1800 - Critique

Author: Charles Singletary Jr.
Date: 2020-07-31 08:52:23
Once I fully understood that my fledgling villages would have to be particularly hideous if I wanted them to be effective and profitable, Anno 1800 absorbed me like never before. The hours ticked by, and I regularly ignored the automatic messages suggesting that I take a break. The seventh part of this inescapable management series makes a real homecoming, abandoning the futuristic framework of the two previous opus in favor of that of the industrial revolution. This change of era doesn't instantly make it more valuable than its predecessors, but provides the perfect setting for this refreshing and addicting real-time strategy game.

The complex and enjoyable routine of Anno 1800 is based on the creation and collection of different resources, which will prove to be essential to keep the morale of the inhabitants of your island colony in good shape. It is a constantly evolving puzzle that is played on three levels: production chain, trade routes and city organization. Each threshold of technological advancement requires more resources, more educated workers, and more sophisticated facilities. And the fact that a lot of the parts can't be found or crafted on your home island makes things even more complex. This is precisely where trade routes come into play: while expansion remains a possibility, trade represents an essential mechanism for the sustainability of your colony.

I readily admit that I set out to create the ideal village initially, giving my growing community of workers plenty of space and favoring a symmetrical structure that modern architects and civil engineers would be proud of. But when I realized the value of every square inch of free space and the need to build as many homes as possible in order to attract the workers I would need to manage the many production chains essential to my progress, I gradually turned into a greedy and cruel colony leader. By creating, for example, veritable mazes of suffocating buildings, inducing a high risk of fire, in order to maximize productivity. Disturbingly enough, it wasn't until I adopted this basely productivist philosophy that my colony began to grow rapidly, which seems to be one of the dark reflections of the period that Anno 1800 refers to. .

Building roads to connect farms, factories, shops and other facilities to the port, acting as a central hub for each island has proven to be truly mesmerizing, in a good way. Along these (and many others built thereafter), I placed warehouses, complementary factories and many other structures, which offered me the necessary tools to progress economically, and allowed me to produce goods that I could trade with the various AI-controlled players scattered around the map. At the end of the day, Anno 1800 is constantly pushing you to optimize your city's performance, and while innovating by completing new projects while keeping your income in the green is very different from getting a killstreak in an FPS, achieving it remains particularly rewarding.

Outside of commerce, your AI-driven competitors have diverse personalities and act realistically. Some will expand wildly, regardless of the consequences of their actions, while others prefer to engage in dialogue when seeking to get their hands on new lands to settle. And you can also expect different reactions from them depending on your actions. Much of your successes and failures depend on commerce, and diplomacy is the key to your progress. However, being able to offer gifts or resort to flattery does not guarantee you a positive response, which reinforces the feeling that the AI is not there just to be manipulated by the player.

For newbies, Anno 1800 is not an easy game, even at its lowest difficulty level, but learning from your mistakes is an integral part of the game experience. My failed attempts have changed my plans, trade routes and my timing of expansion throughout my games, which allowed me to constantly progress. The higher difficulty levels strain your understanding of the different game mechanics, giving you less money to spend and lower paybacks when dismantling previously built areas. By selecting the most difficult mode, you will have to quickly assess the layout of the place and also take into account the thousands of buildings and resources to come before building any homes there.

This attention to detail is also reflected in the graphics of the game. Anno 1800 is a visually stunning title when playing in a wide shot, and remains very pleasing to the eye when you zoom in. The flora and fauna are very successful and turn out to be varied enough that you do not have the feeling that the developers have just duplicated the same elements to create the different islands. This is also valid for the design and textures of buildings, and more particularly the homes of your workers. If the design of production buildings varies little overall, it is quite different for the groups of houses that you build, which are far from vulgar carbon copies.

However, the rendering of water can still be improved. When you zoom in over vast expanses, it sparkles and produces highly detailed rippling highlights that are a real feast for the eyes. But as soon as a ship slices through waves or the waves crash against the shore, the trick the developers employ to simulate a wake or disturbance creates a stark contrast. The process is like a permanently present transparent layer, which begins to appear when water comes into contact with another element. A static aspect that swears a lot with its rendering and realistic physics.

There are different ways to enjoy Anno 1800's beautiful visual setting. You can take part in the single-player campaign, or enjoy the freedom of action in a single player or multi-player sandbox match. If the sandbox mode and its plethora of customizable settings will win the favor of many players, the single player campaign is surprisingly interesting and adapts perfectly to the gameplay of Anno 1800.

Initially, the campaign sees you as a character seeking to return to the Old World quickly when his father is accused of treason. There follows an intrigue mixing secret societies, murder, conspiracy and redemption which will occupy you about twenty hours and which, once completed, will make you immediately switch to sandbox mode. The proposed story is certainly nothing fundamentally original, but has the merit of enriching the experience offered by Anno 1800. The world does not stop turning when these scripted missions occur, and I had to keep constantly consider the needs of my colony when I realize them. The need to be multitasking became all the more obvious when the second map (introducing Expeditions, never before seen in the Anno saga) opened.

Once Expeditions are unlocked, you can examine the morale of the crew of the ships you have built and store the goods you wish to ship there, begin a crossing, which takes place outside of the two main Anno 1800 maps (the Old European World and South American New World). As you travel, you will have to make decisions for the crew in a text-based adventure. Should the latter try to sideline the pursuing ship or choose to confront it? Many similar events occur regularly from halfway through the campaign, and given the base game's growing complexity in management, this mechanic is more of a welcome distraction than an overwhelming addition.

Once you have access to both cards, you quickly notice that each of them offers distinct soundscapes and scores. As you roam the Old World, they make a fitting sound canvas, the dark side of which is sometimes amplified by rain showers, while those of the New World sound much warmer and more cheerful.

When you play in the countryside by activating the tutorials, the work done by Anno 1800 on this fundamental aspect turns out to be above average but turns out to be incomplete. The fundamentals of the game and the basic elements of the user interface are brought to the fore through various quests, but the concept tends to run out of steam when it comes to expansion and trade, which will quickly reveal itself. essential to your progress. The menus devoted to diplomacy and trade routes are not even covered in these quests, which means that you will have to discover their different specifics for yourself. I found that the island I started out on didn't allow me to cultivate a specific resource, and it wasn't until later that I discovered that opening the map and spending my cursor above the different islands allowed me to know which resources were cultivable there.

Except the absence of scripted quests and special events giving a special flavor to your interactions with the players controlled by the AI, the sandbox mode unfolds in the same way as the campaign and also incorporates the long expeditions that separate the players. two cards. There isn't much to be said about it overall, except that the multiplayer mode gives you the opportunity to compete against your friends, or work cooperatively to fill your warehouses with unobtainable resources. on your respective islands. Being able to communicate in real time with one of the other players in your game makes it easier for you to coordinate your efforts. This allowed me, for example, to launch a joint naval assault with a friend against a particularly aggressive settler. Although the outcome of the combat was unfortunate, this possibility has the merit of reinforcing the very limited emphasis that Anno 1800 placed on battles.