Review: Anno 2070

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The Anno series made a name for itself with supply-chain-based building and beautiful historical cityscapes. 2070 took things in a new direction, at least aesthetically, setting your constructions in the near-ish future. Global warming has settled the debate over itself by flooding the entire planet, and you are tasked with helping humanity resettle on the few habitable islands left. It’s an unusually somber game that manages both a striking beauty and extremely satisfying building.

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Unlike your SimCities or Tropicos where money is your limiting factor, Anno 2070 challenges you to provide goods to your citizens to both build with and subsist off of. Every building requires building materials like concrete, steel, and tools before it can pop into existence. Your citizens likewise need quotas of food, beverage, luxury, and entertainment to expand their numbers. There is money, paid as taxes by your citizens and used as upkeep for your industries, but it’s generally an afterthought once your initial settlement is built. Your main concern will be building supply chains in the right proportions to keep your cities growing.

The result of this balance is that you’re building two kinds of settlements in parallel, residences and industries. The catch is that you’re doing this on limited island space, and your industries can have dire effects on their surroundings. Islands have an eco-balance rating that can boost happiness and production if positive, and tank your agriculture and cause disasters if negative. Each island also has its own particular resources, so you’ll almost never get by building on one island. There’s a robust convoy and trading system for you to automate deliveries with, as well as fleets of charming ships to build and explore with. Get far enough in and you get submarines and the ability to build underwater industries, too.

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There’s a 12-mission story mode that serves as an extended tutorial for the game, along with another dozen scenarios, an infinite mode, rotating event missions, and multiplayer modes. For each of these you can choose one of two factions to start as, the filthy capitalist Global Trust or the crunchy hippy Eden Initiative. Both have very different needs and industries to fulfil them, which lead to very different play styles and looks to your cities. Late game progression unlocks a third faction of scientists to grow in parallel, and very late game you can even unlock the opposing faction to build as. You get an enormous amount of freedom in how you build, trade, and expand, which helps keep each map interesting as you progress.

On top of the faction and building options, there are NPCs to trade with, missions to complete for bonuses, upgrades to research, and military options to explore. It’s a huge game with a lot to like, but not without a few stumbles. The aforementioned military options are actually pretty awkward and unfun to use, leaving conquest as the last option you want to explore. Research produces random results so it can take far too long to get the upgrades you want. Beyond the mechanics, the story and voice acting elements are half-assed at best and add very little to the experience. And there’s also the specter of uPlay’s always-on DRM, which gave me no trouble in the 70+ hours I spent here but is certainly a dealbreaker for some.

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Aside from uPlay these are really minor quibbles about an otherwise spectacular game, though. The look and feel of Anno 2070 is second to none, with intensely-detailed buildings and landscapes that produce some of the most picturesque creations of any city builder. The challenges of aligning production chains is never too great but are still extremely gratifying to overcome. Spending a dozen hours on a single random map is not out of the question, resulting in a breathtaking sprawl of future cities, industrial hellscapes, and ecological paradises. Anno 2070 is easily one of the most engaging builders I’ve played, and its few faults are hardly enough to keep me from sinking dozens upon dozens of hours in it.

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