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October 12, 2009 | by  | in Games | [ssba]

Anno 1404

Anno 1404 is an interesting little wee game, and so far I’ve had a lot of fun playing it. It’s novel, it’s interesting, it’s incredibly well made, but it’s also very boring.

I’m usually a pretty big fan of the real-time strategy genre. Games like Civilization 4 have been the backbone of my gaming life. I nearly had as much fun micromanaging my city states in Medieval Total War 2 as I did battling rival armies. Actually, that’s a lie. I had way more fun massacring French peasant archers with my British Royal Knights. But raising taxes was always fun as well.

Anno 1404 is, funnily enough, set in the year 1404. You are a European nobleman tasked with setting up and managing various cities—making sure they grow, prosper and are able to produce and build variously different goods in order to complete quests set for you. There is a nice story element involving a rebellious cardinal trying to start a crusade, and naturally, you need to build cities everywhere to stop him.

The team behind Anno 1404 knows their stuff (the good folks at Blue Byte Software developed the iconic The Settlers series), and it shows. The graphics are awesome, the music is great and the game mechanics run smoothly. It’s actually pretty interesting creating large sprawling cities with millers, bakers, peasant houses and shipyards.

However, the game suffers from some serious flaws. Firstly, it has a pretty steep learning curve. Some elements of the game (such as zones of influence for warehouses) just aren’t explained very well, resulting in half of your industrial buildings sitting idle for no apparent reason. Secondly, this is a game played on a gargantuan scale. The maps are huge and are largely archipelagos. The length of time it takes to construct and then sail your ships around—to engage in warfare or trade—is frustrating. You can automate trade routes, which is nice, but that eventually removes most of the seafaring fun on offer. Because of these hurdles it takes you ages to finish a map in the game, which make it seem like you are doing a lot of work for very little reward. Which in my book results in the fast onset of boredom. Meh, maybe I’m lazy, or attuned to fast images and flashing lights like a gaming Pavlov’s dog. Whatevs, yo.

Anno 1404 is not a bad game. In fact it’s probably quite a good one. All the ingredients are there for you to put together. It just needs lots of time, lots of dedication and lots of patience. Things I don’t really have.



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