Anno 2205 is the latest iteration on the series from developer Blue Byte and after eleventy hours with it, I’m still not sure if I like it.
The base of the Anno series rests on an interconnected simulation of a burgeoning outpost in the titular year. Until the previous title, Anno 2070, all of the games were set in historic periods ranging from the 15th to 18th century. While Anno 2070 speculated we may start building things underwater, Anno 2205 pushes it a step further with a permanent presence on The Moon becoming an important part of your company’s progression.
For reasons that are not explained you are given the reins of a brand new company, the support of a number of advisors and trading partners, and tasked with establishing a profitable business. To do this, you build residential accomodation to attract a working population. That working population can then work on farms to feed your people, or provide raw product for factories to turn into more building supplies, or generate power to keep all the lights on and machines humming.
You needn’t pay these workers, just feed them, clothe them and provide them with increasingly exotic and difficult to manufacture luxury goods. Residents in your arctic zone would quite like fruit juice, for instance, in exchange for better educated workers moving in. That means people back in your temperate zone will need to grow fruit, throw it into a juice processing plant and then ship cartons of juice to your thirsty snowmen.
In previous Anno titles you had this interplay between settlements on different islands, with specially constructed ships carrying goods from one location to another as needed. Anno 2205 takes this in a slightly different direction, with all the warehouses on one map sharing resources automatically and the player tasked with designating shipping routes between different zones.
Unlike past Anno games, you build across multiple maps, swapping freely between the ones you have unlocked, with farming, mining and other activities continuing to run at the other locations while you focus on another. No more building up a sweet city and then having to abandon it and start over on the next map! This also means you can set up a stable community in one location and have it feed supplies and use the profits to build up a new location.
It also means that if you get it wrong in one location, running up a massive deficit, you’re also crippling your other regions. The lower difficulty levels have a “no bankruptcy” condition, meaning the player will always get bailed out, but even if you manage to dig yourself out of the hole you’ll be paying off the loans practically forever.
And it’s very easy to fall into the trap. Prices for shipping goods between zones are done in bands, so it’s the same price to ship 1 of an item as it is 10, and the same for 140 or 150. 151, though, will cost you a truckload more. If you’re not paying attention to the cost of your various routes it is shockingly easy to pay a lot more than you’re gaining.
That’s also where the interconnected nature of Anno comes into its own. Shipping fruit juice to the arctic to make those guys happy may not seem worth the up front costs. But what it can allow is higher skilled workers in the arctic who can turn metals into superstrong alloys, which can then be used to improve your spaceports or build bridges to new areas. Or open up heavy water production, to allow for fusion reactors once your Moon base is producing the Helium3 required after you send the freaky green algae needles up from Earth to make your moon men happy…
They’ve also taken another tilt at including combat and it is, again, easily the least interesting part of the game. In keeping with the rest of the game, all the combat takes place on a separate map. While you’re completing whatever mission you’ve been given the rest of your economy continues ticking along. Don’t start a fight if your budget is in the red. Fix the budget, then fight. Trust me.
All combat missions are naval engagements, with the player having a set number of upgradeable-with-credits ships to tackle the enemy. Fuel can be collected from destroyed ships and spent on repairs at any time during the mission.
For those fights that are a little more challenging there’s three kinds of powerup available to collect. The nuclear missile does what you’d expect, easily wrecking all but the toughest of ships. The support ship power summons three submersibles from the depths that can do some of the fighting for you, or at least serve as an excellent distraction. And the EMP blast does a bit of damage and (mostly) disables any enemies in the blast radius. All three can be spammed and all three are plentiful.
The only real challenge on the combat maps come from the optional side missions and even then, only the time limited “find the liferaft” quests. Any side missions can be picked up from the start and there’s no penalty for failing, only bonuses for succeeding. Most simply require a certain number of kills, which you’ll achieve easily. Finding the liferaft can be hard, as they’re tiny and often off the beaten path.
The game does heavily nudge you towards completing the combat missions, as you’ll collect resources you can use to upgrade your factories out in the “real” game. Completing side missions for competing companies in non-combat roles can also net you these resources, along with great big bundles of credits.
There’s other systems layered atop the basics, like a stockmarket, trading commodities with other companies and freelancers, and even voting in some kind of UN-like organisation. You can ignore a lot of that (joining the stockmarket seems entirely optional?) and steadily build your profitability. Or you can dive headlong into everything, riding the knife edge of disaster from one moment to the next. The difficulty level of the game can be finely tuned in either direction, so it’s entirely up to the player whether they want a laidback, fairly carefree experience or the brutal punishment of a dastardly sim.
Like most city builders, Anno 2205 can suck up a really surprising amount of time. Just one more carefully provisioned trade route before bed and it’s 3AM yet again…