Kimberley Ellis
19 Aug, 2009

Anno 1404 Review

PC Review | Anno it's good.
Gaming is a past-time filled with many tastes. Some of us prefer blowing the crap out of a bunch of aliens on a dodgy spaceship in the latest FPS title, while others prefer to put their thinking caps on and plot to change the course of history with an intricately set-up strategy title. For those moments where regular gaming fare just isn't cutting the mustard, there are titles like Anno 1404 (known in some territories as Dawn of Discovery) which give you the opportunity to kick back and build yourself a city from the ground up. While Anno 1404 isn't a groundbreaking piece of strategy gaming, what it does bring to the table is that not just fun, but the fact that it doesn't bog itself down with complicated gameplay, giving even the biggest strategy newbie something to smile about.

Anno 1404 is the third title in the Anno series - following on from its predecessors Anno 1701 and Anno 1602 - of strategy titles for the PC. In particular, the Anno series is heavily slanted towards the city building and economy management aspects of the strategy gaming scene. This time around, Anno 1404 sees players tasked with starting their own colony - using only the single ship that they are given, which is loaded up with all of the essential ingrediants that one needs to colonise a new settlement.

You'll have a spitting good time with Anno 1404.

You'll have a spitting good time with Anno 1404.
There are three game modes in 1404, the single-player campaign, scenario mode and a never-ending mode. Unfortunately, the lack of multiplayer game modes is a glaring omission from the title. The single-player campaign plays out like a story, weaving through tales of deception and tyranny through beautifully coloured animated cut-scenes that look like they've been literally plucked from a canvas painting.

The single-player mode is made up of eight levels, which will take you several hours to complete thanks to the large number of quests which populate each level. Depending on whether your roots lie within strategy games or not, the average playthrough of the single-player campaign will sit somewhere between twenty and thirty hours.

Upon loading the game, players are first tasked with building a settlement. This will require them to choose a suitable island on which to establish a colony. Once a colony has been built, players will then find themselves needing to start generating essential and luxury goods such as, food, drink, clothing and building materials. Although generating goods means that you have happy colonists populating your colony, there is more at stake. Not only do these generated goods fill a need for the colonists, they have to generate enough income from trade so that the colony can expand and flourish.

The holy church of PALGN nears completion.

The holy church of PALGN nears completion.
While this all sounds quite simple in theory, the game throws a spanner in the works in that only certain islands can produce certain goods. For instance, building your colony on an island which vast forested areas means that you are able to produce a wealthy amount of items such as lumber, cider and wheat. However, if you started your colony on a desert island, the goods that you are able to produce will be vastly different. Essentially this means that to get the most out of your colony, you will need to expand your colony and set up trade routes over a number of islands to effectively manage the needs of your colony. Thankfully, Anno's simple trade interface makes trading items a breeze. All you need to do is click a button to bring up the world map, then select a ship, specify the goods you wish to trade and point the ship in the direction of the port you want to trade at and the game will complete the trade for you.

As well as producing goods, you'll find that your management of the colony is further complicated by the many citizens of your new world. Of course, as any good government will attest to, the best source of revenue for your colony is to tax the insignificant peasants that dwell within it. In the early stages of the game, you will have a population which solely consists of lowly peasants, who prove to be a meagre source of income. Eventually, by keeping the peasants happy, you'll level up though the four levels of colonists; peasants, citizens, patricians and nobles. As you level up, you'll find that the next level of citizens will generate a larger stream of income, although this comes at quite a price. You see, as your citizens gain wealth, their demands become even more extravagant. While the lowly peasant might be happy with a stable diet of fish, your colony of nobles will want to see more bang for their buck by requesting luxury items such as cider and dates.

Forget the crap shack, this is how the nobility rolls.

Forget the crap shack, this is how the nobility rolls.
Another interesting tidbit to note about your colonists is that they help you unlock new buildings throughout the course of the game. Rather than the standard tech tree of titles such as Command and Conquer and Starcraft, players will need to keep their colonists happy as the number of happy citizens you have will dictate what building you have access to. This makes planning out the layout of your colony a vital component, that can contain massive repercussions if you bugger it all to hell. Building a successful colony will mean creating a delicate balance between creating a large population and being able to generate enough goods to keep the colony sustainable - and the fickle colonists happy!

At this point, some of you will probably notice that we've yet to mention how combat works in Anno 1404. Frankly, that's because it really isn’t an important aspect to the title. The majority of the game's combat lies between building war ships in order to protect your trade routes. Although not that important in the grand scheme of things, combat does serve a purpose in that the only way to upgrade your own warships is to blow the enemy fleet to smithereens in order to be showered with upgraded weapons, or specialised crew members.

Once you've conquered the single-player campaign, you'll find that all it served as was to train you for the hard slog which is never-ending mode, which can be equated to the skirmish option that is prevalent in the Command and Conquer series of titles. Here, you are presented with a map which has been populated by AI players. You are given the option of making allies and establish trading routes to build your colony's coffers or to build warships and pillage the colonies that stand in your way.

If the never-ending mode doesn’t float your boat, there are the six scenarios in the scenario mode to whittle away the hours on. Each scenario comes equipped with varying levels of difficulty and winning conditions, giving you a fresh angle on the title. Again, depending on the type of player you are, these scenarios will each extend the life of the game by an additional five to seven hours.

As impressive as the gameplay is, Anno also presents gamers with a solid audio/visual package. The game's voice acting isn't too cheesy and overbearing, and doesn't take away from your enjoyment of the game, while the sound effects and music present you with a fitting aural portrait of the time. Visually, the game is as breathtaking as any solid strategy title within the last couple of years. Everything from the people to the church steeple are lovingly crafted with an astounding level of detail. Even the water effects are beautiful enough that you'll find yourself sitting back and enjoying the visual beauty of your colony.

Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery is a pleasing title in that it is approachable enough that newcomers to the genre will have no problem getting a feel for the title, while its micromanagement complexities will keep the hardcode strategy fans engrossed. Whether you're a strategy virgin or a strategy veteran, this is one RTS that we highly recommend.
The Score
Fun accessible gameplay, coupled with enough options to keep its life cycle ticking over makes Anno 1404 one strategy title that we highly recommend. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
"Anno it's good."

Genius. Pure genius.
4 years ago
I really enjoyed this game. It was fun to concentrate on something other than killing the enemy off.

The review is accurate in most things apart from the combat system. The boat combat system is simple but nice. It seems to work well while you upgrade and maintain your warships. However the soldier mechanics for land skirmishes is dreadful. The unfortunate thing is the campaign eventually forces you to use it. After 2 hours of war which is essentially a numbers game I felt betrayed by the game. It is a great engine with a great economic system but the war mechanics are afterthoughts and just completely ruined the experience for me.

I didn't finish the game to date because after finishing one level of soldier fights they threw in another. Game lost me almost as fast as it bought me in.

In saying that it still deserves the score as it's an awesome balanced game when it comes to economic management and trade.
4 years ago
I am going to get this game tomorrow when i see that basterds movie. Woot really can't wait!
4 years ago
this game is really popular amongst my friends at the moment.

seems a bit like the complex economy of good old original stronghold, with similarly beautiful graphics too. haven't seen anything make a stir like this in pc games in a long while
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/06/2009 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $89.95 AU
  UBI Soft

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