Dawn of Discovery Hands-On

We set sail in search of new land in Ubisoft's upcoming strategy game.

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Strategic city-building games have always had a home on the PC, but the Nintendo DS and Wii and their touch screen and pointer capabilities make managing a budding civilization just as easy. Ubisoft is bringing Dawn of Discovery--originally called Anno 1404--to both systems. It's an easy-to-play strategy game that guides you through the process of exploring and cultivating new lands. We played through the first few chapters of the game to get a feel for the controls, and we liked what we saw. It's virtually stress-free, which might be considered less challenging to some players, but there's always a more efficient way of building an empire than just slapping down some huts and dairy farms and hoping that everything takes off.

Your building tools are readily accessible via the touch screen.

The year is 1404 and King George is having some serious problems in regard to drought and widespread famine. Doing what any sensible king would do, he delegates his priorities and sends his two sons off into the open sea to acquire new land and produce goods to send home. You play as William, who offers to explore the lands to the south and find a way to collect resources. Your slightly off-balance brother, Edward, wants to go the more aggressive route, but for the meantime, he's not your problem.

The game does a good job of slowly introducing the various buildings that you need to build in order to have a functional mini-society. You'll begin with a fisherman's hut to provide food and will eventually build houses for your hard-working pioneers. If you build a church nearby as well as a dairy farm, your people can essentially be upgraded to settlers and then move on to more sophisticated statuses, like patricians, and finally to aristocrats. Cash flow isn't going to be coming from your king, so you'll have to tax your new settlers. There is a helpful meter that indicates the threshold of how much taxation your people can stand, so you can always hover near the high end without turning into a tyrant.

In the beginning, the king expects you to sail off into the new world to produce food, clothes, and other goods to send home. Each island that you come across is relatively small, so you'll quickly learn that you'll need to build a shipyard so that you can send out a vessel to discover new, unpopulated islands. Eventually you'll run into islands that aren't uninhabited and you'll make friends with people from other cultures and learn new technologies from them. The end goal is to complete all the challenges and manage a lively metropolis. An advisor who accompanies you on your journey will constantly be giving you hints and tips as you go, so if you happen to forget what you were working on, a quick reminder will point you in the right direction. Everything is clearly spelled out for you, and icons will sparkle and flash if there is something you should be selecting. The number of hints the game provides can be adjusted, however, so if you want helpful guidance, you can always set it to high. There are also three difficulty settings for those who want to challenge themselves.

Prince William needs all the help he can get.

We enjoyed our time with Dawn of Discovery since it's a relatively slow-paced, casual strategy game. There is no combat or excessive natural disasters to ruin all your hard work, so instead, you can focus on keeping your inhabitants healthy, happy, and productive. The story is told through cartoon still images with voice acting, which is a nice touch. Despite being on the small screen of the DS, everything is well laid out so that you can see everything, and the controls are straightforward. Look for Dawn of Discovery when it is released in June.

Discussion

9 comments
PsiPhiTy1
PsiPhiTy1

Ah, maybe I'll give it a shot agian, I bought ANno 1701 and wasn't too impressed but maybe I was expecting too much being a Civilization fan prior to that (on the pc), the newer vids look a bit more linear and directed, last time I felt the tutorial; was very broken up and would require far too much time to decipher what they meant for their instrucions to mean as they wrote them quite poorly. I'm not sure I game the last one a proper chance in the first place.

EgyptRaider
EgyptRaider

on the screen it looks worse then anno 1701 :S

Trollungen
Trollungen

Anno 1701 is the best game for DS in my opinion. I hope that Dawn of Discovery will bet it.

ston3henge
ston3henge

Maaaaaann... I played "SimCity2000" way-back-when - In my office at work HAR! Good Times - and I have been waiting for a game like it to come out on the DS that doesn't stink. I like all of this (slower) deliberate planning and stuff-type games. I know it sounds weird but if you haven't gotten into a civ-game, try one. This looks like a good starting game. Definitley has me interested. I agree with the post about battles though... but wouldn't it be a great world if we DID just barter and trade instead of trying to wipe another culture off the map? Amazing what we could learn, and then even more amazing how we could grow in terms of a species if we put down the guns as our First Response to Difference.

DrCruel
DrCruel

These strategy city-building games from Sunflowers were underpowered for the PC and had much better competitors, but are quite phenomenal on the DS and port surprisingly well. In particular Anno 1701 is one of the best strategy games out on the DS, and in my opinion was perhaps the best coding achievement on that platform until "Chinatown Wars" by Rockstar. The quality levels of the graphics are quite high, given what it does. If "Age of Discovery" turns out to be simply a remake of the old "Anno 1701", I will buy it for sure. Very much looking forward to this title.

gigora
gigora

Graphics are a nice step up from 1701 which I'm currently playing on DS, can't wait for this so I have something new to play! They need more games like Anno on DS =/

kunaheha
kunaheha

Oh, sounds nice... I am a fan of civ myself, I bought as soon as it came out

dzimm
dzimm

I wonder how different this will be from Anno 1701? From the description here, it sounds like the exact same game with a different name.