Anno 1800 Review – An Excellent City-Builder That Transcends Many of its Contemporaries

Anno 1800
Blue Byte/Ubisoft

There seems to be a good variety of city-building and colony management games out on the market right now—at least ones that feature contemporary (Tropico 6, Cities: Skylines) or futuristic (Surviving Mars, They Are Billions) backdrops. Indeed, Ubisoft’s last two Anno games were set in the future as well. However, you don’t see too many game developers tackling the older, historical periods of time.

Anno 1800 could be seen as a remedy for those looking for a more alt-history backdrop, with which to act out their god-like-power-fantasies. In this recent entry, players can decide the fate of a colony during the industrial revolution of the 1800s.

I’ll just admit right off the bat that city-building games are usually a daunting prospect for me to invest my time into. Sure, they tend to start off easily enough, but then my colonies begin to get bigger and bigger as the minutes (and usually hours) tick by.

Inevitably, there’s always a certain point in time when things just get to complex and unwieldy for me to keep up with, and some sort of horrible disaster happens—like my little digital people suddenly die out due to massive starvation.

Thankfully, Anno 1800 eases you into its rather complex gaming mechanics gracefully. You can scale your operations as you see fit, but I did enjoy its more merciful learning curve as my fledgling colony grew into a quaint town, and later a bustling city. Anno 1800 gives you plenty of time to come to grips with things so that you never feel overwhelmed with its many intricacies.

However, that isn’t to say that everything in Anno 1800 is explained exceedingly well. The game’s tooltips are sometimes a little too vague so I did find myself learning what certain buildings did, through trial and error. Fortunately, there were never any gaping holes that I’d missed somewhere, which resulted in my entire population starving to death or anything like that.

Most of Anno 1800’s systems integrate with each other seamlessly. For instance, if you want to make your populace happy, you’ll need to manufacture schnapps. To make schnapps, you have to first develop some potato farms. You must also have some distilleries on hand to transform those all-important potatoes into alcohol. In turn, your laborers must be the grease that makes these entire supply chains work. Careful planning and simple, logic-based problem solving are the order of the day in Anno 1800, and I found that refreshing.

As your first town grows into a city, you’ll see it go through many different supply ecosystems. These include such things as timber, cloth, fish, and alcohol. Later, as your settlement begins to sprawl outwards, you’ll need to urbanize it with more advanced resources such as iron, steel, bricks, and so forth. The basic tiers of your Old World settlement consist of Farmers, Workers, Artisans, Engineers, and finally, Investors.

As you expand your beginning islands, you’ll eventually form a far-off settlement which is part of Anno 1800’s other, later development: The New World. When you get the opportunity to move your various operations to the New World, you’ll see that it has its own tiers of both citizenry and resources. In fact, they often feel like slightly more streamlined versions of the Anno series’ futuristic titles.

When you get to this later stage of the game, you’ll see that you can trade between both your Old and New World counterparts. However, there are different types of resources that are unique to the New World, such as sugar cane, which can be harvested and cultivated to produce rum. Talk about something that makes your citizens really happy and distracted.

Anno 1800 does have a full, four chapter campaign mode, but I feel as though the game’s free-form sandbox mode is where most of the fun is to be had. The randomness of creating your very own colony from scratch, locating resources and processing them, and enduring different sorts of hardships, is a more personal journey that gamers seem to enjoy (at least I do).

It must be said that Anno 1800 is quite the looker. You can zoom out and revel at the expansiveness of your developing settlement, or, you can push in and watch your people harvesting and processing all sorts of resources. You can see them chopping wood in dense forests, hauling stone out of deep mines, or heck, even getting blitzed at one of your local bars. Everything feels like a beautiful depiction of real life. However, it must also be mentioned that Anno 1800 is a bit of a resource hog, and I noticed considerable frame rate drops when I’d grown my settlements into larger cities.

Anno 1800 is a superb city-builder experience that should offer something for both seasoned vets of the genre, as well as noobs want to take things slow at first. And unlike the Anno franchise’s other efforts, this game has both downloadable content as well as multiplayer, which drastically improves its longevity and replayability.

SCORE: 84%

Anno 1800 features some pretty nice looking graphics that make its city-building gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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