Anno 1701 PC Review

First task before installing the game was to free up enough space – a seemingly impossible task at the time. I remember when a game used to only take up 400mb at a push, but Anno 1701 takes up a sizeable 3.5gb. So this review has the aim of not just critiquing the (in no order) looks, sound, gameplay and lifespan of this game coupled with my personal opinion, but also has to state whether and why this game deserves 3.5gb of your HDD space, So let’s get started !!

First thing I have to do (obviously being a PC game) is install the thing. Do I have enough available space? Check! Specs fine? Check! I am running this game on a Pentium 4 3.00 GHz, with a GeForce 6600 256mb gfx card and 1 GB of DDR ram. So not brilliant, but it’s well above the recommended specifications. It is vital for me to mention this so when I state the settings I put the game on graphically you will have a fair idea of how it copes and maybe could cope on your machine.

Installation is fairly quick taking no more than 5 to 10 minutes for full install and initial first boot into the game. A brief intro plays and is interesting, but not necessarily integral to the plot of the game – more of a story setter. If you really need there to be a story, it doesn’t matter at all as to be honest the game is not story driven. After the intro I decide to go with the four step tutorial – I never normally do tutorials in games as they are often elongated and pompous piles of…. Anyway, the tutorial loads up a game world similar to that you inhabit in the main game (more on this later). The tutorial leads you through each command and instead of explaining away and moving on, it gives you an interactive hands-on approach which is very good and intuitive being brisk and enjoyable leading me to ask why can’t more strategy games implement such a friendly tutorial with optional skipping of sections or voiceover? It would make pc gaming so much easier.

After the tutorial finishes you are tasked with the option of going into a ‘Single Player’ or ‘Continuous Play’. Although they share different titles, continuous play really IS the core of the single player game as you continually try and establish new colonies and prosper as an empire maybe gaining your independence from the Queen. Continuous play allows you to set certain parameters that need to be fulfilled in order to progress and essentially how big the game world can be and degree of difficulty for victory.

So… Does it look Purdy?

The game running on medium settings (all effects turned on) had seemingly no difficulty on my graphics card. The game does indeed look awesome and manages to capture not just a lively but a beautiful world full of character and vigour. When you create your initial settlement and you see the people going to and fro with the market carts and watching the people dancing at the village centre or drinking the free beer on offer it really is a proud moment. The architecture on all the buildings, especially as they thrive from Pioneers through to Settlers, Citizens, Merchants and finally Aristocrats (after 6hrs 44mins playtime about 300 of 1200 of mine are merchants), change to suit the social class and it really does look good to see how your original colony changes from what is essentially shanty towns to fully civilised and pretty damn fine looking cities.

One of the finest points of the game is when you set up your trade routes and you see your boats sailing across the oceans. Whoever programmed and designed the water and the reflections of the water deserves a pay rise. It is wonderful to see the water cascading off the rocks of your shoreline whilst the tide drifts out and returns, but it is indeed a sight to behold when you see the shimmering water affects your ship (or should I say naval fleet?). When it is reflected in the water you can see a brilliant and realistic reflection in the water and though the characters and game art is stylised it has such an authentic and believable look about it making the game so much more engrossing. Everything (yes everything, even the people you cannot select) has its own shadow. Seeing a bird flying above your shanty town, first noticing its shadow then seeing the bird swooping though the sky, creates an admiration for the love that has gone into creating a wonderfully looking game. All this without a hint of slowdown on my admittedly not much of a beast PC is impressive. The only time it ever shows slowdown is the momentary pause when unpausing – the game which registers around 0.5 seconds… all in all a good job done!

But looks aren’t everything are they?

It would be a travesty if a game as good looking as this didn’t live up to the billing by being sluggish and obtrusive to play. Thankfully the designers put as much love into crafting a game that plays as beautifully as it looks. You have an unobtrusive menu bar in the bottom left corner of your screen that has access to everything you need from creating roads and ore mines to hunting lodges and trade routes. It’s all there easily accessed at the click of a button. Being a strategy game you can only really critique the game for its menu system, used predominantly throughout, and report on whether it is cumbersome or in any way unfriendly. I did have one problem thus far when playing the game and this was on getting my head around the way trade routes work. I couldn’t decipher how to unload the stock at one point and collect from another. This was however rectified when I finally went through the tutorial and learned everything in a hands-on and easy way that was easy to remember. I was also greatly helped by the in-depth and surprisingly thick instruction manual that has concise and informative tips on how to do everything in the game.

