Ubisoft’s Anno series is a longtime staple in the city building genre, though it sometimes gets overshadowed by more mainstream titles like the now-infamous SimCity. Despite this, the series has released consistently entertaining titles for the PC market and is now looking to broaden their appeal to a larger audience with the introduction of a free-to-play MMORPG edition of the game called Anno Online.
Capable of being played on low end computers and with an easy-going interface, the game is certainly casting a large net of appeal in the hopes of bringing in a wide array of different players. That said, does it retain the classic in-depth Anno management fans have come to expect? Read on to find out.
Developed by DÃ¼sseldorf-based Ubisoft Blue Byte, Anno Online brings gamers into the fold by holding their hand during the first few levels. The typical beginning introduction will guide players on both what structures to build and where to build them. While it makes for a slow beginning, gaining a solid foundation to the game is a requirement for being a successful leader over the island towns the player is yet to develop into bristling-with-life cities.
There’s no Rush in Anno Online, so gamers can play as frequently or sporadically as they desire. Though the game itself will run 24/7 in terms of structures being built and events — dangerous occurrences like war or disaster have also been disabled in the game, meaning Ubisoft has focused entirely on a peaceful city-builder this time around. This also has the added benefit of allowing players to focus more seriously on the micro-management of their cities, which is an element which will separate the men from the boys in terms of economic functionality, trades and city growth.
The in-browser visuals are a pleasant use of 2D sprites from a near top-down display, and as the cities grow players will be able to watch citizens of different castes make their way across the roads as business proceeds as usual. It’s certainly not Anno 2070 level visuals, but those who still play games like Caesar or Pharaoh will instantly recognize the style of art the developers went for. It’s satisfying to watch structures improve and develop as their increasing needs are met, and sometimes just sitting and watching a city is entertainment in itself.
Trading is an integral part of the game, as specialized infrastructures will allow some islands to barter off produce en mass to those less fortunate. Customizable ships from other players will arrive at local docks with products that one has requested to traded to them through a messaging system, and it’s a feature that really makes Anno Online unique among the series other installments. Having friends in high places can lead to plenty of important bonuses and the financial boost from trading items allows players to make purchases at a faster rate; preventing the game from slowing down too much. Players can also assist their neighbors in the development of large structures, making the social element to the game even more important.
Anno Online does a great job at keeping the general flow of the game simple enough to attract a wide range of users (from hardcore fans to casual gamers), with more in-depth management options available for those who want to be heavily involved in all aspects of their city. A relatively fast stream of in-game quests keep the game going at a fast pace and consistently rewards players for their activity, which helps gamers feel like they’re actively accomplishing something. There’s always the option to utilize micro-transactions and have buildings be built immediately, but there’s no significant advantage to doing so – time is the only difference between those who will use the game for free and those who will make purchases.
Slated for an open beta later this year, gamers will have a chance to test out the game themselves before the official launch. Anything built pre-launch won’t actually be reset during the official release, so there’s not much reasoning against playing the game! Fans of city simulators should certainly check the game out – Anno Online is looking sharp and will provide plenty of browser-based fun. We’ll keep you posted when more official news is released.
Anno Online is set to go into open beta at some point this year. What do you think, Ranters? Are you interested in building a city, or would you prefer a retail title?
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