Mark Marrow
06 Jul, 2007

Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery Review

DS Review | Economic management now on your DS!
For the PC gamers among you, the Anno brand may trigger some familiarity. The German-made series has so far had three titles, all of which that have been exclusively sold on the PC – one of which we reviewed not too long ago. Despite this though, the brand has still failed to leave a lasting impression on gamers in America and Australia, regardless of the fact that the series provides one of the most consuming gameplay styles in the economic management genre. Given the recent success of the Nintendo DS, the clever chaps decided it was about time to set the Anno ship on a new voyage to find a home on the dual-screen console, which has evidently paid off in quite possibly one of the biggest surprises of the year.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, Anno 1701 is an economic management game where players are tasked with setting up a new settlement on an island, and eventually islands, and continuing to advance your new civilization by providing them with simple – and some luxurious – needs; eventually supplying you with a steady income and a lovely settlement to call home. Dawn of Discovery is loosely based off the PC game of the same title, though the DS fortunately includes a few new handy additions such as touch-screen controls and new gameplay tweaks, which quite honestly makes this version the one to own.

Each game begins with the player setting sail in the vast ocean looking for an island to settle on. Once finding a suitable island full of resources and plenty of land, you can set up shop and begin your adventure. You will begin with a few simple buildings, and from there you will need to colonise the island with housing, marketplaces, resource hubs such as farms and mines, and luxuries such as schools and churches to satisfy their ever growing needs. Anno is a game dependant on your ability to successfully balance economy, and has a very minor focus on combat.

As your settlement slowly begins to advance, so will your townspeople’s needs. Their happiness is key to your success, and to maintain that happiness you’ll need to supply them with their needs, which is conveniently showed to the player by clicking on any house. By feeding their needs with new buildings, better resources and a larger establishment, they’ll develop into different inhabitant levels – the base level being Pioneers and the fifth and final level being Aristocrats. Happiness of the townspeople is the key to the game; if you can manage to constantly supply them with everything they need, then your establishment will flow perfectly, as will the money they’ll provide you with through taxes. Consequently, if you manage to satisfy them beyond their expectations, they won’t mind a little tax raise every now and then.

From this small desolate land...

From this small desolate land...

Naturally, the first island you decide to settle on won’t always house all the resources you desire, which means you’ll eventually have to venture out in search for new islands and new resources. There are often certain resources that are exclusive to certain islands depending on their climate, so setting up a small settlement to milk one particular resource will be ideal in harder games. Of course, when playing with other opponents, you won’t always be lucky enough to have exclusive rights to a particular resource, especially when another player has discovered a certain resource before you and is already milking it dry. That’s where the game’s trade system comes into play - you can at anytime set up a trade route with other players, but naturally at a hefty price.

The gameplay is fairly straightforward, so gamers that are new to the genre needn’t worry about diving into an overly complicated game. The game does a superb job of slowly easing you into gameplay, with the game providing helpful hints whenever you fall too far off course. Additionally, there’s an extremely helpful ‘Annopedia’ that briefs players with every feature, building and whatnot in the game. However, the design of Anno 1701 is often a tad too simplified, making it a double-edged sword in some ways. Wrapping your mind around mechanics is easy and for that reason the game is extremely consuming, however, there are certain features that are far too simplified often hurting some of its appeal. Another noticeable issue is that the game fails to provide easy access information in some menus. When deciding to build a new building the game indicates how many resources are needed to build it, but fails to indicate exactly what it does or what is needed to make it run correctly. These things are all found in the Annopedia mentioned earlier, though jumping into a new menu full of pages and pages of information just to find one building often bogs down the game. So, there’s still a little bit of a learning curve to understand the ins-and-outs of each building.

In the DS game, the scenarios of Anno 1701 have been taken out and replaced with a much more inviting story mode that is divided into five fairly beefy chapters, which consist of five missions each. The first few chapters help familiarise players with the basics of setting up a settlement, trading and all of the other ins-and-outs of the game. Besides this, the game also includes the continuous play mode that allows players to customise the playing conditions, number of AI opponents and, as the name suggests, just play as long as they wish. Additionally, there is also a multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to play against each other if all four have a copy of their own. Unfortunately, online didn’t make the cut, but as evident from the PC versions that included such a mode, we’re not sure if it’s really a huge lost.

