While this industry has its fair-share of combat centric real-time strategy games, there is a certain dearth of games in which a successful conquest can be achieved through commerce and diplomacy alone. A relatively unknown German publisher regularly released games in the Anno series which set in pre-industrial era of European settlers and colonisers. The central objective of these games is to discover suitable land to setup a colony and secure indigenous resources. In 2007, the German publisher Sunflowers was acquired by Ubisoft and fortunately the series has endured under its new owners. The latest in the series is an expansion pack to Anno 1404 called Anno 1404: Venice.
The Original Campaign
The game takes place during the period when European settlers first encountered post-Islamic Arabia. The player takes on the role of one such settler under the command of His Majesty, the King of England. Along with developing a thriving English colony, you are also tasked with establishing settlements in the Orient through diplomatic relation with the Sultan’s Grand Vizier.
Establishing a colony starts with locating a suitable island and providing the colonists with access to basic things like food, culture and religion. As your settlements grow, the inhabitants rise in social stature and along with that grows the demand for more goods and services. Some of these resources are exclusively available on the southern islands of the Orient, so establishing diplomatic ties with the Sultanate becomes essential early on in a campaign. To measure the level of diplomatic relationship, the game employs an honour system. Honour is earned by completing quests that vary from simple fetching missions to engaging in battle with enemy ships or exploration of unknown regions. Moving up the ranks of diplomatic relationship gives the player access to more advanced Oriental technology that eventually helps in advancing the English colonies up-north.
Besides trading in goods and commodities, the player can also purchase upgrades to existing technologies—for instance you can spend honour points for a set of technologies that increase the strength of the naval fleet.
So, while Anno at its core is a city building game, there are lots of other features that make it a more wholesome experience. There are two game modes in Anno—scenarios and continuous play. Scenarios are story-based missions where the player needs to complete a set of quests in order to complete a scenario’s ultimate objective. These scenarios vary in difficulty and may have specific emphasis on exploration, combat or diplomacy.
The Continuous Game mode is brilliant in the way it allows customization of a game. Before starting a game in this mode, the player can tweak almost every aspect of the game, which means that one can effectively create custom scenarios. In addition to these two game modes, the expansion pack Venice also adds multiplayer over Internet and over LAN.
Once your settlement has reached a level where it can support the Patrician class, the game automatically adds the City Council to a city’s main harbour. There are a handful of seats on the City Council and as you buy more seats, your control and influence over a city increases. If a player has a majority of seats in an opposing player’s City Council, that player can get the Key to the City. This means that the city is now completely under that player’s control.
Reaching certain milestone during any mode of the game rewards the player with points that be used to unlock access to special buildings. Earning enough of these un-lockables gives you access to various titles and even your own Coat of Arms that you can flaunt during multiplayer sessions. In addition, there are also a bunch of achievements that are rewarded with bonus points.
Compared to some of the more popular RTS settings like Warhammer, C&C and Starcraft; Anno moves along at a much slower pace and effectively requires more patience. A single scenario can run into several hours; while Continuous Games can run infinitely. Those who are keen on city-building strategy games may find Anno quite addictive and immersive; often indulging in sessions that last a few hours at a stretch. And those who prefer frantic, combat oriented strategy games may find Anno to be dull and tedious, chugging along at a sluggish pace.
Genre: Strategy, City -building
Studio: Blue Byte Software, Related Designs
Distributor: E-Xpress Interactive Software
Platform: PC (MS Windows)
PC: INR 699/-