Review: Anno 2205
November 15, 2015 \ Uncategorized \ 0 Comments
In the age of global warming, failing governments, tax raises, and alarming messages that we might run out of coffee soon, a lot of people dream of a brighter future. Anno 2205 offers you the chance to help build this wonderful new world, on Earth, or right next door, but as the proverb clearly states: everything comes at a price… (and I’m not talking about the season pass).
Anno 2205, developed by Ubisoft Blue Byte, is the next instalment in the city-building series that enables you to start from scratch in order to build the perfect society. Personally, I had a lot of fun playing Anno 1701, which made me dream of exploring exotic lands, and establishing trade lines to import all the luxuries of the new world. When I was given the chance to review “2205”, I was very excited. The game promised me the opportunity to leave this planet behind, and go towards ‘the final frontier’, though you never really get further than the moon.
Before you can start your first play-through, you are given the option to customise the company you will be playing as by inventing your own name and choosing an avatar. Other than that, you have to make a decision between 3 starting areas that differ from each other based on the availability of various resources, and the difficulty of the game (more on that later). Since city-building games consist of a lot of trial and error, and careful balancing of resources and space, the ‘casual’ difficulty seemed like a wise choice.
And that’s it. In less than 2 minutes, you can be in-game, attracting workers and building roads, factories, dwellings, and all the other buildings you associate with a futuristic Earth. If you are able to run the game smoothly, that is. During my first session, I experienced annoying performance issues, mostly involving lag and audio/video synchronisation problems. After installing the newest driver for my GeForce GTX 850M, these issues only improved marginally. With 16 Gig RAM available, and a system that can run Skyrim on ultra, and recent graphic-heavy games on medium settings, I was seriously disappointed in the lack of compatibility between my ‘above average’ laptop and this game. The graphics are not that spectacular, although everything has a very decent look, and the scenery is very atmospheric. The game still feels unbalanced on the level of performance, and I can’t help but wonder whether the cancelled closed-beta had something to do with this or not.
Anno 2205 is a game that enables you to manage settlements in three zones: a temperate and arctic climate on Earth, and a settlement on the moon. This implies that at one point, these settlements will run in real-time, all more or less simultaneously. Switching between your various settlements is very easy, and is shown by using a very cool game mechanic. The main menu offers you a view of our planet, and the moon, and shows you the status of the settlement you have up and running. By clicking on a settlement, the game loads all of the necessary data, and immediately offers you the various problems that need to be solved in order to make progress: build more houses, make sure your workers have access to higher education, and so on.
“More money = More Fun”
Besides the aesthetic differences between the various ‘zones’ in which you can build you cities, there are also additional difficulties that are added, once you make progress. The artic climate forces you to make sure your buildings are centred around heat sources, your lunar base needs to be protected from asteroids by building shield generators, and food needs to be produced in special greenhouses (think The Martian). Besides that, water needs to be purified, resources need to be mined and processed, buildings need to be upgraded, new technologies need to be researched, and citizens need to be kept properly fed and happy. This is all done from the perspective of a company that wants to expand by making profit and becoming bigger than other companies. The ‘better world’ that Anno 2205 offers us is still about money, sadly. There is also a combat aspect to the game, though due to the performance issues and various restarts of the tutorial mission, I have not yet come across any enemies.
What can be done better?
Although the game certainly has its merits, such as the intuitive gameplay, the straightforward menu system, and the option to start side missions on the map while your settlement is running smoothly, I still have the feeling that there is a lot more potential that is not explored.
Firstly, it would have been far more interesting to add various business philosophies, enabling a more personal way of expanding your own company. Although there are various options later in the game, your company is basically just trying to get richer than other companies by reaching the goals more quickly. Gameplay that promotes sustainability and an ultra-capitalist company structure don’t actually blend well. Also, during my gaming sessions, I didn’t come across options to trade with other companies. A missed chance, surely.
Secondly, there isn’t much story available. The entire game feels like a sandbox, and even the tutorial does not offer a lot of guidance. Basically, you have to get started. Your personal robot, interestingly called A.D.A.M., has all the information you might need. This slows down the gameplay for people who have no experience with city-building games, or people who like to get every aspect of the game step by step.
Thirdly: please fix the performance issues. I’m not prepared to play this game for longer than half an hour if this implies I need to sit through a never-ending health notice concerning epilepsy, and if it takes me way too long to build houses on the perfect spot because of the lag.
Anno 2205 offers innovative gameplay by enabling the player to manage several settlements at the same time, and showing you what is going right or wrong in the various settlements via the main menu. However, story-wise, there is not much to it, and the mechanics are not used in their full potential. Together with the performance issues, and the cancelled beta, this game feels like an unfinished product that still needs to be patched before it can run smoothly on the ‘less than high end’ systems.