... to this huge bubbling city.

... to this huge bubbling city.

The game uses full touch-screen usage, with all of your options situated perfectly on the bottom of the screen. All you’ll simply need to do is touch any of the options and a new menu will pop up prompting a new screen, or a convenient mini navigation menu allowing you to select new buildings to construct. Thankfully for us totally gifted lefties, Anno DS has the ability to change the position of these options on the touch-screen, making life much easier for left-handers to navigate through. Interestingly, the game also allows players to hotkey certain functions as they see fit. There are only a handful of key functions available to hotkey, but the idea is nevertheless useful. The downside to this is that several of the available hotkeys prompt a new screen, which generally needs players to tap the ‘X’ button on the screen to get out of. Unfortunately, just pressing the hotkey again won’t exit the screen, meaning you’ll still have to tap the ‘X’ on the screen. Nothing major, but one would naturally expect that a hotkey button would allow you to enter and exit certain menus.

The only real downside to the game’s portability is that the game is far too consuming for its own good. Generally, with handheld games, you can put them down and rush off to work or whatnot. However, with some extra noise-reducing headphones handy, don’t be too surprised if you end up missing your train stop because you were too involved in supplying your settlement with more wood. However, besides those small obstacles for traveling gamers, the game is generally quite flexible for portable travels. The game uses full touch-screen use, so yes, you will have to pull out that stylus and tap around to play the game. Additionally, the game has a save feature that enables you to save whenever you please.

There are unfortunately a few minor niggles with the overall gameplay production that puts Anno DS slightly lower on the slider. The camera angle used is isometric, which is mostly perfectly fine throughout the entire game – except once your settlement grows much larger. As soon as your island/s begin to enlarge and have heaps of various structures and roads in place, it is often difficult to understand what exactly, if anything, is behind certain objects. Most of the time it is purely a guessing game, or you’ll have to go into the deconstruct option to make buildings slightly transparent to see if the spot is vacant. Naturally, such a complication and the hassle of doing all of that could have easily been avoided by simply including a rotate option for your camera. Alas, no such feature is in there, meaning you’re always stuck in a one-way isometric view.

There are a few nasty surprises such as volcanoes and pirates to watch out for too.

There are a few nasty surprises such as volcanoes and pirates to watch out for too.

In regards to graphics and audio, Anno is extremely charming to both look at and to listen to. Expectedly, the game has taken a fairly dramatic downgrade from what PC gamers have expected from the series, though the game is still very clean and everything runs extremely smooth – without a single hitch. Thankfully, audio is an area that has been maintained quite well from the PC version. The tunes aren’t particularly similar, but the ones used in the DS game are great to listen to and sound perfect coming from the system’s speakers. The style, in regards to graphics and audio, feels extremely reminiscent of the GBA classic Mario Golf: Advance Tour, from the isometric perspective used to the charming music.

Surprisingly, Anno is the perfect game for a handheld system and, more specifically, the Nintendo DS. There are still a few minor drawbacks with the overall Anno 1701 game design that prevent this from being a better game, but being someone who has played both the PC and DS versions, the DS version comes out on top quite easily. The touch controls are simple to execute, the story mode is much more involving and the overall portability of it all makes this a much more appealing experience. Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery still comes highly recommended for fans of such economic management games, and even for those of you who are willing to try something new.
The Score
An ideal choice for fans of the genre, and possibly a more surprising title for gamers who are curious. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 years ago
I love this game icon_smile.gif
6 years ago
Kashmere wrote
I love this game icon_smile.gif
Yep, me too - it's so darn consuming! It probably would have got an 8.5 if it had a more flexible camera system... but still a lot of fun.

Just goes to show that these sorts of games can make the transition without any major dumbing down.
6 years ago
and now i'm torn - this or settlers (which I loved)....oh well at least I have a few weeks yet to decide (although I note this is in fairly limited supply....)
6 years ago
Sounds like a tremendous effort for such a niche title. I love this sort of game though so I'm gonna have to try and track it down.
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  21/06/2007 (Confirmed)
Year Made:

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