April 2019 saw the release of Anno 1800, the seventh addition to the Anno series.

Quickly, this title picked up positive reviews and actually became the fastest-selling Anno game ever released. While the PC RTS rarely sees the love and hype that it used to, Anno 1800 seems to have curved this slump of interest, attracting buzz from both across the gaming industry and with more laid-back gamers alike. 

Given all this, as fans of the top-down strategy simulator, you can imagine we at FinalBoss were eager to get our hands on this title. So, why are we releasing this look at the game so long after release then?

You’ll have to keep reading and find out. Sizzle. 

What Is Anno 1800? 

Anno 1800 is a top-down real-time strategy simulator game, based around the concept of gathering resources that allow you to grow your civilization. First brought to us in 1998 by developers Max Design, the Anno franchise has been going strong for over twenty years.

The games have never really broken away from the original concepts, maintaining a familiarity spanning two decades. Yet, new titles always bring something different as well, expanding on the series with each passing edition. 

The ultimate goal of Anno 1800, as it always is with Anno games, is the domination of an in-game world, done so by expanding your reach across the game’s map through the construction and development of cities, trade routes, naval forces and military.

While combat is involved in Anno 1800, it is not the primary objective, unlike in many other top-down RTS. Instead, the focus is on the construction and development of cities. Combat can be a means to an end in achieving this, but Anno 1800 really does mimic real-world civilization progress when it comes to gameplay, with much more successful strategies being based around the gathering and effective use of resources, as well as diplomacy and evolution of the economy.

The game itself is set during the 19th century and focuses on the Industrial Revolution. Because of this, the design and aesthetics all revolve around the Victorian Era, with gameplay primarily drawing upon the idea of factory/industrial development. You achieve this through the attraction of workers and labourers. Think massive smoking chimneys, dirty-faced street urchins and big-money fat cats. 

What Gameplay Modes Does Anno 1800 Have?

Anno 1800 is all about competitive strategy play, which means all the game modes revolve around cultivating a world that breeds success. When it comes to Anno 1800 features, you have three ways to play:

– Campaign – This is a story mode that guides you through a series of challenges and narratives. The objective is to complete goals and reach the end of the campaign, similar to any other game really.

– Sandbox – Sandbox is an offline mode similar to the campaign, but instead, you set your own parameters. You define your objectives, you decide how difficult you want to make progression, and then you build your world and civilization in a way that allows you to complete those objectives. 

– Multiplayer – The multiplayer feature is similar to Sandbox, except it can be inhabited by other human players. The goals vary depending on your play style. You may opt to work to play together to dominate the world and achieve success in defeating AI opponents, or you may face of against each other, to see who can create the ultimate empire.

What We Liked About Anno 1800: Gameplay & Mechanics

Anno 1800 is a very in-depth game, featuring a staggering range of different gameplay elements and mechanics. It really is a title that you can tell has been developed over many years, evolving and growing as a result of previous games. Because of this, we aren’t going to discuss every single feature of Anno 1800, or we’d be here all day. Instead, we’re breaking down our favourite inclusions:

The Campaign & Story

The games very beginning sets an immediate bleak tone, your father has passed away and has been accused of committing treason against the crown. Thus, all of your vast inheritance has been snatched up by your loving bastard uncle. Your sister, on the other hand, has managed to keep some funds in check and thus begins your journey. You join her on a journey to build a new society from the ground up, all while trying to find out more details on your father’s ‘supposed’ traitorous actions and ultimately clear his once good name. The story basically gives you a reason to be set up with absolutely nothing, and introduces immediate challenges and hardships, which serves the game rather well.

Festivals

A happy population can organise festivals, which last for around 30 minutes and will usually have powerful island-wide effects. It’s not an easy feat for your population to reach the happiness level needed to kick off these festivals though, and it certainly gets harder in the later stages of the game. As the needs of your people grow with each advancement in technology, it becomes almost impossible to hold these gatherings. They’re a fun addition to the game, so relish in your early festivals as you may not see another one for a while; not without some clever planning, at least.

Your Quest Book

The quest book offers story quests, as well as side missions – quests from other rulers and the people of your society. Some of these are story-driven quests, which you’ll need to complete to progress, others can be as simple as a member of your population wanting you to help find the lost pigs. The later quest types yield small rewards, such as resources or equipment for the town hall or dock, etc. The quest book is a nice little feature that helps you not only keep track of everything, but also backs it up with a narrative for people who enjoy the roleplaying aspects of games like Anno 1800.

Expeditions and the Risk/Reward Mechanic

Expeditions are a gameplay feature that allows you to settle a new region – often progressing the story, as well as offering up some unique and rare rewards. When an expedition becomes available, you get a friendly reminder from the good old captain ‘something or other‘ that chats to you like a paperclip in on a 90s word processor.

