I have always wanted to play the Anno games but because they were always PC exclusives and with my PC being the next step in creating mashed potatoes, I was never going to be playing any of them anytime soon. Along comes Anno 1800 Console Edition that pretty much sums it all up in the name, Anno for consoles. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Anno series so what a way to welcome in new players with a console release of the popular Anno 1800.
The game is split into a single player mode which contains a campaign and a sandbox mode and the multiplayer modes of competitive or cooperation. The single player campaign acts as a good starting point for any new players as they can learn the basics of the rebuilt UI and controls for the console edition. Once you are more familiar with the core concepts, you can try your hand in the sandbox mode where you can almost customize each aspect of a map. This is most likely where you will spend most of the time playing as you build your new cities and try to win out against multiple AI enemies or play it cooperatively with up to 16 other players online. If you feel like playing co-op is not fun enough, you can play the sandbox competitive mode as you and 3 friends try to take control of the map and have the most prosperous city. The only downside of this is that there is no crossplay functionality so you all need to have the game on the same console, while not a huge issue, this would have been a nice feature to have at launch to keep the player base as large as possible.
There is a bit more bad news as none of the DLCs or the other scenarios for the PC version will be making their way to the console edition. And don’t assume you can just use a keyboard and mouse on the console because the game has been redesigned with the controller in mind and will only work with it. While separating the console and PC makes sense, the console UI does a pretty good job of keeping you in the loop of what is happening and allows fairly quick actions to be taken and ease of navigation makes the city construction a breeze. It does take a while to get used to the UI and controls as I keep messing up and end up going into the wrong menus until finally remembering what I was supposed to be doing. The controls allow you to bring up the major tasks like selecting what buildings are needed has been incorporated into a radial menu which you bring up by holding R2 and then using the analog stick to select the building or the shoulder buttons to change sections like farmers and workers. Once you have the building category selected, you can then change the option by using the analog stick again to change the building type like switching between a clay mine and brick factory.
The story mode isn’t much to speak about since it does its job as a tutorial very well and you can learn the basics if you have never played before. I do wish some of the controls and functions were slightly better described but as soon as you get used to what you need to do, it becomes easier to understand and work at. The setting is that you travel back to your hometown after the death of your father to find out that your uncle has already laid claim to the shipping empire your father built up. You and your sister then set off and start your own town with the hopes of rebuilding what your father had and rivalling the same company that he spent years building up. The story starts off pretty basic but does get a bit more interesting as you progress through the chapters as the story is not really the cliche you think it is. While you can pick from 3 difficulties that all change various factors, the primary being the starting funds, you are allowed to customize some aspects of the story gameplay as well. You can pick what rivals and pirates also exist in your world as well as how large and rich of resources the islands are. Adjusting these will allow you to make each game a very different experience.
As you progress, your rivals and allies will offer you quests that can reward you with funds and allow you to earn some respect which will influence how they treat you as they can turn hostile or allow you to trade with them. These quests also pop up from your workers as well and these tend to be doing certain tasks around your town and rewards normally in tools that you can equip in the Union building to give a boost to certain jobs or resource gathering.
There are some issues where the textures of some of the models would pop in a short while later when zooming in on them and would accompany a small frame rate drop but thankfully this over quite quickly and is only noticeable if you are fully zoomed into the object. I did also experience a bug where the game carried on as normal but none of the controller input was recognized. I had to close the game and reload the last save to get it working again as not even the options button was being allowed to load a previous save. This meant I had to replay the last 20 minutes again and I got flashbacks to playing any of Bethesda’s open world games where I would quicksave every 2 minutes for fear of losing progress or repeating sections due to crashes. This only happened once and have not encountered any further issues or bugs, this being such a massive game, I can think there will be some more popping up.
This is a great introduction to the Anno series if you have never played them and the few issues there are can be easily ignored as they do not really affect the gameplay as much unless you need to reload the game but with the speed of the current gen consoles, this is no longer such a major chore. The game looks amazing and all the littles details that were put into the various buildings, people and islands really make a unique and interesting experience, not to mention how beautiful the graphics look; that is some nice looking water. I can some more of the casual players getting a bit bored of the game after a while as it does become a time sink but that is where the flexibility of the sandbox mode comes in allowing players to quickly set up their game for what they need. Anno is a really great series and would love to see more of it on consoles and hopefully these will also allow similar games to have console versions so no one is left out.