by Marcus Mulkins
reviewed on PC
Deja Vu All Over Again
1701 A.D. (also known as Anno 1701) is the third in a series of economic simulations from German-based Sunflowers. Like its predecessors 1602 A.D. and 1503 A.D., it deals with a colonial setting several hundreds of years ago. But that is where the similarities between the three games stop. When I read a review of 1602 A.D., the original game in the series, I would have sworn that I was reading a review of 1701 A.D. while another review, this time about 1503 A.D., complained that it was nearly identical to 1602 A.D.. Now, sometimes more of the same is all that we really want, but is it this time?
In The Beginning...
1701 A.D. has 3 major components: For those who prefer single player games, the game features a tutorial mode, a handful of scenarios and a full campaign called 'Continuous play'. Multiplayer fans have not been forgotten either as the game offers a game mode for them too. The tutorials take the player from the raw beginning and do a good job of showing him how to evolve his population through the first two levels of development. The scenarios consist of a mix of maps ranging from easy to hard difficulty. If you start with the first and work your way through to the last, you will have been exposed to most of the game’s elements, including naval and ground combat. Continuous play allows you to set a wide range of parameters, or you can simply choose easy, normal, or hard settings and the AI will make all the appropriate selections for you.
An interesting feature is that it is possible to select a previously played map (provided you wrote the map number down when you saw the previous game’s final score report). This is worth knowing because if you know the 'lay of the land', it can help you formulate your overall game strategy in advance. There can be up to three full-fledged opponents. While these “main” opponents are capable of settling more than one island and operate naval and land forces, the additional minor cultures are restricted to one island only. You will also be dealing with three other factions; A pirate faction with a base of operations and pirate ships, a Free Trader (very important for developing colonies), and your Queen that functions as a banker. With the Queen you will undoubtedly fail for lack of financial support.
Before entering the map, you can choose to either start aboard a ship before deciding which island to colonize, or to start with a warehouse already built on the island of the AI's choice. The latter is often a better idea because the clock is ticking and your opponents are already growing their colonies while you are searching for the perfect place.
This Game Certainly Has Class(es)
The premise of the game is that Pioneers initially start all colonies. By providing your people certain goods and buildings, the population will grow and evolve to Settlers, then Citizens, then Merchants, and finally into Aristocrats. One of the keys to their evolution is their morale, which can range from “ecstatic” to “angry”. Clicking on a home will show you an animated portrait of that house’s resident. Each class has a distinctly different portrait and you can easily tell from the animation what the mood of that class on that island is. If that is not enough of a clue, the color of the portrait’s background will correspond to the mood of the resident’s class.
Underneath the portrait is a horizontal thermometer ranging from dark green to red, with a slider indicator. Moving the slider will adjust the tax rate of that class for that island, and at the bottom of the portrait is a small window that shows you how much in taxes you are getting from that class on that island. The position of the slider on the thermometer makes it easy to tell how a change in the tax rate will affect that class’s morale. You will also quickly note that with each evolution, the newer class has less of an “ecstatic” range on the thermometer, which reflects that higher classes require more goods and different types of buildings to keep them satisfied. The upside is that higher classes provide higher taxes; the downside is that a household will not evolve upward unless it is ecstatic.
So the key to keeping your people satisfied and evolving is access to certain goods and buildings. In order to keep them from rioting, Pioneers need food and a village venter. To evolve into Settlers, they need cloth and a church. To keep the Settlers from rioting, you need alcohol and tobacco and to get them to evolve to citizens they need a school and so on. The requirements to evolve continue to increase until they reach the level of Aristocrats
There are also population minimums that must be met before you can build the structures that allow you to produce the necessary goods yourself -which usually involves a substantial cash outlay, and a fair amount of tools and building materials. Once built, most structures have an ongoing cash maintenance cost, which may be somewhat reduced by putting the building to “sleep”. The only way to avoid paying maintenance is to demolish the building.
The alternative to producing the goods yourself is to buy them from your opponents, the Free Trader, or the minor NPCs at substantially inflated prices. The underlying kicker to the supply chain is that no island contains all of the resources necessary to create all of the goods required to evolve and maintain your population. This will not only require you to colonize other islands (before your opponents beat you to them and squeeze you out), but you will have to have adequate shipping to transfer goods and resources between islands. This means you are required to build a shipyard and then spend large chunks of money and materials to build the ships and build a Cannon Foundry if you want your ships to be able to defend themselves or attack your opponents’ shipping.
No Pros and Cons at this time