Co-developed by Related Designs and series veterans Blue Byte, Anno 2070 is the fifth in the series. With nearly all of the depth, and most of the charm of its predecessors, Anno 2070 made the transition from quaint to philosophical without losing too much of the allure. An exploration and economy RTS with some sense of strategy, Anno is for the kind of PC gamer dedicated to sinking a lot of time into a single game, and a single sitting. The series has historically merited such a time-sink, rewarding players tremendously as they watch their network of trade routes supplemented by production, sustain and vibrant and varied world of their own creation.

Upon release, 2070 was heckled by gamers for the implementation of Ubi DRM which meant a lot of downtime, even for players who wanted to play single player, much like Blizzards Diablo III problems. Although this was never really a huge issue at the time, it is an issue no more: since Ubisoft have patched the DRM and offline game-play is possible.

Some of the features introduced in Anno 2070, however, mean that you’re never truly offline; with global parliamentary votes and statistics, you’re connected to all gamers within the Anno world, connected to a causal chain that directly affects world events and trade prices. Most of this feature is under-the-hood so to speak, and isn’t really something you access in game, but it’s a really neat thing to log-in to every time you start the game, greeted with the science fiction user-interface.

Anno’ you panicked when they announced it’d be in the future

As a huge fan of the originals, having played the more recent Anno 1404/Venice practically to death, I was looking forward to this installment perhaps more than others not so familiar with the series. The announcement was met with some trepidation however, as myself and others tried to figure out exactly what future the developers would envision. Was this merely an excuse to water the series down? To appeal to other, more casual gamers? What reason could there be to take a trading game into the future, where commodities are more varied and rely less on physical trade in the same sense as the 18th and 15th centuries?

Indeed, to us the concept made little sense, but it was fun to speculate over the different plastics, materials and commodities we would actually be handling.Was our anxiety justified? Hell no!

Anno 2070 features two loosely satirical factions: The Eden Initiative (“Ecos”) and The Global Trust (“Tycoons”). What I assumed was initially a sort of Socialists vs Capitalists stand-off I soon realised was merely different kinds of capitalism. 

In the sunken age of 2070, Climate Change has melted the Arctic ice caps, which has raised sea levels to a point where only the highest mountainous regions are visible and habitable – isn’t that a genius way of recreating the old Anno maps in such a way as to make it canon permissible?!

In this sunken world, Capitalism still reigns supreme, and although the Tycoons are more cuthroat, the Ecos are just as materialistic – but care more about their impact on the environment. Just as in prior Anno games, you’re tasked with variable ‘completion’ factors, although in free-mode you’ll generally just want to out-last your attention span. You trade, colonize, explore and fight your way to a stable and sustainable economy; the latter often the least noted.

Anno 2070 is all about sustainability; it’s fine to rake in all the dough right from the start, but as you fill up land and create trade routes, you’ll find that, as the complexity of manufacturing increases, you’ll rely on imports or trade for certain components. Said components rely on physical trade routes, from physical ships. If one trade route is disrupted, the entire production chain ceases efficiency, and citizens who require the product or commodity will revolt as a consequence.

Aside from this corruption variable, there are many others, such as: mines running out, the quality of air affecting production, war, all the fresh water being used up, and others which are either more or less of a problem.

Citizenship in the year 2070

So we’ve established the difficulties and importance of sustaining all your trade routes and production, and the problems you’ll face – but who’re you doing it for? Why, your citizens of course. Starting no longer from a friendly NPC dock, all players get their own floating hub – a science vessel which can be recalled and placed anywhere around an island. From this, you load up your tools and items as in other games and set out to land your first island.

The dynamic is exactly the same as the previous game: you start off small, then grow. As you populate areas, and meet the requirements of your towns-folk, they will ‘level up’ so to speak, creating a new ‘class’ of people. Grow further, and you’ll unlock another ‘class’. Each class requires more and more commodities and products, and each growing in complexity. They also require certain buildings such as health and entertainment variables within the vicinity, or they will plateau and not grow any further. As they grow, their food needs will grow with them, and you’ll need to provide them with more and more liquids and solids of their choosing, growing in luxuriousness with each ‘class’ of citizen. To Anno fans, this will sound very familiar indeed, but there’s something important to note…

Anno 2070 features two actually separate factions. Fans of Anno 1404 will remember the necessity of utilizing Arab influences, requiring a different set of citizens and requisite items such as olives, milk, etc., but in 2070 you actually pick your faction before you start the game, and unlock the use of the other faction at some point along.

If I have one criticism about the two factions, it’s that whilst they’re stylistically different (all of their buildings use a different model), and require different things and have different pre-requisites, they aren’t dramatically opposed to each-others ethos’. For instance, I really expected the green Ecos to be super green but when they constantly whine for ‘consumer electronics’, sushi and green tea, I can’t help but feel their just extrapolated from San Francisco hipsters. They’re just as cut-throat and materially inclined as the Tycoons, although in fairness they will require you to do less damage to the environment. It’s all personal taste, here, though, and my criticism doesn’t reflect a poor game mechanic or anything – it just felt a little odd to me, since at the core of every hipster there’s a sniveling, cut-throat capitalist!

