Good news. Mankind survives for at least another 190 years, but in 2205 we will have to turn to the moon to solve Earth's energy crisis...
It's exciting enough to keep us occupied for hours, but not in the same intense almost compulsive way as Cities: Skylines. There you have it, a neat summary of Anno 2205 right there at the beginning. Efficiency is of great importance even in these primitive times, but do read on if you care for some further details.
After many years looking back at history (and following a short trip to the year 2070), the Anno series has made the leap into the more distant future. Unlike Doc and Marty McFly, the developers at Blue Byte didn't settle on just 30 years. Instead they took aim at the year 2205, and a time where flying cars move a lot faster than 88 mph. It's also a time where colonisation of the moon has become a reality, and space travel is essential to the plot.
Your task is to participate in a race for the next phase of the colonisation of the moon. You form a company, and after a lot of planning you can finally sink your feet into the grey sand Neil Armstrong had first crack at some 236 years earlier. Not wearing slippers, mind you.
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In this sense the game's structure is reminiscent of the final phases in games like SimCity and Cities: Skylines, where the coolest, most expensive projects are massive structures such as an international airport or a hadron collider. In SimCity they're called "Great Works", whereas Cities: Skylines refers to them as "Monuments". In both games the great void is represented, via a Space Centre in SimCity and a Space Elevator in Cities: Skylines. Anno 2205 however, literally, takes this to new heights.
While great works and monuments traditionally are your last projects in the other games, the journey to the moon only represents the half-way point in Anno 2205. You must also establish a base there, build futuristic power plants and send power approx. 385,000 kilometres (on average - it varies depending on where the moon is in orbit around Earth) down to your starting point. It is the only way to solve the Earth's power crisis, at least that's what we're told during the introduction.
And that's about it. That's the framework for the game, plus there's a little interference from a group of alleged terrorists who call themselves Orbital Watch. They are very passionate about the Moon being free and independent, and for some reason the cheese in the sky is no longer free if you get to build your powerplants there. A classic astro political issue it would seem.
Gameplay wise, Anno 2205 is a mix of city builder and real-time strategy game. The majority of the time is spent building your company's bases. Your corporation quickly becomes so large that the bases in reality make up cities. You need housing for employees, while simultaneously collecting the resources required for the lunar project's different phases. Additionally, buildings need electricity, logistics must be put in place, safety must be ensured, while food and services must be provided for your ever-growing staff.
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We were enjoying ourselves. It was fun to see the futuristic buildings grow taller, while flying cars soared elegantly in the air between them. The jump nearly 200 years ahead from the present gives the game a visual expression we've not seen in a city builder previously. It's well designed and stylish, at least as far as the buildings in the warm region is concerned. Your base in the Arctic region has a more primitive look and, to an extent, so does the moon base. Expanding to the icy north is still a necessity though, as some of the raw materials the lunar project requires can only be extracted from the land of polar bears and sea lions. In fact, the lunar project is so extensive that goods must be shipped across not only on Earth, but also between the Earth and the Moon, once you're up there.
Did we mention the game's RTS element? We won't go into much detail about this, as it's not all that interesting. It's basically a simple strategy game where you control a group of warships in areas that are, conveniently enough, located far away from your own bases. This is where the fight against the terrorists is happening, but it's hard to fully engage with this. Compared to a fully fledged RTS combat these naval battles are just too simple. They give you a decent break from the building, but we were glad to find out that most of them are completely optional.
The developers should have sticked to just the city building, which is where the fun in Anno 2205 lies. At least for the first few hours. While games like Cities: Skyline provide tremendous freedom, Anno 2205 is more locked to a certain pattern, and it gets a bit tedious after a while. You have to follow the set pattern, and establish basic services before you can proceed to the next phase. As long as you have enough buildings to house ordinary workers you can upgrade other houses to settlements for engineers and then executives. Having people with better education on the team is good, but at the same time these snobs have increasing demands. We're not talking about pension plans and training courses, but access to sophisticated goods for daily life. To increase and retain expertise in your company you must constantly introduce new products.
This is all well and good, if it hadn't been for the way Blue Byte has implemented the game mechanics. Or rather the mechanic. Singular. You end up doing the same over and over. Instead of introducing new game ideas further into the game, they just keep adding more of the same. The structure is always identical. You obtain raw materials, normally from the ocean or a mine in the mountains. Then you refine these materials into commodities in factories, before the final products are made in other factories. The more employees you have, the more factories are needed, and you need a massive crew to complete the lunar project. Constructing buildings on the moon is significantly more expensive than on Earth. Possibly this has something to do with low gravity and a lack of oxygen.
As people further up the hierarchy have higher demands, we are talking about an exponential growth throughout the game. It starts with power, water and rice, but before you know it you are also producing luxury steaks, vitamin drinks, medications and various creative sci-fi products. In the future all self-respecting people need "BioEnhancers" and "IntelliWear". We don't mind that, but why must the production of all these items follow the exact same structure? Where's the variation?
Once you've learned how things are done, the main challenge is simply keeping track of everything that's in production. At the same time you must keep an eye on your economy, but luckily money problems are rare on normal difficulty.
Anyway. Our company, MegaDoucheCorp, ran well for quite a while, but then we grew tired of our role as CEO. We didn't really have to think anymore. It was more or less like following and completing a list of chores, only to start over again from the top of the list the second we were done. More rice. More water. More everything! And don't forget all the stuff the new guys apparently can't live without or get on their own. Upon completing the lunar project we had ten or twelve production lines going, with at least two points in the supply line each. Our work had become just that, work. We didn't have as much fun, and we began to mismanage the company. Previously we'd done everything possible to please everyone. Now we only did what was necessary to finalise the lunar project. We had turned into a cynical boss, who only had eyes for the power plants on the moon. We simply refused to stop until we had secured clean and infinite power for the people we no longer cared about. What a paradox.
Once the power plants are in place on the moon, you get to continue building your bases, with the construction of a massive corporate HQ as your main goal. Apparently a really tall building on Earth is still the coolest thing ever in 2205, even when there are people actually living on the Moon. Either way, the HQ requires more employees with even more demanding needs, which leads to even more production. Needless to say, we never got a HQ.
So, to summarise: Anno 2205 can be compared to this review. Positive in the beginning, in the end not so glowing. Anno 2205 is absolutely enjoyable, but it's missing something, an element of complexity besides repetition of the same mechanics and systems. We did have a lot of fun up until the point where exhaustion got the better of us. In fact, we aim to start over again from the beginning, once we've caught our second wind. Perhaps with some improved strategic thinking we can become the boss our employees deserve.
7 / 10
Great concept, Aesthetically pleasing, Lots of fun until you lose interest.
Uninspired RTS component, Recycled mechanics you'll grow weary of over time.