Anno 2070
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Those pesky settlers sure were busy!

The Anno series has become a self-propelled juggernaut in the strategy world, with very few critics and fans having bad words to say about it. From the early “Anno 1602” to this new, contemporary offering we have seen the series grow in content, innovation and reputation. Anno 2070 will be seen by many as moving away from its roots, but how wrong they are. This is the first game in the series to pull away from the tried and tested setting of the New World many centuries ago, switching instead to a futuristic world brimming with high-tech industrialisation and yet managing to remain more familiar than you might expect. Being co-developed by Related Designs and Ubisoft Blue Byte, this game has a lot to live up to in order to keep the die-hard strategy veterans satisfied and boy does it do just that.

Before entering the game you are presented with a community based welcome screen (a trend that many games seem to be taking upon themselves to integrate in recent times). This screen presents you with the latest Ubisoft updates on Twitter and a collection of achievements that you can complete within the game, awarding you points that can be used to unlock new content. This feature, along with an auto-updater used to ensure the game is the latest version, all adds up to greet you with a polished first impression of the game and it only gets better from this point onwards.

The campaign for most games is the heart and soul of the content with most users using it to pass their judgement and decide upon their approval or disapproval. However, don’t let the campaign of Anno 2070 be what you judge it on. There is nothing wrong with the campaign per say, it has an ok story with some fairly good voice acting – but it just isn’t that fun, where nothing compels you to play the next level. You will find it generally to be a series of fetch quests that despite what might be a huge disaster occurring around you, lacking any sense of urgency. However for a game that has such excellent single missions, this small issue won’t be of much concern for fans of strategy (we all know sandbox mode is where the fun is to be had).

The main thing fans of the series will be focusing on is the extraordinary setting that is now central to the game, which is brought to life with some wonderfully crafted visuals and a good range of fitting sounds. You are given two options to build your mighty cities, the first being the tried and tested island scenario, where you expand your city throughout the island using the land for your resources. However, that is not the only option in this technology-driven word, how would you like to build a city on the seabed – because if you feel like it that’s exactly what you can do (to an extent). This wonderful and intriguing world that’s not quite twenty thousand leagues under the sea will allow you to discover submerged islands and populate them with your futuristic arsenal of underwater technology.

As different as this game sounds to the seasoned Anno veteran, you will be very surprised to find that the game is almost identical in terms of core gameplay. It has the same city-building fluidity and economy types, with similar buildings and classes (only they have been revamped to cater for the new surroundings and age you now find yourself in). You are given the choice to side with / use the technology of various factions that include the tree-hugging, green-loving Eco’s who try their hardest to preserve the Earth from pollution and industry. Or perhaps you are more geared towards the Tycoons who use their vast wealth to spread their grey, industrial virus-like monopoly across any island within range? The differences between these factions is truly great and helps to give the game even more replay value that for a game in the Anno series, really doesn’t need much help with. What is strange about the factions within this game is that you will often find yourself having to incorporate mixes of the different factions into your city, I can’t help feeling it could have been a better idea to keep them completely separate from one another.  Not only do you get these faction options, but the achievements that are found throughout the game further drive your desire to succeed as you will be able to unlock new content that ranges from desktop wallpapers to building upgrades and new bonus missions.

The Anno series is not something that has been remembered for its combat, generally there have been small amounts but it’s never been a focus point for the game. This is again true in the latest offering and while there is obvious room for some advanced, laser fuelled combat you will be hard pressed to boast about your experiences. The combat is unfortunately very lacklustre, where large missiles might be fired, the damage and reaction to it is minimal with combat often taking a lengthy amount of time for things to be destroyed. There is very little impact to be felt throughout these military encounters and I really hope in future Anno games that combat is revamped to a level even half as good as the rest of the game.

Anno 2070 is a rich strategy game that will be played for many years to come thanks in part to its pre-existing legacy but mostly due to its originality when it comes to the new setting and gameplay on offer. The fantastically fitting blend of its unique art style and great mix of land and underwater city building helps to create a familiar game that is entirely new and interesting. While the campaign might not be as gripping as it could be, it is more than compensated with its well-crafted array of single missions on offer for you to explore. If you are a fan of interesting and well-polished city-building games then Anno 2070 is for you, if you are not a fan of these then this game is probably still for you.

Maybe two leagues under the sea .. maybe.