If you've never played any of the Anno series, you might think it resembles either a city simulation (like Cities: Skylines) or 4X title (like Civilization). Instead, the Anno series is about colony building and managing resources, though there is some real-time strategy gameplay. It's a series that's been heavily steeped in history, with the previous games being Anno 1602, Anno 1503, Anno 1701, and Anno 1404. The last game, Anno 2070, shifted the game into the future for the first time, which was a big risk for developer Blue Byte. Luckily, it was a risk that worked out.
"The last Anno, the feedback we got from the fans was really positive. It made Anno 2070 the most successful game we ever made," explained Blue Byte International Product Manager Nils Ehlert. "That's why we decided 'Okay, let's stay in the future, but let's go even further.'"
The latest Anno game is Anno 2205, pushing the series 135 years further into future. It's definitely science-fiction, but Blue Byte is still trying to keep the game grounded in some sort of reality.
"It's the most sophisticated Anno game ever," said Ehlert. "We want Anno to be as believable as possible. That's always tricky with a future setting, making it grounded and not too sci-fi, but also allowing for those technology leaps that make it interesting."
Every Anno 2205 game begins in the spaceport, which is your colony hub. Everything will spiral out from your spaceport, with suspension bridges and dams connecting your multiple islands together. As you play the game, you'll gradually upgrade your spaceport. Each upgrade unlocks new islands and territories, including the moon. Yep, the moon is where the other half of Anno 2207 takes place. Part of upgrading your technology is building the rocket that will take your colonies into outer space.
It's important to commit to memory that Anno 2205 isn't a city simulation. There's no traffic to manage for example. It's about controlling your colonies and making the lives of your people better. Better homes, better jobs, better services.
The striking thing about Anno 2205 is the crazy attention to detail. The game looks amazing, but you'll miss a lot of what Blue Byte's done if you don't zoom in and drink in all the extras. Your citizens will mill about, doing their jobs, wandering the streets, taking in the entertainment, and more. Flying cars, power loaders, mining drills, and harvesters will grind away, showing off the industry of your city. The visual indication that something's happening in each building is important to Anno 2205, because the team at Blue Byte is trying to convey as much information as possible without cluttering the game's UI.
"Even in your industry, everything is moving, everything is interactive. We have that with each building. You have this really detailed feedback. It's about streamlining the game. Not making it simpler... keeping all the complexity and true Anno feeling, but at the same time, making it more accessible. Having a really clean visual identity," Ehlert told me.
If your people are happy, they'll move into the homes you build for them. They'll drive around the city. They'll walk around your parks and fill your stadiums to capacity. They'll work your mines, power plants, and farms. If a building isn't doing it's job, you'll know at a glance. The sub-menus are still there, of course: you'll find color-coded overlays showing how far your power will stretch, for example. Click on a building and you'll see the current production or happiness stats, a building's needs, and any available modules.
Every building in Anno 2207 is modular. You can build the base building - certain buildings simply require a road to function, while others like mines and ports, require specific spots to build - and then upgrade it. Each building can have 4 additional modules that push a building's capabilities in different directions. Is one of your mines a bit far away from your city? Add a logistics module, which lets vehicles transport more ore with each trip. Need more food? Add a crop module to your farms, improving their overall food output. And every upgrade is visual. You can clearly see which modules have been added to every building, giving you a quick overview of that building's capabilities and faults.
Anno 2207 is meant to be a "multi-session environment", according to Ehlert. Each region is it's own session and during your playtime, you can acquire multiple areas. Every region has a different environment, with a new layout and random resources available. These regions can then trade resources; shuffling things like power, ore, or money from one area to another. This is key when you eventually find the resources to send your colonies to the moon. You still have citizens and resources on the moon, but you're constrained by different environmental hazards.
"Just adding more space is not enough for us," Ehlert said. "We really want to mix up the gameplay. The moon is a vastly different territory. How you progress on it is completely different. The moon is a dangerous place to build."
You have to worry about things like meteor showers, which pelt the moon at random. You can build shields to protect your colonies, but those shields require power. Food is produced in enclosed greenhouses. Each worker on the moon is more valuable than they are on Earth, since you can only afford to house and feed so many people. Anno 2207's moon gameplay isn't a focused on pure expansion like the earthbound game.
You can't avoid the moon either. You need it for Anno 2207's overall progression. There are resources on the moon that are key to unlocking some of the later buildings in the game.
"If you want to have those great metropolises and huge, bustling cities?" Ehlert said. "You need to have the technology to meet demands and advance your people. You're only able to do that by collecting those rare resources on the moon, enhancing them, and sending them back to Earth."
All of this is tied to your corporation. (Yes, in the future, corporations run everything!) You'll set up your corporation, which is your in-game identity, in the beginning of the game. Nothing precludes you from running multiple corporations though, because Blue Byte wants players to play their way. Part of that is making sure that the story mode and endless play are integrated. You can tackle story missions or simply keep building you overall city. The choice is yours.
I didn't want to stop playing Anno 2207. I got a solid hour on the game with Ehlert's helpful tips, but it wasn't enough. I skipped Anno 2070 due to some compliants about DRM and simply timing issues, but my glipmse at Anno 2205 has piqued my interest. I'm looking forward to this entry in the franchise. Fingers crossed that the DRM isn't too bad.