The messages from the captain presents you with a few different scenarios that features a risk/reward mechanic. In order to get the best loot, you’ll need to invest more in the expedition – that’ll usually require better ships, higher classes of personnel and more provisions for the journey.

Once you’ve assigned a ship and crew, the scenarios play out like one of those old text interface games, where you make a choice, your expedition takes that path and so on and so forth.

It really adds a nice interactive element to help break up the game.

Naval Pirate Battles & Conquering Ports

You’ll spend a lot of time on strategy and resource gathering in Anno 1800, which means the naval battles provide a welcome reprieve at times. There isn’t a whole lot to them, but they’re still fun. The video below shows our navy in action:

Pillaging Pirates

In the campaign, you’ll face a number of different challenging scenarios. One of our favourites here at FinalBoss was the pirates that operate in each location across your adventures.

The first of which is Anne Harlow. Bright-eyed and new to the game of piracy, Anne doesn’t really present much of a problem, that is until you start building up your empire and progressing through the story. Eventually, she becomes a bit more of a threat, clearly taking some lessons at the school of hard piracy.

Once the game time deems you a competent ruler – which essentially happens after you manage not to go bankrupt for a while – the pirates become more and more prevalent. Whether that be attacking your supply ships, showing up at just the right moment to derail one of your side quests or just being a constant nuisance, the time will come where you have to deal with them one way or another.

I decided to go gung-ho and attack Annes main harbour/port. Yes, a more diplomatic approach may have been to seek a treaty, but the direct method seemed easier and far more fun.

As you can see in the video above, Anne tries to offer a sum of sweet sweet money to stem the attack on her base. Anno 1800 basically keeps throwing you different options, allowing you to develop a very unique world.

I opted to ignore the plea, as my goal remove pirates from the map. The outcome was somewhat surprising. As Anno 1800 is a game all about ruling and conquering new lands, I expected to take Anne’s port, claim it for my own and set up a new base. Instead, the end result was somewhat different. Anne scampers off, claiming she’ll be back at some stage. The harbour/port then becomes an area that you can’t settle, leaving the pirate island sticking out like a saw thumb. A rather disappointing end to this section of the game; a game where decisions like this are supposed to have lasting consequences.

While it isn’t a perfect mechanic, the way in which the feature dynamically changes based on your style of play is at least interesting. It’s a nice touch, and really adds to the difficulty curve.

What Didn’t We Like About Anno 1800? There Is a Problem With Your Working Population

As your empire grows you’ll need more and more resources such as coal, iron, fish, grain etc. Once you’ve built the required structure that enables you to mine, catch or grow said resource, you’ll need workers or farmers to harvest that resource.

What Anno 1800 doesn’t do a particularly good job of, especially for a newcomer to the series like myself, is explain how this system works.

Here’s an example:

If you build a lumberjacks hut, this is a level one structure. That means you’ll need level one workers to operate out of the hut. But, if you’re upgrading your societies buildings with each phase of progression, you’ll discover a problem. Most of my housing become level two or three, which meant my workers coming out of this housing also became higher levels. The result was I had no low-level people to work the lower level buildings. This stumped me for a long time before I figured it out.

It’s not a massive issue once you know about it, but it’s never explained. It really slowed progression down until I came to grips with this mechanic. It’s fine to be within the game, but clear instructions are a must for something so significant to developing your civilisation.

Does Anno 1800 Bring Anything New to the Series?

Fans of the series will argue that Anno 1800 is actually a more stripped back version of the series. The developers seemed to have taken what players loved about the other games and cut away the fat, leaving behind a trim and lean beast that is, in many ways, much more attractive. However, the back-to-basics of Anno 1800 doesn’t mean there is nothing new here. In fact, the title comes with a variety of exciting new additions. 

The biggest new feature of this game is Blueprint. Blueprint allows you to basically pre-planned your city ahead of time, something that is incredibly useful in a city-building game. You can effectively map out where buildings go without using resources to build them first, and instead opting to have them constructed when you are ready. Blueprint really helps you strategise development and optimise space. 

We also have the city attractiveness system. Your city is defined by a series of different factors that influence attractiveness. The more attractive your city, the more income you can earn from tourism, supporting a successful campaign. 

Should You Buy Anno 1800? Our Honest Thoughts

Anno 1800 is widely regarded as an improvement on many of its predecessors. While we haven’t had much experience with previous titles, we do definitely recommend this one. The reason we’ve taken so long to write this review is because there simply is so much of this game to explore and enjoy. It’s a very immersive experience that easily soaks up hours of time in the best possible way. For those who love to deep-dive into games, and want to absorb rich and dynamic titles that not only challenge you, but also envelop you in a different world, Anno 1800 is a must.   

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