After having a break since Anno 1701, the real-time strategy series is back with Anno 1404. Dusseldorf-based Blue Byte has developed a new 3D engine for the new installment, resulting in much more detailed environments than before. We saw a pre-alpha version of the game at Leipzig Game Convention 2008, and the game is already looking quite promising.
As was the case in previous Anno games, you’ll start off with a ship and a few resources at your disposal. Your ultimate goal will be to create a giant, bustling, living and breathing metropolis. We were first shown a pre-created European city bristling with signs of life, with people getting on with daily life, going to work, and building new structures. Buildings snap together into rows this time around, which the developers hope will give the architecture a more accurate medieval look. We saw an imposing Gothic cathedral being constructed with dozens of people working all over it, as well as climbing up and down wooden scaffolding. It really was an impressive structure to look at, with an army of workers all working in unison to get it built.
We were then shown a new campaign with a single ship ready to set sail to find a suitable island with which to start a settlement. A suitable island was soon discovered and our presenters quickly began building a marketplace, allowing us to attract new inhabitants. We were also able to add churches and farms to attract more citizens. However, the people you attract to your colony will quickly develop needs, such as food, clothing, and religion. As your civilization grows, so will the demands and needs of your people.
We were shown an example of this with a farm being built to grow apples for cider. As your settlement grows, people’s needs become more sophisticated, and they appeared to no longer be satisfied with water. On the flip side, however, if you’re able to satisfy their needs, you’ll also be able to collect more tax, resulting in more funds with which to create a greater city.
We were then shown a new brand new culture modeled on the Orient and Middle East. The difference from the previous European city was immediately noticeable, with warm colours for both the desert climate and the buildings. Rather than having a Gothic, medieval feel, they had onion-shaped roves and generally more rounded architectural designs.
Despite the exotic location, people still have the same needs as before, but instead of fulfilling them with European flavours, you might need to create an almond grove or grow oats to create oat milk--a favourite in their land. If you fail to give the people what they need, they won’t help build your city. Like any good leader, you’ll need to give the people what they want. The outskirts of this oriental outpost were seriously arid, but by building a water pump, the land around it soon became fertile and green.
The overall environments in the Orient look different too, with lighter aqua-coloured water rather than dark, deep blue tones. And the shape of islands differs from region to region, with more obscurely shaped islands making it harder to create successful cities because of geological formations, such as cliffs and mountains in certain areas.
Multiplayer wasn’t mentioned at Leipzig, but there will be integration with Ubi.com that allows you to show off your statistics with others. Some of the stats available will include secret objects you’ve found in the game, as well as the number of residents and civilisations you have. Other stats include the amount of playtime you’ve racked up. You’ll also have the ability to upload screenshots of the game to your online profile with one button press. While our demo was being run on a high-end PC, the game is being developed to support a broad range of medium- to high-end PCs.
Anno 1404 is coming to PCs in 2009, and even at this stage of development, it is looking quite promising. The combination of new cultures and richly detailed new landscapes will be sure to appeal to fans of the series. We’ll keep you posted as more information becomes available.