I have fond memories growing up playing City Builders such as the Caesar series, IV being my favorite, Sim City, and an another all-time favorite series, Pharaoh. Spending hundreds of hours on each game attempting to build the greatest city ever imagined. In reality I just really sucked, and all of my cities failed. That failure is what drove the fun factor for me, ever promising not to make the same mistakes I made last game, always breaking that promise. Again, I suck at these games, but that’s okay! I haven’t been huge into the city builder genre lately, the last two I’ve played most recently was Banished and Dawn of Man, and while they held my attention for 50~ hours a piece, they were a far cry from the old glory days.
Have you heard of Anno? I bet you have, it’s one of the 3 main staples of the city building genre. While it’s not the grandfather of the genre, that title goes to SimCity, it’s the game that kicked off the extremely in-depth simulated economy, along with having some great graphics. To this day Anno is at the top of the genre in my opinion, simply because of its innovation on graphics and unique gameplay. So when I saw an opportunity to look at Anno 1800 I had to jump at it. It’s been staring me in the face on Uplay for weeks now, but I decided I’d hold off on beta testing it. I’m glad I did.
What I like about Anno 1800 is that it doesn’t hold your hands. I don’t like being on rails, being forced to build certain things at certain times, and simply being limited. Like I said I’m not great at these kinds of games, part of what makes them fun is my failure. You have 3 modes to play, Campaign, Sandbox, and Multiplayer, for the purposes of this review I stuck with Sandbox mode. It should be noted, however, that once you finish the full campaign missions the game automatically enters sandbox mode, which is awesome. To begin your sandbox mode you have to choose a difficulty, or set up a custom difficulty, I chose normal because reasons. You start on a random island, each island has a unique fertility setting that shows you what grows there, and what resources are available. You start with a dock and a Capital ship, which has enough resources to occupy one additional island. Your choice is to either establish on the island given to you or explore and find a better one hopefully. Being the failure I am, I just stuck to the initial island. I really enjoyed being able to build wherever I chose, and build whatever I had unlocked, I mean who doesn’t want to have 10 pig farms and 20 warehouses? Yeah, I suck, I know.
Graphics wise the game looks pretty great. I expected as much from the get-go simply because Anno is known for its awesome graphics design. The world design is simply gorgeous, tropical islands with massive waterfalls and rivers, steep cliffs and beautiful water. If there’s one thing the game does absolutely right, it’s the pure graphical design of the world. Then you’ve got the soundtrack for the game, while I typically turn these off, the game has a great soundtrack. While the typical sounds of the game leave a little to be desired, the music is on point.
The gameplay mechanics really pulled me in. I really didn’t care about the overall project I had originally planned, I simply wanted to build stuff and use the mechanics of the game. One feature I’d like to point out is the newspaper. Periodically your press guy will pop up asking you to review the paper before he publishes it, how nice of him! This gives you the chance to edit it to take away any negativity this author decided to throw in there and put some awesome glorifying news in its place! Oh, and you get called Fake News for doing so, it’s awesome! Remember when I said the game wouldn’t hold your hand? Yeah, it really doesn’t. Take relationships for example, you can befriend just about anyone, pirates included, but just because you’re friendly doesn’t mean they’ll trade with you. I managed to get two of the three city states to make trade agreements with me, the other laughed at me and said no indefinitely. No, seriously, she laughed at me. This doesn’t really bother me though, as I’ve found these trade agreements are rather limited in nature and do nothing for me. Typically they request one item, say 50 Sausage, and when you give them 50 Sausage, they give you some money and then that’s it, they have nothing else they want to buy from you. Sad really. I expected more, though it’s quite possible I was doing even that wrong.
One other huge mechanic that should be noted is there really is no bailout option. You can’t take loans out to pay for things, all you can do is sell shares to your island. Yes, that means you can lose ownership of your island by doing so. I sold almost all of my shares in an attempt to salvage my city, it wasn’t enough. Therefore you really need to sit and plan your city prior to starting. If, unlike me, you want to succeed. Thankfully Anno has a very dedicated following, and there is plenty of resources available to you to help you succeed, even for Anno 1800!
Honestly, if you enjoy City Builders, you will enjoy Anno 1800. It’s a great game for what it is. That being said it’s not for everyone, and it does have it’s quirks, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. But to be fair, what game is perfect? Let’s put it another way, what other city builder allows you to flirt with a Pirate Queen and make friends with her? She actually interacts with you! That should be enough alone to make you want to try this game! I have some gameplay footage below, be sure to check out my very….crappy city. Yes, it failed, I went bankrupt in 6 hours.
Gameplay video below, beware it’s 2 hours and 45 minutes of me not knowing what I’m doing.