If you are into strategy games, I’m sure that you are familiar with the Anno series. Or if you just heard of it for the first time, I suggest to get out there and buy the latest episode, or poke around a bit and read our post about it. Ubisoft is planning on releasing a new Anno game, so I decided on making a little summary about the history of the game.
The first game was Anno 1602, it was released in 1998, a pretty long time ago. It was similar to Settlers or Side Meier’s Colonization, but the emphasis was on economy, and not on battle. The goal of the game is to discover and settle on islands, then develop and make them profitable even with trading with other islands. The game uses a little different approach than what we were used to: you have to gain a certain amount of population for example before you can access some parts of the game – unlike in the Age of Empire games you just have to have the right amount of resources.
The second game was Anno 1503, and it was released in 2003. This was the first Anno game I got to lay my hands on. I really liked strategy games, and I was eager to try this game, but in the end I basically threw it away. I remember that I really liked the graphics, and enjoyed some parts of it, but my lack of English knowledge resulted in that I didn’t know what to do, it was too difficult. In this game your settlers can advance, and upgrade to citizens, merchants, aristocrats, gaining more possibilities along the way. This is what I never could achieve back then.
Anno 1701 was similarly based on economic strategy and the society was divided into five stages. It had some improvements, which I won’t list here, just mention one interesting one, that players were subject to natural disasters now, which I think added a good amount of unpredictable dificulty to the game.
I discovered again the Anno series in 2009, when Anno 1404 was out. And I must say that I was really impressed. It took me a while when I realised that this is the same game I played a few years back. Well, I polished my English a little since then, so it the understanding part was no problem anymore. I don’t know, maybe the gameplay got easier, or more straight forward, or it is just a better game for a bit older players, but I got immediatel hooked to the game. The game had really good graphics and I really enjoyed that it’s not so easy like an Age of Empires game – where you only had to gather wood, stone, food and gold. And you could build anything from these.
Well, this part of the game also had the known societal stages, starting low and building up from there and it had a quite intriguing gameplay – at least for me. I remember playing countless hours building up farms, and growing different types of food just so in the end when I got every necessary ingredient, I could make coffe or some candy for my hungry aristocrats. It was fun, and it was a kind personal touch that the game reminded me from time to time that I’ve been playing for some time non-stop and it is time for a break.
It also featured some combat if I remember correctly. There were a few other factions (if you wanted to), and you could trade or battle with them – but this feature was not forced onto you, and I found it much more peaceful to just grow my economic strenght.
Anno 1404 had an Expansion Pack, named Venice, which was released in 2010, but I never got to play it. Anno was pretty fun and took almost a whole summer from me, but after achieving a really complex society, it really lost all meaning. But it’s been two years, so maybe I can pick it up again – but on the other hand I have a really lot of stuff to do besides playing.
Now a new era has started! Anno is presenting it’s new episode and it is set in 2070. For a long time I thought that it is a bad idea for games set in specific historical periods to change this and completely set us somewhere else. Maybe I got this fear from playing Rise of Nations quite some time ago. I think that game was some sort of catastrophy compared to the previous Age of games.
But this actually looks really neat and it is an interesting fresh start. Anno has released 4 different games set in the colonization era, or around the Middle ages. Now setting a game around the 20th century is just a bad move in my opinion (it is just too popular, every other game is set in the present time or in the World War, etc), but the 21st century is an interesting choice. In the trailers you can see that you will be able to shape the future! Which is a fun thing to do, especially with all this green and global warming stuff around us. I believe it will give us a little insight into the results and means of the easy profit of polluting the environment and into the harder, but in the long distance more benefitial environment protecting tactics. The game was announced in April and it will be released somewhere in the fourth quarter of 2011, which can mean almost a year from now.