by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
The appeal of the Anno series has always revolved around discovering new lands, settling them and building up dominant civilizations. There’s not much left to discover on this tiny blue marble of ours and, for that reason, Anno games have always been firmly entrenched in the past. While not particularly realistic, the historic setting together with its somewhat fluffy style have given the franchise a charm that few strategy fans have been able to resist and the games have a huge following, particularly in Germany.
These fans have expectations, expectations that they have traditionally voiced loudly in forums and e-mail. With every iteration, Related Designs and Bluebyte - the creative studios behind the franchise - have stepped up to the plate and delivered. This time, however, they did something gutsy, something unexpected and took the game into the future resulting in many a nervous fan.
A new beginning
Anno 2070 is about rediscovering Earth. The polar caps have melted, sea levels risen and many of Earth’s most populated coasts swept away as a result. It is the dawn of a new era in which civilization has to reinvent itself. Some people still cling to the old technologies that have contributed to the planet’s warming, while others feel that it should be treated with more respect and strive to live in harmony with nature to prevent further deterioration of the climate.
These ‘ideologies’ have driven a wedge between the survivors, though not as much to cause a war. The population has divided itself into two factions, named Ecos and Tycoons and each faction is looking for new areas to bring under their control. Other, smaller factions exist, most notably S.A.A.T., a faction dedicated to discovering new technologies. Seemingly oblivious to politics, S.A.A.T. will attach themselves to anyone interested in what they have to offer.
At its core, Anno 2070 is still very much a ‘city builder’ and its future setting does nothing to stray from the franchise’s tried and true gameplay mechanics. This means that you arrive in a sparsely inhabited sector, pick an island to settle, build some houses and provide your population with food. As your population grows, new production chains are unlocked which in turn allow your population to ‘level up’ to a higher class. Higher class citizens have new needs which, once fulfilled, will once again push them to a higher level.
That the two main factions have different ideologies shows even as your city takes root. Houses and primary food supply are the same but from there each develops in their own unique way. Early on, Ecos rely heavily on wind energy. Wind energy is not as efficient as the Tycoon’s coal powered energy plants but it puts a lot less strain on the island’s ecology. Thankfully both factions have a variety of buildings to counter pollution that become available as your population levels up. A low ecology rating has a negative impact on crop production so it’s worth keeping the island clean and dandy.
The chosen ideology rings true in other areas as well. Ecos drink tea and eat health-food that resembles nothing so much as sushi, while Tycoons prefer liquor and fast-food. Eco buildings feature clean, green and white structures that may remind players of images of the 2005 motion picture The Island. Tycoon buildings, on the other hand, are grey, drab and sport smoke plumes that depict their damaging effects on the environment.
Deep, engaging gameplay that will keep you playing right into the wee hours of the night.
Interface will take getting used to.