I love city building games. There is something incredibly satisfying about striking the right balance, getting all the little statistics evened out and a solid profit flowing into my coffers, then building a big expansion and upsetting that balance to reinvigorate the challenge. The only problem with this gameplay loop is that it gets repetitive quickly and I lose the desire to play that particular city builder.
Then, along comes Ubisoft and the Anno
series, more specifically Anno 2205
, the newest in the long running series. At their heart the Anno
games are city builders, but with a twist Ė they like to give you an actual objective. In this one it is the construction of a space elevator, and later the construction of a super power plant on the moon.
Having these absolute objectives changes the nature of a city builder. You no longer are building for the sake of building - you now have purpose and it is great! It gives a nice little nudge through the various locations; the tropics, the Arctic and the lunar surface. Each location has its own challenges and produces its own regional products, it is in these products that the games main challenge arises and to some degree they are its one major saving grace.
Allow me to explain.
To attract the next tier of citizens to your major city in the tropics you need several high-end items in abundance. We will call them item A and item B. Item A can only be manufactured in the arctic, it requires two different resources but both are available in the same region so you build your extractors, refineries and factories and balance out any needs the people staffing those structures require and then you ship that item back to Tropical City.
That was pleasantly simple, but item B has to be made on the moon and requires resources from the tropics and the Arctic, so you begin setting up the required infrastructure, except you donít have the required citizen type in the Arctic to complete production of part of item B. This leads to the manufacturing of items C through F, the complexity begins to spiral and before you know it you have a dozen trade routes between the territories just to enable the production of item B!
Everything is now balanced out, components and products are flowing where they are needed and you can finally build item B, except that you canít because there is one item missing... Did I mention that some resources can only be found in the combat zones? No? Oh well, you need to take part in the combat zones to acquire the finishing touches to item B. It is probably a good thing that the combat is woefully simple.
In combat you have a fleet of ships, they all do various things, but mostly they deal out damage so select everything you can and start clicking on the enemy units. As you destroy things and move through the map you pick up fuel resource units. These can be used to buy the use of abilities Ė group heals, extra boats, long range airstrikes.
Providing you donít try to take on the whole map at once combat is really easy. You get a small selection of sub-missions to take care of, things like delivering a boat to the edge of the map, collecting items and for it you get bonus rewards.
Once you are done marauding your way through the map you leave with a plethora of new resources and now, finally, you can finish item B, ship it back to earth and build attract that new class of citizen... and it all begins again.
The above four paragraphs describe the basic gameplay loop that you will undertake over and over again in your journey to achieve the game's ultimate goals. If the idea of this type of balancing act is appealing then Anno 2205
is for you, if youíre not sure then this might be a good place to jump in and give this type of game a try.
Despite the act of balancing, the game is ridiculously simple and offers very little in terms of actual challenge, even with the difficulty ramped up. There is no real risk of failure unless you go out of your way to bankrupt yourself. The antagonist is a joke of a character who never really accomplishes anything against you except to provide you with much needed resources.
Earlier I praised the overarching objectives, now for the downside of them Ė once you accomplish them there is zero reason to continue playing the game.
Whilst it is a visually attractive game, the cities you build lack the elegance that other city builder games have. Every building you build has a purpose and you build it for that. It is more like a puzzle piece to be moved around to maximise the area for production rather than sculpting a region to work flawlessly and be attractive.
I am curious to see what the expansion plans are for Anno 2205
, to see if they manage to provide the challenge clearly lacking in the main game. Ultimately I enjoyed my time balancing my trade routes across the three regions and figuring out how to build everything in the game and there is a lot of fun to be had for both newcomers and veterans of the series, but it is good to go in knowing what to expect and that is a game that is more relaxing than its subject matter hints at.
+ Fantastic production and trade system
+ Vibrant and clear visuals
+ Clear objectives that give the game focus
- Combat is lacklustre
- Once youíve accomplished those clear objectives there is no reason to continue
- Lacks a serious challenge beyond balancing the regionsí needs
SPOnG Score: 6.5/10