Review: Anno 2205

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This is a review of the Ultimate edition, including all DLCs

For years now, the Anno games have been the go-to series for building your own merchant empire. They’re a unique mix of city-building and production management that elevate both through careful balance and a glorious layer of polish. The series was mainly anchored in the pre-industrial era where workshops and tall ships best suited the style of gameplay, but Anno 2070 took it into the future with high-tech manufacturing and ecological concerns. Now we have Anno 2205, an entry with unparalleled scope for the series, but one that feels the most out of place with its heritage.

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Mankind was brought to the brink in Anno 2070, but ecological catastrophe has given way to an era of corporate stewardship. Global corporations manage the resources and populations of Earth, and began to reach out to the moon and stars when a new catastrophe struck. Massive economic collapse left the lunar colonies abandoned but now the world is ready to return, and you are put in charge of an up-and-coming megacorp with eyes on the moon. By building a solid economic base across the regions of Earth and preparing the right resources, you can foster new lunar colonies to bring wealth and prosperity to all of humanity.

At least, that’s the pitch. The first thing that’s going to stick out about Anno 2205 is how unrelentingly… well, corporate it all is. The tutorial walks you through the steps of the Lunar Licensing Program, the process by which companies can gain access to the moon and begin harvesting its resources. You’ll need to set up company cities and industries in both the temperate and arctic regions of Earth, produce key goods to construct and upgrade your space elevator, and provide for your employees to gain access to more specialized labor. All of this is handled step-by-step by your licensing agent, who tells you in no uncertain terms what to build and when to build it at every juncture.

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Previous Anno titles had plenty of character in both the people you met and the cities you built. Anno 2205, despite being the best-looking and most detailed Anno yet, feels far more sterile and managed than those. You can zoom out from your soaring bird-eye view all the way down to individual sea lions on the ice pack or crates on the docks, but it’s all extremely clean-cut, modern, and glossy. A big part of this might be that there’s essentially no story outside of the Lunar Licensing Program, which is weird because there’s a lot going on in the background that’s kind of ignored in favor of your space checklist. The Orbital Watch is a group of lunar separatists who have a shocking amount of military hardware on Earth to harass you, but they just show up once in awhile in remote conflict zones or to blockade one of your ports. The other characters you meet are 100% business, concerned only with making deals and trading goods.

It may be a dry experience because of the corporate angle, but the global scope of the game gives you far more to do than the previous games ever did. Instead of scenarios, Anno 2205 plays out over the entire globe at once. There are more than a dozen maps to manage at once, each with its own islands, resources, and industries to steward. In previous Annos you had to manage shipping routes between islands on each map but here, you’ll need to set up transfer routes between different sectors entirely. Some resources are unique to the polar or lunar regions, so once you develop a new resource you’ll need to figure out where it needs to go, too. Balancing resources is easier this time, as the discreet resource counts have been abstracted into positive and negative sector balances to manage.

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In the end, a lot of what folks are used to seeing in an Anno game has been abstracted or expanded away in favor of a massive all-inclusive resource network. And it works, in that there’s a definite challenge to planning and arranging your industries to grow your company across the world. But it might not be what long-time fans are looking for, and it might be a bit jarring for newcomers as well. Some aspects of the game are poorly explained, like the importance of modules. Instead of building new farms or factories every time you need more of a resource, you add on to existing buildings with modules. The tutorial glosses over this in a single “hey maybe try modules” popup but they are absolutely essential to keeping your credit and power balances in check. Moving from the temperate to the arctic regions is also tough due to cost increases and different construction strategies, and the jump to the moon is even rougher. You likely won’t get to do much of anything on the moon when you first unlock it, instead needing to go back and massively expand your current holdings until you can afford the absurdly expensive moon stuff.

On the bright side, there are a ton of systems to explore that can help you reach these goals. Every sector has a project to complete that provides huge bonuses there, or in the case of the DLC Tundra sector bonuses to your entire corporation. The Orbit DLC grants you a powerful space station and associated tech tree that can have a massive impact on your production across the board. Then there’s the global market, the stock market, the conflict zones, the sector merchants, and side missions which all provide additional resources and gameplay. If you get into the groove of growing your company you’ll never be bored here, as there will always be more goals and more opportunities to look for. So many, in fact, that you might get a little lost trying to overcome some of the roadblocks that arise from the open-ended design.

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I can say with certainty that Anno 2205 isn’t as good of an Anno game as its predecessors, at least not as good as 1404 or 2070 for sure. The global corporation angle isn’t a bad idea but it leads to a very sterile-feeling game, and ends up being both over-simplified and broad enough to get lost in. The appeal here is a specific one, the appeal of growing a company into a globe-spanning powerhouse over a long period of time. And I do mean long, I’ve been playing for 18 hours and still haven’t finished the Lunar Licensing Program. I find it very engrossing and relaxing, laying out city expansions, designing my space station, blowing up lunar terrorists, and watching all the numbers fluctuate. It’s not the best city-builder or the best management game, but it’s another unique mix of the two that’s worth a try if you like the concept.

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