The city-builder is a genre that thrives on addictiveness. If you’re a fan, you may well know the level of satisfaction that comes from slowly building up a thriving metropolis from a bare patch of land. It’s like planting a small seed in your garden, and then, through lots of persistence and tender nurturing, watching it grow into a magnificent, majestic tree.
Anno 2205, the latest in Ubisoft Blue Byte’s city-building and economic simulation series, allows you to grow a very fine tree indeed.
As you may have guessed from the title, the game is set in the year 2205. Humans, having had exhausted most of the Earth’s resources, are now having to look to the moon as a lifeline. The player takes the role as the head of a new startup company, playing in the big league with the world’s largest businesses as they all try to set up shop on the moon. You will expand your cooperation to three main sectors—Temperate, Arctic, and Lunar—and attempt to maintain a steady workflow throughout all of them, persevering through problems of logistics management, energy shortages, and terrorists.
If the above talk of logistics and workflow management doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, then you would probably be better off staying away from Anno 2205. The economy balancing experience it offers is hardly groundbreaking enough to create any new diehard fans for the genre, but it’s still sure to provide existing city-sim enthusiasts hours upon hours of sleep-depriving fun.
Anno 2205 is the second in the series to bring the player into the future, the first being its immediate predecessor, Anno 2070. Before that, the series was predominantly concerned with the past, allowing players to develop towns in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Anno 2205 embraces its technologically-advanced setting, complete with hover cars that glide across the roads (2205 is a much more realistic target than Back to the Future’s 2015 prediction was) and monumental spaceports with elevators that extend right out of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The gameplay is all about building an economy through fulfilling a vast number of requirements, which are all mainly centred around making sure your employees are happy. You start off on terra firma in the peaceful Temperate zone, as in order to make the leap out into the cosmos, you must first have a sturdy foundation back home.
Your first task is constructing several residences to attract employees to come and work for you, manning the factories and transporting the goods. But your employees have needs, which start off as basic as food and water, but turn to much more extravagant demands as you progress. To provide these resources, you need to build more of the necessary factories—rice farms, sanitation plants, etc.—which you need to attain a larger workforce to operate. But some products cannot be made simply; they require the importing of other resources, all of which need their own factories, to be manufactured.
It is here where you then must set up a production chain, trying to achieve a positive output of all the goods by making sure you can supply a greater number of them than your workforce are consuming. To add to this, you must also make sure you are generating enough energy through the placement of power stations; otherwise, your productivity will be greatly reduced.
This juggling act is what lays at the heart of Anno 2205’s gameplay. The sheer amount of buildings you will find yourself having to fill the screen with can become very confusing. It’s an intricate cycle that demands quite a bit of strategy to get the balance just right and send your profit margins soaring through the skyline. Things become even more complex when you enter the other two regions, with each having their own environmental hazards to consider. The Arctic, for instance, requires all residences to be placed within a certain radius of a heat source. Failure to do this will result in workers who are too frozen to do anything. Later, on the moon, shield generators are essential so that your workers are protected from meteor showers.
This all may sound very overwhelming, especially to the uninitiated. Thankfully, Anno 2205 is welcoming to inexperienced players. The main tasks of the game are all divided and set out rather neatly into a series of missions, each with their own little list of objectives. These objectives are easily viewed from the interface, along with a few extra hints, so that you never stray too far off track. The way in which the game clearly enumerates each small chore will either be a relief or an annoyance, depending on how competent you are at the game. For the more seasoned player, this approach may seem a little too linear and straightforward, and they may well yearn for a sandbox mode where they are left to their own devices.
A sandbox mode of sorts does eventually come, however, as the game doesn’t technically have an end. Once the main story objectives are completed, it becomes up to you on how much you can further develop your infrastructure and how ridiculously rich you can become. The only limits are your own feelings of mental fatigue.
The game looks and sounds exquisite, enriched with an appealing amount of detail. Zooming all the way in on your civilization will show you every microscopic resident and futuristic transportation vehicle going about their work. The factories are fitted with similar meticulous features, and the buildings practically glisten in the pristine environments. The music is equally as impressive, boasting a rousing, triumphant soundtrack that emphasizes the player’s feeling of omnipotent power over their society.
