Anno 2070 Review (PC)

When asked if I would review Anno 2070 I was intrigued: I’d heard quite a lot about the previous games in the series, all of which were positive. Yet despite being a long-time fan of the strategy genre, I had never bothered to pick them up. While I could appreciate and feel the tug of the (before now) historical setting, they seemed an overly complicated supply-and-demand game that threatened tedium along a ‘get X, make Y out of it, to make Z’ hamster wheel. Where are the explosions? Why aren’t I rolling tanks over those hills and conquering my foes? Part of this is certainly the crush-your-enemies-to-win-is-the-goal oriented approach of most contemporary RTSs. Yet Anno 2070, like its predecessors, does not conform to this paradigm, instead opting for an approach that takes me back to my early Sim City days. I had forgotten just how much fun it could be to build a city and work the citizens towards a specific goal…one that didn’t involve churning out explosive arsenal.

Yet I would not call Anno 2070 (and presumably her prequels) a ‘City Building game’. While it is true that you are certainly managing and building a city, it is the economic backbone, the supply and demand, trading and manufacturing chain that lies at the core of Anno 2070. For the RTS fans out there, this is about as hardcore as you can get. But fear not, if you’re willing to dip your toe in the water, the campaign mode and single missions are offered as a tasty entrée and introduction to the real ‘meat’ of the game, the continuous mode of play, where it would be quite easy to lose hundreds of hours. In the latter you are effectively left to your own devices, though (as with the campaign and single missions) there are objectives or goals that may pop up from time to time which provide the player with something to strive towards in the short term. Continuous mode also allows you to configure a large number of settings before you begin, including island size, AI levels, winning conditions…the list goes on. It can result in games being quite lengthy, but give the player a degree of control that is not often seen.

In terms of game-world and presentation, Anno 2070 is quite confronting, putting the player in a not-too-distant future where the world is dramatically affected by rising sea levels, pollution and resource scarcity. Unlike the more traditional historical or science-fiction settings we might be used to, Anno 2070’s has a way of resonating with the player…perhaps because it is so eerily familiar to our own potential future? But fear not, you the player can solve everything! Players opt to follow one of two political factions attempting to fix everything using their own ideology: the Ecos / Eden Iniative and Tycoons / Global Trust. Each has their own philosophies and agendas, which results in completely different play and builds styles for each.

The Eden Initiative are a left-wing oriented group, for example they aim to use largely pollution-free energy generation (such as wind power), sustainable farming, and so forth. The Global Trust, however, are more of an industrial super power, who will happily mine and pollute their way to success, belching smoke into the sky from their coal fired plants. The aesthetics and colour palettes of both factions vary considerably. Eco houses, for example, are typically surrounded by more trees than their Tycoon counterparts, and utilised a warmer colour scheme. It is quickly obvious that the environment plays a significant role in the gameplay of Anno 2070. This is represented in the game by ‘Ecobalance’, an apparent new feature to the Anno series which gauges your impact upon the environment. Continue to pollute and exploit the environment and you will see effects such as a reduction in soil fertility due to acidic soils, unhappy citizenry due to over-pollution, and so forth. It is an interesting system that requires that you walk a fine line between advancement and production and improving the ecobalance of your world.

Beyond mere gameplay mechanics, Anno 2070 is a beautiful looking and sounding game. I ran Anno 2070 on a fairly new Asus ROG laptop and was truly impressed by the higher graphics settings. Above ground, your island appears much as you would expect it to, but it is the underwater environs (that’s right, you can build and exploit below-water resources!) that blew me away. I was quite disturbed the first time I saw evidence of my Tycoon’s polluting ways beneath the surface and quickly set about restoring my ecobalance! The quality of the graphics extends to the UI, with an extremely well designed menu system that is reminiscent of the StarCraft series.

The online component to the game is an interesting one, mixing elements from the more recent Settlers game and even StarCraft 2. Players have an online profile that tracks your progress and achievements, presents ‘daily’ missions, and even allows players to vote in elections. It can essentially be viewed as an offline-but-online system, where, as long as you are connected to the Ubisoft servers, your actions are tracked. It’s a nice touch that, while some players will completely ignore, caters to the completionists or achievement gatherers out there. I was unable to get into any multiplayer missions, which did not appear to like my Australian internet connection, but I can definitely see an appeal in playing with friends, if only to see how they choose to construct their society.

To sum up, if games like the old Tycoon series, Sim City, and Minecraft appeal to your sense of building over warfare, then I think Anno 2070 will well and truly tickle your fancy with its beautiful vistas and in-depth systems. The two factions offer vastly different styles of play that provide quite a level of replay, particularly in the continuous mode. While the game isn’t for everyone, I can’t help but feel I have overlooked a gem of a series that is well worth devoting hours upon hours to. I am certainly hooked and will be checking out the earlier titles in the series.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

About the Author

I'm an archaeologist who games far too much! I was introduced to a Commodore 64 when I was a lad and have never looked back. Lover of retro gaming, supporting indie developers, RPGs and RTSs.