Anno 1800 Review (PS5) – A City Builder Constructed With Class
I’ve personally reviewed three city builder types in the past month and really, what’s one more? Especially when it’s one as prestigious as Anno 1800. This city builder stands out with its blend of Cities: Skylines building and Civilisation-style political maneuvering and trading channels. I love both of those, so I came into Anno 1800 full of hope.
And that hope was not diminished. Anno 1800 marries these aspects of other sim games beautifully. The Anno series has long been a PC stalwart, and this version boasts of combining the best features from the past 20 years of the series stirred into a big old city-building broth.
It has its own quirks that newcomers would do well to respect by checking out the campaign mode featured in it. This story-led experience teaches you the ropes of Anno 1800’s many systems whilst providing a dose of interpersonal melodrama with you inheriting an empire from your disgraced father. Your bitter, greedy uncle forces you and your sister out, and together you escape to an island owned by your late father. This is where you begin your own city from the ground up.
It’s a nice introduction to the game. Plus it gives a motivation to metaphorically punch a pantomime villain of an antagonist by overcoming the many obstacles he throws at you. It also allows you to gain an understanding of how political bickering plays out. Essential given how much of a distraction it can be.
A smart move is that once you finish the campaign, you can continue playing in the traditional sandbox mode, so all that progress isn’t for naught. By the end of it, you’ll likely be ready to flex your ruling muscles in new ways.
Freedom of the City
The most enticing aspect of Anno 1800 is the freedom it gives you. You can be a peace-loving innovator or a destructive, greedy conqueror and almost everything inbetween. You get to make a significant mark at a significant point in human history. How you approach that is up to you. Rivals will emerge, striving to compete and kill for your spot in the world.
Of course, you could try your best to balance things out. It’s actually more satisfying to negotiate trade routes and mutual agreements with the AI-controlled rulers than it is to go ape and start blitzing their port towns with your armada. Not least because the resulting fracas would probably hurt you almost as much.
The underlying complexity of Anno 1800 can be intimidating, but it’s also rather exhilarating. It’s the kind of game where failure is healthy for growing your appreciation of what it does. Rubbing people up the wrong way, intentionally or not, can escalate into events you never saw coming. Usually, because your dealings in a completely separate matter had an impact on it. That breeds a desire and curiosity to continue down a path. See it to its conclusion, and then dig yourself out of whatever hole you’re now in. I love games that let me wallow in my own mess (figuratively speaking, of course). Because it shows a level of trust in the player rather than railroading them down strict pathways.
A Storm Brewing
If all that wasn’t enough to wrap you in Anno 1800’s warm, deadly embrace then how it looks may well tip the balance. Anno 1800 is one of the most eye-catching games in its genre. The level of detail is exquisite. You can see the little folks going about their working day, getting involved in protests, drinking beer in the pub, or simply muttering about a mouse problem. It ensures planning out your city is an endlessly satisfying experience because you can basically see it working as you go. Some of the animations are naturally overegged for simplicity’s sake, but they get the point across and fit the game’s style.
It’s part of the reason Anno 1800 stands out. The developer has cherry-picked aspects of various games and blended them in a way that makes what should be a ‘Best Of’ package into something relatively unique.
Unfortunately, it’s not all plain sailing. Ubisoft Connect’s insistence for Anno 1800 to be connected to the internet constantly seems baffling. You can still play offline, just with certain caveats. Beyond that, a minor grumble for some lengthy load times is about as bad as things get.
Building Cities and Burning Bridges
These choppy waters are fairly easy to ride out though. The overall quality of Anno 1800 puts it in calmer seas. Making the voyage of discovery it presents a compelling delight. If you’re in the market for something a bit different from your city builders on PS5, then Anno 1800 has plenty to offer.
Anno 1800 is due out on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on March 16, 2023.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.