are an important part of the ongoing storyline of the game and are dynamically updated by the developers. They encapsulate a set of campaigns which need to be completed and are hosted by one of the three factions. Completing these campaigns gives you Career Progression points for the hosting faction, so they are good to participate in. This is a form of free dynamic content offered to the players which allows for continued participation in the growth of the game and overall statistics.
Voting allows the players to support a particular faction in a global vote. Support of a faction also gives the political benefits covered above, so if you want to switch from one faction’s benefits to another, simply change your vote. There are two flavors of voting: World Counsel (which is what gives the political benefits), and the Senate. The Senate Vote is based on proposed benefits offered by the three factions. The factions which receive the most votes have their global bonus enacted. For example, as I write this review, the current vote is at 65% in support of the Ecos which gives a bonus to all ozone generators. The interactive nature of Voting is a lot of fun and even for a player who wants to play alone and not with others as it allows them to participate in the “world decisions” which positively affects gameplay.
Disasters can change everything as it relates to your empire. One nasty tornado and you can find shipping lanes and entire production centers completely destroyed, or one of your oil rigs next to your fishing docks for your population can catch fire and release a massive oil spill which halts fish production. Events such as this can have cascading repercussions which reach your population and cause people to move away, thus lowering your tax income and generating a deficit which can ultimately destroy your infrastructure. Disasters include: Oil Spills, Nuclear Accidents, Research Accidents, Acid Rain, Acid Soil, Respiratory Ailment, Civil Unrest/Rioting, and a Tornado. Some disasters, such as Oil Spills, require researched (or purchased) technologies to clean up.
Anno also features a global statistics system which tells you worldwide what all of the players combined have accomplished. It’s broken into five categories of: Population, Politics, Ecology, Energy and Production. This includes total world population (3.7B as I write this), the distribution of votes, global goods production (49.5B tons as I write this), the most effective ecobalance buildings, and total global energy production (839M as I write this). This is very cool as it shares what the players are building and doing within the Anno game worlds.
Combat, Strategy, Events, Multiplayer (PvP, Co-op), Reward, Progression, Learning Curve, Replayability,End Game and Difficulty
The Combat in Anno is similar to other RTS games where you command vehicles to attack other vehicles or structures, or support each other. Each unit has DPS (land/sea/air) and hits, and can be upgraded by slotting items. This means when you fight opponents, you never know what upgrades their ships may have, especially if they have researched a lot of advanced technologies; and the slotted items can make all the difference with things like 20% more DPS or 30% more speed. Some units can even engage cloaking devices and surprise attack you. A Nuclear Missile is the end-all combat tool which is absolutely devastating. One must pay attention to the ALSU factors of vehicles when it comes to combat as not all ships can attack aircraft or submarines. Repair facilities and defensive turrets play a key part in keeping your vehicles battle-ready and your structures safe.
The Strategy of Anno revolves around Building, Production, Management, Research, Combat and Diplomacy. The emphasis can change from game to game as one world may be peaceful and fun and another a terrifying ordeal of nonstop war between all players and NPCs. As such, production focus would change accordingly as building weapons becomes much more important in wartime than soft drinks to support your researchers to better program their mobile devices.
Events in Anno are all tracked on the left side of the screen through a collection of icons. Those above the filter are events which have taken place (notifications) and those below are open quests. When you mouseover an event, it will give you the details (such as your ship was destroyed or you have discovered a new island). When you mouseover a quest it will mark on the map the location for the quest. In order to remove events, simply right-click on the icon.
The Multiplayer feature of Anno is brilliant. The developers have managed to create a connection to a persistant gaming “world” through statistics, events and voting while allowing players to either play by themselves, with friends, or complete strangers. When you play games with complete strangers, you never know what the outcome will be as some are friendly and helpful while others will build up and destroy you. But remember, they can’t take from you – they can never destroy your ARK or your already achieved accomplishments; they can only wipe your city from the map in the world they are currently in. This can be fun, but it doesn’t force the player into a position of being griefed, so the PvP is a form of consensual PvP. I enjoy creating public open multiplayer games because I’ve met a lot of fun intelligent people and the experience is always different.