Another good idea was the way your civilisation evolves instead of you having to constantly upgrade your buildings or trades; they automatically upgraded depending on how the civilians take to living in your island – if you don’t provide enough food, water and religion and community for their needs they grow disgruntled and become distrusting of you to the point of causing riots and leaving your island for good. Tax them too much and they will respond accordingly, however tax them too little and you will be losing out on vital income which could add up to more trades which could contribute to your prospering empire. As your civilisation moves on you have to adapt and change offering new trades, researching new ideas, providing education and proper health services to prevent rats and plague and also tobacco and alcohol. If you’re not prepared to buy these or cannot create them on your islands you have to set off and discover new islands from where you can grow and import vital items to help your population flourish and prosper.

One of the memorable moments in the game for me was when I was attacked whilst on a trade route by the Pirates who make a big contribution to the game especially when you have a trade route dealing in expensive goods. Unluckily for the pirates they just weren’t strong enough for my fleet who sent them to the depths where they no doubt met Davey Jones and his cronies! There are a variety of races in the game and although it is not geographically dependent, (it merely throws each race/civilisation on random islands) it does capture the caricatures of the civilisations well. You have The Asians, The Aztecs, The Indians, Die Iroquois and the Pirates and you can bring these all up on the diplomacy menu at any time (as long as you have discovered their islands) and negotiate with them in different ways, be it Peace Treaties, Trade Agreements, Alliance Pacts, Tributes, or Declarations of War. I accidentally declared war on one of the other colonies and was attacked before I had even built my first army soldier garrison, therefore nearly losing a brewery before repelling the attacks and beating them into a retreat, this incited a panic on the other colony thus I was then able to create a peace treaty with them and gain their trust over time.

What I like about this game is that each decision you make business wise and how you respond to the colonies will affect the relationship you have with them. Do you demand money from the Asians until they are no longer pleased with your attitude and they then refuse to aide you anymore, or do you work towards creating a good bond between the two cultures and form an alliance that is both peaceful and good for trade? They may be dealing in different goods to what you can acquire or they may have access to certain items you cannot gain so building relations is what the game is all about coupled with choice and how your choices affect how you prosper. Actions have an impact on how successful you will become, but you have to take the right and considerate action to gain respect while also maintaining the relation between not just you and other colonies/empires, but your people also.

Graphics Blah, Looks Blah, Gameplay Blah… Does it sound alright then?

I normally like to play my own music in the background when playing this kind of game, but this is the first time in a long time I haven’t reached for iTunes after hearing the initial reel of voiceovers (granted some of the characters are very annoying when they talk and you wish they would shut the flip up), but you rarely hear from each of the game’s characters after the initial hello unless they want something or are praising you for something. So once every hour or so isn’t too bad and rarely do they repeat the same drivel, unless its praise for helping the free trader which can grate after the sixth time they have praised you. The sounds of your burgeoning colony hard at work, whether it’s creating wool, herding cattle, mining ore or clay or creating new buildings is done very well and in such a way that you don’t get bored of the sounds. It’s more like you appreciate it as a character of the game world and they don’t tend to annoy. The melodies and music of the game whilst good for building the mood are not very memorable which is good in a way as you won’t be bored of them – you just continue about your business as the music changes to suit the mood.

So your final impressions?

I am very pleased I was given the opportunity to play Anno 1701 – its been a while since I have sat down for so long engrossed in a PC game and I’m not regretting a minute of it. I would recommend this game to any RTS fan that is into Civ-Lite style games and I’m sure you would get a lot out of the experience of playing the game. It definitely is worth that 3.5 GB the game takes and I shall be going back to this frequently for a while. However if you don’t like working in the same game world continuously and want a new challenge such as world changes then swipe an extra mark from lifespan. As it stands though, it’s a quality and deep game with plenty to offer anyone.

AA very solid and enjoyable game. If you’re bored of ‘other’ civilisation games give it a try until the (hopefully) inevitable Anno 1702 comes out.

8.0 out of 10
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