Mark Marrow
27 Jun, 2007

Anno 1701 Review

PC Review | An economic simulation game that’s worth a look.
Economic simulation games are quite often a rarity, no less a good one at that, and any fan of the genre worth the air we breath should hopefully have come into contact with the Anno series in some form. This release, Anno 1701, is the third title in the popular German-made title and once again boasts a fairly simple, yet highly addictive gameplay structure that offers a lot of enjoyment for those of you out there who enjoy the old economic crunch of satisfying townspeople and discovering new lands in an attempt to expand your nation. While the third title is still unlikely to amaze the U.S and Australian market too drastically – largely due to a few unfortunate shortcomings - for those of you who enjoy these sorts of games though, Anno 1701 is well worth the investment.

Anno 1701 is much like the previous two titles in the series – the game is mainly based on the economics of the settlement that is created by the player. You’ll begin each game with a simple stretch of land, as well as a few simple buildings, and are then tasked with the goal to colonise an island, or rather, islands since most games consist of several islands each. You’ll need to build housing, marketplaces, mines, farms, churches, schools and more to satisfy your townspeople’s needs, and to successfully launch your nation as being the most powerful. Unlike a game like, say, Civilization, the game is largely dependant on the player’s ability to maintain a balanced economy, rather than a balance between military and economy like the aforementioned title.

Much like any other economic simulation game, there are a few minor scaleable features and management to keep an eye on. As your town increasingly expands, the townspeople’s happiness will gauge your progress. To make them happier you’ll need to supply them with their needs, which are always easy to identify by simply clicking on any house. As you continue to feed their needs by providing certain resources and buildings, and increase the size of your overall establishment, they’ll develop into different inhabitant levels – starting from Pioneers and finishing at the fifth level, Aristocrats. Maintaining happiness is key, but so is keeping a steady flow of income. You can do this by a number of ways, but the most important one early on is scaling your townspeople’s taxes. The higher the taxes, the less happy they will be, obviously. However, if you do a good job of maintaining resources and luxuries such as religion and schools, then the area to scale your taxes is much larger, meaning that eventually high taxes won’t be so bad since the people are happy with living conditions.

Of course, the first island you settle on won’t house all the resources you need to progress further through the development process. There will be certain resources that’ll be exclusive to certain islands depending on their climate, as well as there being exclusive resources only acquired through trading with other nations. And that’s where trading comes into play. You’ll generally be playing with other opponents, who can quickly become your allies or enemies depending on how you treat one another. Trading is ideal early on though, since it’s likely you’ll have a resource that is in high demand from someone else, and likewise with them. You can eventually build a shipyard and set-up trade routes to neighbouring nations by a simple trade menu that allows you to monitor resource inflows and outflows.

Most of the game time spent within Anno 1701 will be with the 10 scenarios and the continuous play mode. The 10 scenarios help break up the general gameplay of Anno, providing players with specific goals to accomplish rather than the burden of building an entire establishment. Unfortunately, the scenarios aren’t particularly hard to overcome, and there honestly aren’t enough of them. However, the bread and butter is with the continuous play mode, which provides various map types and conditions.

The game’s simplicity is ideally a two-edged sword – it’s easy to understand and easy to lose yourself in, however, there’s not much depth. Economic simulation games generally tend to bombard gamers with useless information, heaps of spreadsheets and menus, and features that are generally quite useless. Thankfully, in Anno the game is presented excellently, allowing players to quickly identify problems in resource flow, citizen happiness and trade routes. There are plenty of early tutorials to guide new players, and helpful tips to put players back on the right path if you can’t figure things out. In this sense, the simplicity is golden and makes enjoying the game that much easier – often a rarity in such simulation games.

Of course, the simplicity does often hurt the overall longevity of the game. There are not a great deal of available structures to build outside of the typical resource gathering buildings. You’ve got your churches, schools, and other luxury buildings - and of course a heap of resource hubs to gather wool, cloth, oil and the list goes on - but compared to similar games in the genre it isn’t quite as expansive as one would expect. This this isn’t necessarily a big downside to Anno, since most of the enjoyment is largely found within the gathering of these resources, feeding your town’s needs and trading - mind you, it still wouldn’t have hurt to have expanded the available structures to build just to make each game more interesting.

Problems further persist once you come into contact with other players, since the game has a very ordinary combat system, where there’s very little focus on it at all. You’ll still need to purchase units from the limited amount available, and battle unpolished AI opponents in generally crowded battlefields, which really isn’t at all fun. Again, it’s ideally a case of lack of depth in options and, in the case of combat, balance, that shorthand the final the experience.

Multiplayer is featured in the game, though it isn’t particularly good. While servers have established quite significantly since the game has been out in most European countries for some time now, the overall experience is still a little ‘empty’. The series has still failed to make an impact on English-speaking countries as well, so you’ll often find most multiplayer games populated by non-English speaking people; though that's not particularly a fault from the developers, but rather an aspect you should be weary of if you're looking for a multiplayer game. The multiplayer mode is just the continuous play mode, but with player-controlled opponents, so if you’ve got a few friends around then it’s certainly worth checking out.

Visually, Anno 1701 looks surprisingly well presented. The game isn’t at all demanding on your rig, but naturally the game isn’t a power-horse in the graphics department. The visual style is stylized and is generally extremely well detailed and runs extremely smooth. Audio is also quite nice with an excellent cast of voice acting and a decent variety in the game’s soundtrack. Unfortunately, certain aspects of the audio can get extremely repetitive and tiresome after several hours of game time.

Anno 1701’s simplified gameplay makes the game much easier to enjoy than complex economic games such as Civilization, though the simplified nature of the game also ruins longevity due to there being a limited amount of structures to construct and things to do. And admittedly, the biggest problem for this game boils simply down to depth, as well as the simplistic military options and multiplayer options.
The Score
A real treat for gamers who enjoy economic simulation games, though depth is minimal and may have you looking elsewhere soon enough.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Anno 1701 Content

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12 Apr, 2007 Anno franchise now owned by Ubi.
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28 Nov, 2006 A mighty return.
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