My first thought after playing through the Anno 2205 preview was “I honestly can’t wait until the game comes out”. The latest entry in the stalwart city building/trading/management series is shaping up to be a legitimate contender for one of the best strategy titles on PC. In many ways, it is the update the series needed for a long time. While every entry in the series is special in its own way, the core game itself has largely been the same. Anno 2205, however, introduces new systems, revamps the existing ones and gives the game a massive visual upgrade.
The first thing that grabbed me is just how good the game looks. Anno 2205 uses a brand new engine and is a huge step up from the previous game. I fired up Anno 2070 for comparison and the difference is like night and day, which is actually saying a lot since 2070 itself was quite a looker. The maps look absolutely gorgeous and buildings are exquisitely detailed and animated. The artwork is fantastic and really helps sell the game’s pristine futuristic setting. I am certainly impressed with the visuals and I’d even go as far as to say that it is the best looking city building/strategy game I’ve ever played.
Like its predecessor, Anno 2205 is set in the future, but instead of underwater exploration, the focus is now on space exploration and colonisation of the moon. You start as a fledgling corporation and work your way upwards by doing a series of missions over a persistent map. The preview included the first few missions from the campaign, which gave a good overview of some of the new systems in the game. For starters, the game now takes place on a much bigger scale than the previous ones.
Instead of managing multiple settlements on a single large map, you now manage several large maps on a global scale. At any time, you can zoom out to a strategic view of the earth and enter a different sector (called sessions). Each session plays out like a standard Anno map, with islands to settle on, goods to produce, and side missions to complete. The preview had me manage two settlements – one in the arctic region, and the other in a temperate zone. The arctic settlement came with its own challenges, such as providing heating to the settlers and hence making the experience feel considerably different from building in the lush temperate region.
As expected, some goods can only be produced in certain regions, facilitating trading between your different sessions. Producing different types of goods in order to keep your population satisfied has always been a core element of the Anno series, but now it feels like a much larger endeavour. There is a short loading time while switching sessions, but overall, it feels quite smooth and the UI is pretty slick. It does feel a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but the game does a great job at slowly introducing new elements.
Another big change comes in the form of a major overhaul to the game’s combat systems. I must admit that I was never fond of combat in this series and avoided it as much as possible. However, Anno 2205 just might change that. As much as I love being a pacifist in these games, combat in 2205 is just too good to pass up. The preview featured two combat missions that were actually a lot of fun to play. These missions offer rewards in the form of rare materials and can be replayed on harder difficulties to get even larger rewards. Be warned though; the harder difficulties are actually much harder than I anticipated.
Combat now takes place in separate “crisis sectors”, which are standalone maps where you take a small squadron of ships and complete an objective. These maps also hide various resources and feature randomised side missions, which can be completed to boost your rewards even further. The combat itself has been redesigned with weapon pickups and special abilities that your units can use once you’ve accumulated enough energy. The battles themselves look and sound spectacular. However, if you’re worried that the game is more combat-focused now, you’ll be relieved to know that with the exception of the tutorial mission, combat can be avoided.
I definitely enjoyed the preview a lot; enough to actually play through it several times with different map configurations. There’s still a lot that the preview didn’t feature – such as building on the moon – which I’m definitely looking forward to. Overall, Anno 2205 does seem like a major step ahead for the franchise and something that fans of the series should definitely be excited about. It keeps the core gameplay intact, but smartly adds new systems around it to keep things fresh.
Anno 2205 releases on November 3 on PC, priced Rs 999 at retail. The digital edition is available for preorder via G2A.