Genre: Real-time Strategy
Well, I’m not sure whether the official name is ANNO 1404 or ANNO 1404: Dawn of Discovery. Either way, I still managed to get this game right after its release – sorry for being a fan for this series.
First look on this game, it seemed to be like other games in the series. However, when I got to try it, I was actually surprised by many new features along with improved familiar interface. It is, however, a bit difficult to learn if you are really new to this game.
ANNO 1404 (and all the ANNO game) require a lot of management and planning. You can’t just let the game run by. You will be forced to look at your market buildings every 20 minutes, check if your ships still sail on route, or even maintain the relationship between multiple factors – for you will need from them both trade lines and military assist. Forget all those quickly-end strategy games (Settlers, for example) because this game will take at least 20 hours of your time just to make one perfect colony. By perfect it means you have to rise till the highest point of civilization, defeat all your opponents (either peacefully or aggressively), and get respect from the Sultan who rules southern islands.
Totally addictive (for those who love this kind of game). You can either participate the long-run continuous play without any literal ending, or take a challenge in scenario mode. You can also play the story mode which gradually take you from the very beginning to the end of era. However, I’m going to talk about continuous play only – since most of the fun is there.
The continuous play, obviously, lets you play continuously. You can set your own goals here, although you can still play after your tasks are completed. Thus, it is pretty addictive. For those who seek easy-going play, you may set everything to easiest level – like, huge island, cheerful trade partners, starting with huge amount of gold, etc. Nevertheless, if you are one of those who demand more contributing play that requires more serious planning – choose the hardest difficulty! Set “corsairs” to maximum strength, start with little money in your vault. And by hardest difficulty, it’s freaking hard.
Unlike many other strategy games (except Settlers, again), you will have to gather almost every resources by yourself – either cultivate or purchase from other players. For example, if your people long for properties like carpets or books then you shall provide them what they want. However, there are no stuff like “mine here and get a book!” On the other hand, you will have to set up a paper mill – which has to be placed on the river, which will gather surrounding trees and turn them into paper. You will also need Indigo for printing, which can be farmed in southern region. Now you can either colonize one of the southern islands with capability of growing indigo, or you can just import it from some other places. Once you have both materials, the book maker will start making books in his building. Do you see how complicate this game is?
But that’s why it is so fun and addictive. You will have to plan very carefully. You have limited space on an island, plus that no island can grow every material. Usually, an island would be capable of farming three or four types of material (sometimes with extra slot which you can put seed in it and make the land capable of that certain material.) It means you have to set up on multiple islands in order to operate every productive facility.
And it surely takes a lot of money. Someone told me that it is nearly impossible to gain money in this game. They are all wrong. Money can be extremely easy to get if you have good flow and strong trade lines. Yep, trade lines. You will have to set up trading agreement with other players(computers) and let them do the money talk. Some region will give a very high price for certain goods. And if you can produce those goods, you will get rich in less than 10 minutes.
However, I feel that this game only aims for fans who already know how to play ANNO. Although the tutorial teaches you all the basic, you still need some advance techniques to take your city to the final era. And no, they didn't really teach you how to do that. So, I deduct 1 point.
Absolutely perfect. I don’t really want to use Settlers as my example this often, but since both of them are from the same developer, so, ANNO 1404 has different graphic style. Unlike Setters, ANNO provides you with more realistic graphic including the scale of people and buildings. Ships can be a bit funny but who cares? The game offers you beautifully rendered environment with every detail imaginable – from water refraction to vegetation transparency (if you have DirectX 10). It is simply amusing to just watch things go by in ANNO.
Especially, the ocean. Since ANNO 1701 which was released a while ago, ANNO’s ocean was always perfect. Waves, splash, track, everything in the water is perfect. Perfect! (I couldn’t come up with other word). Please have a look at more screenshots on http://www.gamespot.com and you’ll see what I meant.
The animations are also nicely captured (or programmed). Each building has its own repetitive loops of action when you zoom in. Still, moves look real and sound effect was amazing – like they get all the detail, squeezing sound in cider farm for example.
I’m not going to talk about shadow casting and lighting since you will be looking with bird-eye view. However, everything in this game casts shadow that looks perfect. Fast graphic card is highly recommended to play this game at maxed out setting.
Despite that nice environmental sound, background music can be pretty boring after times. This game doesn’t have many soundtracks. Soon you’ll find yourself listening to the same song over and over, though the BGM changes due to your location (northern-southern). There are songs that make you feel encouraged or enthusiastic. However, they can get you to sleep as well.
If you are a big fan of strategy game then you won’t get bored of this game. Maps are randomized every time you started a new game, which means you will always get different island in each play – both geographically and naturally. I got and island full of natural minerals like Brine and Iron in my first game. In my second game, they’re all gone and leaving me only 7 mines of raw iron (damn).
- Achievement system would make you play longer. Once you achieve something, Gems are given. Gems can be used to exchange extra in-game objects: colors; coat of arm; decorative buildings (not free); portraits; etc.
- The game sucks you in
- This game is difficult and very long. You might have problems trying to master everything or just to learn few basics. However, once you get it clear, it’s fun.
- Due to large map and a lot of details, loading takes VERY long time.