Anno 2205 review: One small step for Anno, one giant leap for Anno-kind
For millions of years, humans lived on Earth—playing out billions of little dramas, fighting wars, shaping the planet in our own image, and occasionally looking up into the night sky, up at a bright, white orb and thinking “What if?”
In 1969, “What if?” became “When?”
And according to Ubisoft, “When?” is answered by “2205” a.k.a. “When humanity finally colonizes the moon.”
Anno 2205 is the latest iteration of Ubisoft’s long-running city builder/sometimes-an-RTS series, this time taking us even further into the future than the previous Anno 2070. In the process, Anno 2205 takes us to the pseudo-arctic and (eventually) to the moon.
You’re the CEO of a newly-formed corporation—part of the Lunar Licensing Program, which aims to go all John F. Kennedy and establish permanent human settlements on the moon’s surface. The goal? Harvest Helium-3 for cheap and plentiful energy.
This is the main conceit of the Campaign, and it’ll talk you step-by-step through setting up a viable, interconnected economy. Also there’s some barely-touched-upon stuff about Moon Terrorists or freedom fighters or whatever, but it’s pretty unintelligible and ignorable aside from a few (skippable) real-time strategy missions.
The game is broken into nine main zones: Three temperate, three arctic, and three lunar. Each grouping produces different essential goods, from orchards to aluminum to the aforementioned Helium-3. You’ll automatically gain access to one of each type over the course of the story, though you can eventually acquire all nine by buying them off your AI competitors. At review time I’d acquired seven of nine, though I’d only built up three of them. Even 15-20 hours in I’ve yet to run out of space in a single region, though one of my zones is getting close. The maps are big. Properly city-like, I’d say, though not on the same scale as Cities: Skylines.
Temperate regions play pretty much like your standard city builder. Lay down roads, put in houses, build up your population, feed them, give them water, power their houses, et cetera. Once you have enough people in your town you can build more advanced technologies. Rinse and repeat. The story continuity seems to hinge on what we already saw in 2070, so maps are chains of islands instead of uniform land masses—thanks, global warming—leaving precious little room for the agriculture you so desperately need to sustain a massive population.
The challenges are obvious, from oxygen to food supply, but your construction constraint is actually asteroids. All buildings must be placed underneath a force shield, protecting your fragile colony from constant buffeting by space debris.
These are interesting restrictions, leading to different patterns in each of your cities. My temperate region, for instance, spread out quickly. I had a whole island packed with residences, outsourcing my farms and industry across a bridge to a second island. But in the Arctic? Those factories support life, meaning you end up with a trunk-branch pattern—factory in the center, surrounded by as many homes as possible. And the moon tends to be compact, given that force fields are fairly expensive.
All regions run simultaneously. Production doesn’t pause in your Lunar colony just because you’re paying attention to your Temperate region. You can swap between cities at any time, though you’ll have to endure a twenty-second load-in, which meant I switched less than I probably should have.
2205 hasn’t fixed that feeling of rote compulsion, though it does make the process a bit friendlier with a new “Move” feature and Modules.
First, Move: Using 23rd century magic, you can pick up any building in Anno 2205 and transport it to a new location, penalty-free. It’s incredibly useful once you’ve gotten a bit of money and want to fix your original Temperate zone so the initial rice fields and orchards and sunflower fields are on the outskirts, not in the heart of your densest residential area.
And it’s doubly helpful when adding Modules. EA’s SimCity reboot was a total mess, but one thing it got right was the idea of expandable buildings. In the real world, rarely do companies build an entire new factory to increase capacity. They expand and retrofit existing facilities. SimCity tried this, and Anno 2205 follows. Power plant not producing enough energy? Add a new turbine. Space cafeteria too small? Add a second hall. It’s cheaper and easier than building something new.
A note on DRM