Underwater is the new Arabia

The Sultan doesn’t need you anymore, and you need to move on – but worry not, since Anno 2070 introduces possibly its neatest feature yet, underwater exploration. This will have you delving deep into the ocean in a submersible, not only to trade in stealth and attack other boats, but to explore and create underwater economies! All of this is sustained through the managing of scientists, the new Arab faction for this installment. These scientists will live on land, require their own commodities, and help you to research technologies to milk the sea for all its resources. For instance, oil is rife in the ocean, but beware: an oil-spill can be lethal for you and yours, if they’re in the vicinity. All wildlife, including your main source of food, will die.

Underwater exploration is interesting and deep, it adds to the already stunning visuals and adds a whole century of game-time to the already lengthy sittings. You unlock the ability about mid-tier, when you’re coming to the second to last level of citizenship. It requires a lot of credits to research, and a lot of time to really efficiently use it – so it’ll keep you busy if your friends are lagging behind or doing their own thing. There are of course civilian and military submersibles.

Combat was never great, but at least it’s now good

Although it’s possible, I don’t know anyone who’s completed a game of Anno under the philosophy that blowing up your opponent is the way. Combat was never integral to Anno, with many options for diplomacy (they’re usually only quick-fire ways to appease, such as payments or accepting missions or alliances). Historically, combat in Anno has been flat out bad, but that’s okay, because it was never about the combat.

The team have striven to bring us better combat, though, and it’s payed off. With a plethora of air, sea and land units, the combat is much more strategic and planned. You need to produce your own ammo, which can even use nuclear materials (taken from nuclear power plants, hello Iran!) Building an army is very, very costly, and very time consuming. Its most obvious use is to convoy trade routes towards the end of the game, as the enemy encroaches on your land – remember, there’s only so much island in Anno.

Building an air-port is great fun. They can house a number of air-combat units which can be equipped with different ammo. They require fuel to run, though, and a lot of it. In fact I’d go so far as to say that combat isn’t something you should be looking into if you’re not a very wealth, very stable economy. It is possible to focus more on defenses.

As well as that, there’s the ability to create addons for your ships and faction, which can boost production or lessen environmental factors. These addons take a lot of time and money to research, but some of the effects are well worth having – particularly if you’re looking into nuclear power, which is a huge albeit very risky boost.

Campaign and World Events

Anno 2070 features a proper, full campaign. It isn’t merely a tutorial such as prior games. It has you following a story as an up and coming drone in a business empire, tasked with fixing issues and following orders, getting constantly screwed over by the up-above’s. Eventually, your triumphs are recognised and your boss is sacked, leaving you with the freedom to take over the business empire and go forth on your mission. The campaign features scripted events, and does a much better job at offering story incentives to tasks than any of the previous games. It does suffer from the same problem as 1404, though, in that if you play the free-build mode and then the campaign, you’ll probably not bother with the campaign, having already learnt exactly how to get ahead in Anno. Because of this, and especially if you’re new to Anno, take to the campaign first as I promise you it’s worthwhile. You can get Uplay points and unlockables for completing it, too.

Second to that, World Events affect the world directly. They are as follows:

  • First event: Neo Skullz Pirates – players answer the World Council’s call to war against the pirates who threaten humanity with nuclear missiles.
  • Second event: Project Eden – players help the Eden Initiative activate “Former” technologies, which are high-performance air and water filtration systems, to fight pollution on islands.
  • Third event: Global Distrust – players help the Global Trust to prevent a global recession by expanding trades and decrease taxes to attract more inhabitants.
  • Fourth event: The Nordamark Conflict – players need to mediate a confrontation between Global Trust and Eden Initiative in a region called Nordamark with diplomats and a nuclear submarine, Orca.

Aside from these events, there are NPC missions granted throughout the campaign and free-build game modes in which friends can content with one and other to accept and complete.

Worth a substantial amount of time?

Without a doubt. You’ll likely never see a game like Anno 2070 again. In this world of increasingly casual games, especially from publisher Ubisoft, it’s hard to imagine the franchise holding up much longer without considerable changes. And whilst 2070 loses some of the charm from becoming a grotesque future vision from a quaint and idyllic historic adventure, it hasn’t lost any of the depth. It’s still a bitch to keep up production and trade routes, and it’s still immensely entertaining to watch it grow. The improvements introduced to 2070 are all positive, with really nothing to criticize regarding past installments.

I’m finding it very difficult to be critical of 2070, since what it sets out to do it does almost perfectly. One could say things like “it needs to do more to appeal to gamers who new to the series” but, really? Anno is what it is, and it’s stayed true to that formula. In this case, I choose to adamantly respect that integrity, and not hope for too many changes to broaden the demographic. Anno 2070 really isn’t too complex for the average gamer, it just requires some attention – and whilst you might think it’s for a niche audience, I genuinely believe that anyone who considers PC gaming to be their main platform will fall in love with Anno 2070.