Old franchise, new name
Ubisoft’s Anno series is, after enjoying wide popularity in Europe for years, ready to finally conquer the Americas. Sure, previous Anno games have found the New World before but were never quite as successful there as they have been in the Old World. A change of name facilitates the conquest: while keeping its original name in Europe (Anno 1404), American gamers need to look for the game under its new name, Dawn of Discovery.
The name may be different, but the game and its foundations are exactly the same as any of the previous games in the series. Dawn of Discovery is a one-of-a-kind blend between an Empire Builder and a Real Time Strategy game. Players set out to colonize an island world, growing simple settlements into sprawling medieval cities with thriving economies. But before your inhabitants become rich Noble people, they will have to start in hovels, living the harsh of a pioneer. With luck, they chose well to settle on your island. If you do well, you should be able to bring them fortune sooner rather than later.
The same, but not quite
Dawn of Discovery is very much a product of its predecessor. It feels and plays similar to Anno 1701 and any of the previous games. But don’t make the mistake thinking that they are -exactly- the same. I did and struggled to understand some of the newly introduced gameplay mechanics. There is enough new here to offer a fresh experience, so heed my advice and have an open mind.
The campaign starts you off in the right mood with a simple but very well done introduction movie. I have always found that German studios (the game was developed by German development studio Related Designs) marvelously portray medieval times in games and Dawn of Discovery certainly is no exception. Once inside the game, helpful pointers paired with small tasks given to you by a tutor, gently guide you through the game until you are ready to continue on your own.
A new culture
The biggest addition is the new ‘culture’ called The Orient. The Orient is a peaceful trade faction that is willing to share its technology with you, but only if you show yourself to be worthy. You do this by gaining the respect of Grand vizier Al Zahir by bringing him gifts or fulfilling a number of missions. Once you have earned enough respect you can build your own Orient-style settlements. Now, this is not just a gimmick. The islands on the Southern side of the map can only produce the goods that your Northern population craves, and thus requires to advance to the higher stages of civilization.
Some of your Northern style buildings can be used in your Oriental cities, but most of the important buildings have an Oriental counterpart. The church for instance, is replaced by a mosque and the cider farm obviously needed to be replaced by the non-alcoholic goat milk farm. In fact, while the building materials are the same for both styles of buildings, the products coming from the orient are completely different. Maintaining high-level cities for both cultures has considerably perks and I quickly found myself trying to create two large communities rather than focusing on a single Northern one.
It is true that the grass is indeed greener on the Northern side of the map, but players with enough funds can turn their Southern islands into regular green paradises should they wish to. One of the first Oriental buildings to become available is the Noria. It pumps up water, irrigating the area immediately surrounding it. The water eventually runs out, but can be regenerated. All non-renewable resources can be regenerated by spending hard cash. So no more running out of iron and stones!
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