The co-op multiplayer aspect of Anno is fantastic. You can can invite other Anno 2070 players to help run your empire. You can then save their map and it’s now yours to play at any time. This allows you to inherit worlds built by other people. Once again, I can’t stress how cool this is; allowing people to work together to run a huge empire. Take it one step further. In Anno, you can play multiplayer co-op games against other players. Register that for a moment. With the depth and scope of this game, you can have a friend help you build your world as you compete against other factions which are run by other people for a total of 4 teams of 4 (16 people). I don’t know of any other game which allows such in-depth co-op play and competition. Anyone for a team tournament?
Rewards come in many forms. First, there are rewards which translate into persistent rewards which apply to your account/profile. Those are achievements and items/upgrades which you can keep within or register with your ARK, obtained through research and purchase. The second set of rewards are currency, licenses, and items. You can obtain “loot” by destroying enemy vehicles and structures which result in flotsam crates you can pick up with your vehicle. When you sink submarines, only another submarine can pick up the crates at the bottom of the ocean. Quests also provide a wide range of rewards and can often be challenging.
If Anno does one thing, it always gives you a sense of Progression. Whether it’s through building a new world or gaining achievements, the entire game is based on progression which can also include persistant progression which is attached to your account and carried from game to game. This ensures players always have something to strive for, even when they start fresh with a new world. In other words, there’s always a reason to play the game.
The Learning Curve of Anno is steep, but in my opinion, unavoidable given the scope and breadth of the game. Give it a few days, play a few multiplayer games, make friends who can answer questions, and you’ll be on your way to learning everything you need to know. Be patient.
The replayability of Anno is really infinite. It is a building game after all, and rebuilding is both challenging and fun; especially when you choose a higher difficulty level or decide to play with or against other players.
There really isn’t an end-game with Anno. Technically one could state that researching all technologies would result in the end-game, but then again one would have to acquire all the ARKs and upgrade them to the max, have all achievements that unlock resources, and reach max level with all factions; and even then, the player could go head to head with others who have similar or identical achievements, thus making the game about skill. Regardless, I don’t see a player being able to achieve “everything” anytime soon, so there’s always more to strive for; and if the devs keep enhancing the game not only with DLC but free updates which include content, they should always stay ahead of even the most hardcore player who is looking to “do it all”.
When it comes to difficulty, Anno is quite complex, especially if you compare it to other strategic games. You have to think, plan, execute, manage and strategize as you play the game. I would take it a step further to say that Anno can even qualify as a teaching tool. To built a prosperous and successful high tech world, you must have a certain level of intelligence and skill. Not everyone can do this. Every player I’ve met in-game so far who is very good at playing the game also has another quality – they are smart. You can tell in the way they talk and communicate. That says something overall about the game and community.
Graphics, Sound, Interface, DRM, Connectivity, Patching, Account, and Bugs
The Graphics of Anno are top notch and the Music is beautiful. The Sound FX are excellent as well, especially when you zoom into an area and the ambiance sounds like what you would expect, whether it’s a busy city or a docile forest.
The Interface is crisp and once you get past the initial learning curve, easy to understand and use.
Anno uses a copy protection system (or also know as DRM – Digital Rights Management) called Solidshield Tages SAS. This makes it so the purchaser can only activate Anno 2070 on 3 machines. This makes absolutely no sense as the game requires a unique account and constant connectivity to play. My guess is some idiot at Ubisoft required this and the devs didn’t want to waste time fighting them about it. After all, their passion is creating games.
I haven’t had any connectivity issues at all and have played a number of games with people from all over the world. Patching is seamless and account management is handled through the Ubisoft Play system. I have yet to encounter a single bug in this game.
There is no built-in support system for Anno; only Forums which are hosted by the the European branch of Ubisoft. While there is an English forum, there is still some German mixed in with the forum terms. The forums are active, but the best support really comes from other players in-game which you meet by joining random multiplayer games. However since this game is very heavy on the European side, it can sometimes be a challenge to find English speaking players.
I already wrapped up the core conclusion of this review in the introduction by calling Anno 2070 a masterpiece, which it is. If you’ve read this review in full and you don’t have this game, get it. I recommend purchasing it via Steam. Anno 2070 is the most advanced RTS/City Building game ever made. It’s simply fantastic. If you appreciate a beautiful world, seamless multiplayer and continuous gameplay with a polished leading edge product which you can play for months and even years to come, Anno 2070 is the right choice for you.
Given the complexity of the game, I want to share some great resources for players. I highly recommend new players watch the Beginners Guides seen below as they’re very well done.