Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery takes gamers on a complex and enjoyable journey to settle and civilize the new world. There are literally tens of hours of strategy entertainment packed into the little cart, and the DS’s touch screen controls are so good that you won’t miss the PC version one bit. Moreover, the game has a high-level of replayability due to the Multiplayer component, various levels of difficulty, and Continuous Play.
This may not be the right game for everyone, but there is plenty of depth here for simulation, strategy, and RTS buffs to sink their gaming teeth into. The colonization of the New World was a time of bold characters eager to leave their mark on world history. The clash of civilizations, cultures, and egos made it an era fraught with death, riches, and adventure. With this as a backdrop, Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery plunges gamers into a rich strategy title.
Many of you may be familiar with the excellent PC title, Anno 1701 (aka 1701 A.D.). Of course the DS version is a bit toned down, but you will be amazed at just how complete and satisfying the handheld version is. For those unfamiliar with any game from the series, Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery has you settle various islands in the name of your sovereign. As governor, you will be tasked with making peace with the local native population, establishing viable centers of trade, securing a steady stream of New World resources, and doing it all before competing nations become too entrenched.
Initially you will have to establish a town center known as a warehouse, clear the virgin forests, establish rudimentary roads, provide housing and essential services, and then project your holdings and expand your influence through military might. In order to accomplish all this, you will have to build lumberjack huts, tea plantations, ore smelters, grain farms, tailors, barracks, bath houses, confectioners, taverns, quarries, schools, etc., just to name a few. The massive amounts of buildings at your disposal are there to enrich both your coffers as well as the lives of your citizens.
Early on you’ll have to strike a balance between providing for the citizenry and harnessing growth into viable development. If you allow your citizens to wholly dictate affairs, you will quickly find yourself in a hole. Then again, if you don’t pay them any heed you won’t have a tax base to make future glories possible. Meeting the expectations, needs, and wants of your fellow colonists will progress the entire society from Pioneers all the way to Aristocrats. Needless to say, there really is a lot of strategic goodness to be had.
In addition to establishing your colonies through city planning, you’ll also have to take charge of diplomatic affairs, warfare, public health, and trade. You will constantly be approached by external parties with their own agendas. You will have to broker trade deals, pay tribute to protect your fledging colonies, establish a fierce militia and navy, provide medical and emergency services, as well as provide for the happiness of your citizens by procuring items that can’t be locally produced. Through mutually beneficial trade agreements you will be able to extend your influence and enrich the lives of your tax base in order to see your colony thrive. All of this is done through careful management and steady manipulation of the balance sheet, building types, production, supply and demand, and facility upgrades.
There is an awful lot to juggle in this game. It’s quite possible that you will struggle initially. My only suggestion is to stay with it, and you will get the hang of it. The game does provide a tutorial incorporated right into the Story Mode, but it is by no means exhaustive; this is a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, the first few levels aren’t spent painfully tapping your way through screen after screen of text. On the other, you won’t know how to tell if the soil is fertile enough to support spice cultivation. Unfortunately, these kinds of subtle details will have to be gleaned through trial and error. All the same, the nuances are what make the game so alluring. Besides, the developers have created a glossary known as the ANNOpedia which can be accessed at any time to answer the majority of your questions. Additionally, it is easy to sneak a peek at what the computer is doing in Continuous Play to act as a guide for your colonial exploits.
There are only a couple of complaints I have with the game. First, the use of military force is not so fun. The battle mechanic is decidedly paired down to make it easy for players, but if you’re looking for RTS-style combat, then know that this is meager at best. Second, placing buildings in the right spot is often a chore. Buildings such as chapels, taverns, bath houses, schools, etc. have a sphere of influence that affects the attitudes and disposition of your citizens. There are only two levels of zoom, and both are inadequate for either seeing the space where you’re placing the improvement or for identifying where the area of influence stops. Third, you will often run into production issues that simply can’t be solved. Suggestions will be offered by the help menu, but even after implementing the solution, the problem will persist. This can be frustrating, especially when your people keep calling out for a specific good you simply can’t provide.
There are three modes of play for you to tackle. The Story Mode will have you take on Queen Eliza’s henchmen on the behalf of your monarch, Queen Marybeth. This mode is a must-play as it does a good job of teaching you the ins and outs of gameplay while providing you with a stern challenge. Continuous Play allows you to choose your character and your competition. Each A.I. challenger has a specific skill rating and set of attributes and weaknesses. This mode tests your skills and is ever-changing. Finally, there is a multiplayer component that allows you to take on your friends via a local Wi-Fi connection. Sadly, there is no online feature through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and you’ll have to have an additional cartridge for every player that joins you.
The graphics are quite good for the DS. The colors are bright and pleasing. The objects, terrain, and characters are all admirably rendered. As we all know, highly detailed games are not the DS’s strong suit, but Sunflowers, the game’s developer, has done a remarkable job. I really liked the way workers sidle through the mud streets, bears forage in the wilds, and the look of the flaming ball of smoke from the smith’s billows. I also really enjoyed the music which is cheerful, varied, and era-appropriate. The event prompts are also engaging and enjoyable. To top the entire technical package off, the touch screen controls are so silky smooth you’ll fly around the menus and city screens. The only control problems I encountered were occasional stickiness and low-sensitivity when switching between buildings and over-sensitivity of taxation slide bars.
To sum it all up, this is an awesome game that will greatly enhance your DS gaming library. However, it is not a must-buy for everyone as it is made specifically for fans of the genre. As such, it is the perfect title for those that enjoy games such as Empire Earth, Civilization, Sim City, etc. I’ve had tons of fun with this game and will continue to play it for months to come. The game is a bit hard to come by, so if you see it on the store shelf I urge you to pick it up!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
Graphics are quite nice for a game that’s detail-heavy on the DS. 4.6 Control
The touch controls are incredibly slick and intuitive. The only problem I encountered was occasional stickiness and low-sensitivity when switching between buildings. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The adventure-appropriate music and event prompts are engaging and enjoyable. 4.3
There is plenty of depth here for simulation, strategy, and RTS buffs to sink their gaming teeth into.
4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.