That’s no moon…
The builder genre has seen a bit of resurgence lately, from the failures of the Sim City reboot to the universally acclaimed Cities Skylines. Ubisoft’s Blue Byte studio, however, has been steadily plugging away at the genre for over a decade now with its The Settlers and Anno series. With Anno 2205 it is setting its sights quite high to take players on a trip to the moon.
Like many other builder titles, Anno 2205 is largely mouse oriented, and while it does have some keyboard shortcuts, most actions will come from the relatively sleek mouse interface. It’s quite easy and intuitive to select buildings and create roads, as well as destroy or copy them for mass placement.
Some actions, like rotating buildings are not explained and stuck on odd key bindings. The UI could also use some work, as when we needed to upgrade a particular factory type on a huge crowded map it was a little tough to locate.
Futurism is a clear influence on the buildings you will be crafting in the game. Everything is sleek, stylish and would fit well in a science-fiction movie. Roads start out traveled by modern vehicles, but as you upgrade they’re soon accompanied by the type of flying cars imagined in the 1950s. These don’t affect anything but are a nice visual flair to make the city seem alive. Performance can take a hit in some of the bigger cities and battle scenarios, but the settings are nicely scalable.
There’s not much to write home about of the game’s audio qualities. Anno 2205 doesn’t feature much music, which adds to an air of calm about the whole experience. In true sci-fi fashion, there’s a handful of satisfying bleeps and bloops to fit the mood as far as sound effects go.
While there is not a ton of story, it’s mostly acted well, if a bit hammy. The villain (Drake) in particular, a leader of a rebellious moon faction, feels like he could be at home in Command & Conquer.
As a genre, building games can be fairly complex and intimidating. Conversely, Anno 2205 is actually a fairly good introductory course. The game starts off charging players to build up their corporation’s newly owned temperate land mass enough to have the technology and funds to build a route to the moon, which in this scenario is going to be the cure for humanity’s energy woes.
Things start simple enough, with just putting down a few homes and the basic factories that will provide residents with their needs, as well as ensuring roads, power and transportation quotas are met to ensure optimal efficiency. Once you build the first part of your lunar shipping station, however, in comes the real-time strategy battles.
Battles are held in separate conflict zones so your buildings aren’t in any danger. Unfortunately, the RTS elements in Anno 2205 are kind of terrible. It’s incredibly basic, with little actual strategy involved, and often feels too dependent on picking up power ups. There are only a few maps and a handful of scenarios with upgraded difficulty as you progress.
While these battles often offer some rare materials as rewards, we found we usually had more than enough to make engaging enticing. Thankfully, if they aren’t to your liking, most battles can be skipped by simply advancing in the building mode far enough.
Before making it to the moon, however, you’ll actually make a pit stop to annex a section of the Arctic. In the frozen north you’ll find some different resources to exploit, as well as new mechanic involving heat.
Since the scientists you’re recruiting don’t want to starve to death, you’ll need to provide sources of warmth, which in this case are your factories. This provides a nice little tweak on your city planning in which you need to consider where you place everything a bit more than in the temperate zone.
Soon your citizens will be looking to move up the social ladder, and to do so their more advanced needs have to be met (which means you get more money). At first these needs will only come from the original zones, but eventually you’ll find the arctic can’t get much fresh food, and temperate climates might need certain ores only mined in the North Pole.
As such, supply routes will be established. A worker might want just some vitamin C, but an investor wants an android butler. So the game enters a careful pattern of expanding your resident houses with expanding your factories to meet everyone’s needs.
Eventually a moon base is established, and here there’s another slight tweak, with you needing to set up shield generators to prevent meteors from puncturing your lunar staff’s homes. Soon, you’ll end up bouncing around trying to keep everyone happy.
Anno 2205 is fairly structured for a builder game, with your direct goals always laid out in front of you. This structure helps players with casual interest in the genre, but it doesn’t really hold up to repeat playing.
There are, for instance, rival corporations, but they don’t seem to do much other than level up which makes buying them out slightly more expensive. Harder difficulty settings exist as well, but they offer fairly similar challenges, with perhaps more demand for taking over rival areas because you’re likely to run out of room on your initial settlements.
Anno 2205 offers a unique take on the genre, and one that is very friendly to newcomers. Its relaxed paced and structured campaign will appeal to many, but more experienced veterans may find it confining. Either way, the first time through will still offer a meaty, lengthy and enjoyable trip to the moon.