Should I be excited about… Anno 2070?
Anno 2070 is the new upcoming release from Related Designs and Ubisoft. Its the 5th PC release of the Anno series which up until this point has all been set in the past (between 1404 to 1701) but as the name suggests, this is set in the future. And damn what a future it is. The game is post the near-apocalyptic event of the ice caps melting, raising the sea level so high that the only land left is the peaks of mountain ranges.
Unlike the previous Anno games there is a choice of 2 factions for you to play. The industrious Tycoons whose buildings are very efficient in what they do, but dont seem to give a crap that the all the land was nearly lost due to global warming. They think that things can’t get worse so they fill the air with pollution. The other faction however are “tree hugging hippies” called the Ecos. They develop a lot slower as their buildings are the – would it be crude to say polar? – opposite from the Tycoons, being fairly inefficient but low in those pesky greenhouse gases. You might not think this is very important, but the developers focused on this point really well by adding a “Eco Balance” resource which you have to try and balance out as much as possible. I didn’t get to play the Tycoons much at the later stages of the game so I’m not sure how much this affects them, but it’s a big deal for the Ecos whose people get upset if the balance goes into the negative. This might sound like a down point about playing them, however most of the resources the Ecos need to expand are mostly plant based products (fruit, veg, that kinda thing) and the higher your Eco Balance, the more effecient your farms are and such like. For what is considered a pain in the arse in the real world, Related Designs did a really good job implementing this feature.
Although you can only choose to play as either Ecos or Tycoons there is however a third, neutral, faction called the Techs. Once you have developed your main race to a certain point you will get a message from the Techs saying that you’d impressed them enough that they would like to offer you their services (not like that for you dirty minded people) allowing you to build techy buildings. They offer you the sort of things you’d expect from a faction that calls themselves the Techs, they allow you to develop items (more on this later) and research technological advances for your buildings such as requiring less power to run, or having a lesser affect on the Eco Balance. They also let you start to build underwater, which seemed like a really cool feature but was a bit lack-lustre in the end I felt. The only reasons to build underwater is that some of the later game resources (such as diamonds and oil) can only be mined or gathered from “plateaus” on the sea bed which you must find with a submarine. The only problems I had with this is that 1) if the sea level has risen so much, surely the sea bed should be a lot flatter than the mountain peaks; and 2) I would have absolutely loved to have built an underwater city that people could live in, rather than just having a small industrious hub of resource gathering buildings. On a side note to the Techs joining you after you have expanded enough, I also seemed to impress the Tycoons enough to be able to build their buildings. This might have only been because of the game mode I was playing, but if this feature is available throughout all the modes what’s the point in making the choice at the beginning?
There are several game modes to play from Single Player where you just play against AI factions, Continuous Mode where there’s no goals to achieve other than building the biggest civilisation possible and keeping your credit and Eco Balances in check, and a Multiplayer Mode which promises up to 8 people playing together either competitively or co-operatively. I’m not quite sure how this will work however as the game takes a bloody long time to get anywhere. The only way it could work is if the game requires all the same people to be playing for it to run or even open, and give people the chance to retire out of it. This is just complete speculation, I didn’t get a chance to try out multiplayer for obvious reasons.
When you start the game you are provided with an Arc and a warehouse already built on your first island. The Arc is your main base, which in the mode I was playing was invisible, but I guess you must destroy the other players Arcs in the other modes. The Arc can be upgraded with items that you can either buy from other players, or develop yourself if you have the Tech faction. These items act like global buffs for yourself, ranging from making all your vehicles faster, stronger or harder, to making your buildings more efficient. The Arc can also store a certain amount of resources for you, and you can apparently take your Arc from one game to the next with all the items and resources still inside it which could make for some very unfair, but interesting, multiplayer games.
One of the promised features was an ”evolving, dynamic world”, which I never really noticed to be honest. There were a couple of things that sorta changed whilst playing, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it made the world dynamic. One of the things that I came across were the senate and world votes. As the game seemed to require to be connected to the internet the entire time you’re playing (I might be wrong on this point, but when my internet cut out at one point it warned me I should save to make sure I didn’t lose any data) these votes appeared to be counted from all the other people playing, which if it is this is a really awesome feature that I don’t think has been done before. The actual voting seemed a little timid however with only a choice of three people; a Tycoon, an Eco and a Tech, for each set of votes and all that changed was that some building gained a buff or a debuff, for example if the Ecos win the vote they might lower the efficiency of oil rigs, but increase the productivity of farms. I did see a “Politics” tab in the Arc but it was greyed out the entire time I was playing. To me this suggested that you might be able to have more of an effect on these votes, and what could be really awesome, even run for one of the parties (this could get a little messy however with the amount of people that will play this game, so that might just be a crack pipe dream).
The game mechanics are very fine tuned and work well, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from Related Designs. There was also lots of other little features that I loved, such as little warnings every 2 hours to tell you to take a break and stretch your legs, but also a little Happy Halloween message on the 31st (small, but really nice touch). The game has an autosave feature which you can set to save at certain time periods or turn off altogether. It turned into a bit of a life saver when I ran into a small bug where all my food producing buildings stopped working for no reason what-so-ever and all my people left. The version I was playing still had one or two bugs that the developers knew about, and a lot of the UI was still in German or had work in progress descriptions so I might have missed some small features, but this in no way affected my opinion of the game. As its the beta these issues will be ironed out before the full games release.
I’ve sank hours into Anno 2070 over the last week and a bit (on the weekend I had a “You’ve been playing for 6 hours” warning) and I’ve loved every second of it.