What happens when you mix the most obtusely designed hardcore simulator game franchise with the casual market?
The answer should be something horrendous that pleases nobody at all.
But Bluebyte Studios has done it again, they have created something remarkable. That is remarkable for a browser based game.
Much like their successful The Settler’s Online, Ubisoft has really captured the feel of Anno in a browser based game. This can be compared to a game like Command and Conquer Tiberium Alliances which looks nothing at all like the game it models after.
So Anno Online is modeled after Anno 1404 (the game befoer Anno 2070).
Some favorites missing from this game is multi-factions, which was present in Anno 2070 and an unlockable intermittent faction (The Arabs and S.A.A.T.) that offers new and more complicated building options.
This is Bluebyte’s second attempt at making a multi-player Anno experience. Anno is the game of the anti-social gamer. It is a game that each playthrough gives over 200 hours of play and one that sees no need to interact with people.
Their attempt in Anno to make multiplayer simply did not work. The multiplayer scene was empty and isolated to a select few friendly Europeans.
One of the big things about multiplayer is that you cannot force it on a game. The game has to be designed around the need for people helping each other. First person shooters, MMORPGs, and strategy games have always benefited heavily from having more than one person play. Other genres have had a hard time breaking in.
So how do you solve this riddle?
Quite simple, as it seems.
Make it so that your resources are very limited and you need people to talk with while you wait on resources to accumulate.
No not quite the multiplayer we were expecting. It seems that inter-city trading is something they will be implementing in later. The game works under the basic formula of Anno. You lay down homes and your people demand various products. You provide those products. Certain services they may request will only work in a certain radius. This means city planning gets complicated as more services become available.
Inter-player trading really only makes sense in the first day of playing the game. After this you become more than self-sufficient so clearly in that beginning of the game you will need to implement trade there.
After you meet all the needs of a home they will advance into a different higher taxing kind of home. This new kind of home will have it’s own demands.
People will not overwhelming move into this new housing type until you fulfill their needs. As you get more of this type of person their needs expand until eventually you have met enough needs to evolve them to another type of citizen… to do the same thing with.
There are four types of citizens with the final one taking almost two weeks to obtain.
Buildings have their own resource cost to build. Some of them include wood and stone. Each of these buildings have money maintenance costs. A goal becomes balancing your costs with increasing your ability to expand.
When you are completely out of resources you do have the ability to expand by purchasing resources using rubies. Rubies can be earned by completing quests or can be purchased via micro transactions.
As an alternative you can just turn off the game and resources will max out while you sleep. Having a large warehouse means you can hold a lot more resources when you log in. Upgrading warehouses clearly becomes a pillar of this game. One thing about this game is that it largely will not appeal to the hardcore Anno crowd. People who only play religiously will really not enjoy this game.
The game gets even more complex with the addition of islands. You can discover and colonize off-map islands that will provide other resources. One player can hold 9 islands, although it seems two of them are unlockable only with rubies.
The supply chains are simple. The game is not obscure by any means. There isn’t much of a competitive dynamic to it. And truthfully Anno 2070 and Anno 1404 are just all around better games.
It will however appeal to the massive casual games crowd. It offers more complexity than anything else currently on the market and can be played over hours or over minutes. If you’re looking to get into Anno this is definitely the friendly way to learn how the game is played.
I’d definitely recommend purchasing Anno 2070 over it. I’d also recommend playing this game over almost any other browser title on the market. And I’d also recommend playing this game if you’ve never tried Anno 2070 and if you find yourself addicted to this game, give Anno 2070 a spin.
I should state as a final note this game is still in beta, however the core game mechanics will stay the same and if this review needs an update it will get one post launch, but as far as I can see nothing will change post launch.