The Anno series of games has been a staple of PC gaming for quite a while now, a quirky and fun set of civilisation/city/trade and diplomacy style games. The last offering, Anno 1404 was well received by fans and critics alike, spawning a Venice add-on that enhanced the game and added more replay value than ever before, not to mention a pretty fun multiplayer mode as well.
Now it's the turn of Anno 2070, the latest in the series and a swift departure from the historical style that has been the steadfast direction Anno has sailed in for a long time. Anno 2070 drops the sails and Renaissance backdrop for something near-future and doesn't suffer at all for it.
It's 2070 and the world is on the brink of disaster unless something can be done about greedy corporations and our dwindling resources. This is where you, the player, come in. Working either with the Tycoons (Global Trust Corporation) or the Ecos (Eden Imitative) you must ensure some kind of future for mankind, either by managing our dwindling resources and waging war on your corporation's enemies. Or with Eden, find new alternative ways to help the planet.
Anno 2070 is still slightly tricky to get into, since it lacks a full blown tutorial, but with the help of your Arc's AI, you can get an idea of what works and what doesn't. If you have played an Anno game before, then most of this is going to be child's play since the majority of the setups and production trees work as previously in the other games. It's not too hard to make a functional small settlement from the beginning, the trick is making that settlement grow and have a positive impact on your environment.
New in 2070 are several features that you need to be aware of, one is the environmental impact that making a settlement/city/megacity/metropolis brings to the table. No longer can you just throw down building after building; no longer can you just hurl structures onto the map like they're candy. Nope, you have to watch for the impact that they have on your resources as well, since putting too many particular structures down will negatively impact the environment and cause problems with your fertilities and so on.
It is possible to create technology that can clean the air, water and restore the environmental balance. It's also possible to research technology and upgrades that allow you to make a safer/cleaner environment from the get go.
Then you have the meta-game that's layered alongside the main game, where you can vote in two councils and those votes carry weight through the whole Anno 2070 community, changing what support may be available from certain factions and what special upgrades can be purchased and so on. In essence these features make for a dynamic and evolving world as you play every game. Anno 2070 lets you play your way...from the expansive continuous game with random generated islands, where you can activate a number of options to your taste, to the structured campaign and special missions that change over time.
Anno 2070 also has expanded mission types, new smuggling options and an exploration of the ocean floor. A place where you can get new resources once you have gained the right tech, taking advantage of sea based transportation tubes and submarines.
War is possible as well; with a limited system for controlling your units and a simple enough unit roster that is expanded upon as research is undertaken. It's not the focus of the game though and is but one of the ways you can approach Anno 2070's play style. You may need a small military to defend for example, rather than take resources/islands by force.
The controls are fairly intuitive and it's not too complex to get to grips with.
One thing that is always grand about Anno games is the same thing I love about Settlers; it's the little attention to details that appears throughout the graphical style. Anno 2070 is a gorgeous looking game on full details and runs in a silky smooth manner. The futuristic leanings of the game's visuals are perfectly represented within both factions, with the Eco faction looking to curves and aesthetics and the Tycoons having a far more oppressive feel to their architecture.
The graphics themselves are excellent, the use of lighting and shadow, the use of special effects all feeds into the overall aesthetic of the game and creates a really solid set of visuals.
Once again the little details win out; Anno 2070 is packed with animations from top to bottom. The game brims with life and atmosphere from the smallest bird flying over the islands to the largest building and the people who live in it.
There's a decent level of physics going on here, things blow up nicely, and there are some great wave effects on the water and so on.
The diplomatic AI, the aggressive AI and the path-finding AI are all well designed and there don't seem to be too many problems with them. There are a few issues in the campaign now and then as certain areas are bottlenecks when you have a few more ships than normal. It's a standard kind of thing in these kinds of games, so we can forgive it.
The sound design for the game is solid; there are no issues here at all. The various in-game sounds are all played with no errors and there are no glitches in any of the audio.
The music is a great addition to Anno 2070. Each faction has its own thematic set of pieces that really brings them to life. The Ecos are far friendlier than the oppressive musical soundtracks of the Tycoons. This is perfectly created in the game's music and used to great effect in-game. Each event brings a new tune and there are some excellent pieces that have been created by the game's composer: Tilman Sillescu.
The voice work is decent enough, there are a few performances that could have been better, and overall though - it works for us.
The script is a bit clunky in places, but we've come to expect this from Anno overall. However again there are no major problems and faux-pas. So it does what it sets out to do.
Anno 2070 has a robust system, plenty of stats tracking, versus mode, cooperative mode and so on. You can set up the kind of game you want to play then invite some friends to help you manage the world of tomorrow, today (Ed. Futurama!) keeping pesky pirates, greedy corporations and other problems off your collective backs. Or you can play the odds and break agreements and side with AI players and so on. It's up to you. The multiplayer is fun, lag free for the most part and addictive.
Anno 2070 is a good step forwards for the series, it adds a nice new layer of gameplay to the already tried and tested formula, the new setting is excellent and the environmental side of the game works well and plays directly into the theme. If you love the Anno series or you're looking to get into it, then start with 2070. It's a good one.