Despite the lovely graphics, the primary focus of the game is not on making your town look as aesthetically pleasing as possible; there are no bonus points awarded for looking pretty. Sure, there is a small selection of ornaments in the form of parks, but in the end, these will just take up precious building space for your factories and offices. Any effort I initially put into making my city look neatly arranged was soon abandoned as I learned that in order to reach the game’s demands, I needed to cram as many residences, power stations, and factories into the land as physically possible. The results are bustling cities that can look very messy, but Anno 2205 isn’t concerned with being a city designer—your sole aim is to turn a profit.
An aspect of the gameplay that I found to be rather ingenious was the use of trading routes in the global market. You can set up transfer routes to deliver certain goods from one of your sectors to another that is unable to produce the item itself. Again, this adds yet another link in your production chain to keep in check, as all the routes have upkeep costs. You can also sell one of your overproduced goods to the global market for optimum revenue, the price of which are determined by how much they are traded by other players of the game. This mechanic adds an interesting real world element to the strategy, turning it into part stock-market simulator as well.
Unfortunately, for the world trading to work properly, it requires a connection to Uplay, which can sometimes be problematic. A few times during my playthrough, I was unable to access the world traders due to connectivity problems. On occasion, I had to quit the game and then relaunch for it to re-establish its link with the servers.
There is one major issue with the gameplay here, and that’s the real-time strategy segments, where you have to take control of a fleet of ships and proceed to mindlessly blow up anything that poses a threat to your money-making schemes. It turns out that an organization named the Orbital Watch aren’t too happy about your plans to set up base camp on the moon and will stop at nothing to see you fail. These battleship missions (or ‘Crisis Sectors,’ as the game calls them) don’t amount to a whole lot more than simply being a test of how rapidly you can right-click before getting bored.
Now, I should state that these missions aren’t compulsory, and in a lot of cases, where the Orbital Watch’s attacks are vital to the story, there are peaceful alternatives offered should you wish to overcome them without engaging in combat. You may find you need to complete them, however, as sometimes they are the most efficient way of obtaining rare materials.
There isn’t a whole lot of skill or strategy involved in controlling your fleet at all; you right-click and wait for your fleet to move to a mission point until you run into an enemy fleet. Then, you mash down on the mouse to bombard your opponents with missiles until their health bar depletes, then proceed and repeat.
While all this tedium is unfolding, you are politely threatened by the game’s stern-looking villain and leader of the Orbital Watch, Virgil Drake. He’s as paper-thin as they come, going for the cold, sophisticated Bond-villain look but without any of the devilish personality. I do realize, however, that fans of economy-building games probably don’t consider character depth at the forefront of their priorities, so I’ll let it slide.
The side quests suffer from similar monotony to the combat. The CEOs of your competing corporations can be found throughout all of the game’s locations, offering you extra materials and upgrades in return for helping them out with some bonus objectives. Once again, these mostly involve taking control of one of your ships and sending it around the map to pick up certain objects. Once again, it sucks. I wish more thought had gone into these vehicle missions so that I felt more compelled to complete them rather than roll my eyes at the very thought of ever having to do another one.
As for the main game, I felt that it was enjoyable enough. Even though I am not particularly versed in the genre, I found developing and maintaining my business between the three sectors both challenging and satisfying. I imagine that experts of the series will find themselves becoming fixated to their computer screens, continuing to maximize their credit balance long after the game’s three phases are over. As for me, my interest was starting to wane by about the 10-12 hour mark.
Anno 2205 offers players an addictive and rewarding experience, albeit one that is marred with some poorly designed side missions. After the main quests are completed, the game just becomes an endless challenge of perpetuating your wealth. The continuous cycle of increasing your population, optimizing production, and reaping the rewards can become overly repetitive after a while, and I found the game’s appeal to steadily diminish after the main goals were achieved.
This review is based on the PC version of the game.
Anno 2205 is a gorgeous looking economy builder with an impressive scale and scope. A few poor gameplay decisions tarnish the overall experience, but it will no doubt still have city-building devotees glued to their computer screens.