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Ever since I upgraded the graphics card in my Packard Bell computer, I've been able to test and play games that my old graphics card would have coughed at, spluttered at and then died before playing. With Crysis, I could stealth my way through the jungle firing at Koreans. With GTA IV I could race away from cops while firing wildly from my car window. With Assassin's Creed 2 I could jump from rooftop to rooftop and dive through the air like a bird with no wings. But none of these games holds a candle to the fun you'll have in Anno 1404. And here's why...
People have come to expect a lot from Strategy games. In the early nineties people would enjoy any game that allowed them a little freedom, be it pitting one block of pixels against another or watching one pretty colour rain down on another pretty colour. All that changed with the arrival of Caesar and Sim City. With these games you didn't just build a thriving city; you ran it, you protected it and you felt a part of it. It was no longer about placing buildings down and then going to make coffee; it was about the economy, the laws and the overall happiness of the people living in your city. No other game seemed able to compete with the depth and freedom that both Sim City and Caesar gave its players. That was until one sunny September in 1998 when Anno 1602 hit the shelves. It was obvious just from the intro that this was going to be something special and it really was.
Like other city building simulators you placed you buildings, gathered your resources and took good care of your people. Anno 1602 was different in that you had to think hard about where you wanted everything to go and the best way to achieve your goals. But more importantly, you weren't alone! Other nations compete against you, fight against you, or perhaps even ally themselves with you. It really was a glorious game that's only disappointment was in its combat. Over the years Anno spawned a series of sequels that added or removed parts of the original game. Anno 1503 added thrilling objectives during Sandbox Mode. Anno 1701 dramatically improved the graphics and added so many resources and goods that you felt like Tesco. And while these games were great, they never felt amazing. That was until June 2009 when Anno 1404: Dawn Of Discovery hit the shelves.
Anno 1404 was and is an incredible addition to the Anno series. The core game sounds simple enough on paper. Build a city, gather resources, trade with other nations, protect your islands, etc. But not only is a lot more complex than this, it's actually a hell of a lot more fun too. You'll start every game with a boat filled with roughly 40 tons of wood, 40 tons of tools, and 40 tons of fish. The maps are huge although you can alter the sizes in Sandbox Mode (Continuous game). You now set off on your travels, finding a great island to start your city on. I prefer somewhere with a lot of open space, preferably with no river on. Get close to an island and you're given the option to build a harbour. One click and congratulations; you've just started your first city. Sounds simple doesn't it. Well it isn't. Building houses to generate tax is great and everything but it's not going to help you much if they're hungry and thirsty. You have to build a Fisherman's Hut on your coast. Then you'll have to build some Cider Farms, connecting each one to a Small Warehouse. After all, you're people have needs. They need religion and clothes. Build all this and you might have Citizens move in. But they have even bigger needs. It'll soon dawn on you, "I'm going to need a bigger island."
I normally end up with a good five or six islands during a continuous game. It can become a little frustrating if the computer steals all the good islands but then you can always go to war with them. Nothing quite says "that country is mine" like wiping somebody off the face of the earth. Once you have a couple of islands you might find it useful to build yourself a trading ship or two. These can hold 120 tons of goods and are very useful, especially in the later part of the game. Nobody can build a bustling metropolis without trading ships. You have the option of manually transporting your goods but it's much easier to automate their trips. Automatic trade routes are handled beautifully by the game. I normally have six or seven boats carrying goods from one island to another or to sell off for some extra cash. There are over 60 different types of goods in the game and 24 different types of resource. Everything helps you build something else. Take for instance Beer. You can't create Beer without first gathering Wheat and Herbs. But you also need Wheat to create Flour which creates Bread. Build too many Breweries and there won't be enough Bread. Build too many Bakeries and there won't be enough Beer. It's all about getting that balance right.
Now onto money. You can't do nothing without it. You can't even so much as build a path. Just like real life tax and sales are your only real source of income. Citizens and Patricians pay more tax than Peasants but they also have greater demands. Just when you think you've got the balance right you'll realize you need to build a few more Weaver's Huts to keep up with your growing population. The problem is, everything costs upkeep. Buildings and boats need money to function. If you're not bringing in more money from tax than what your buildings are using up then you'll be losing money. You can sell of stock that you're not using but maybe you want to think about raising your taxes.
There is combat in the game. Stumble across a Corsair ship and they'll blow your ship out of the water. Expect an opposing nation to begin invading your island and destroying everything you've worked hard to create. I find my games are much easier if I stay on everybody's good side. This can a bit demanding. Let's say there are three other players on a map, plus the dreaded Corsairs (a pirate faction). To stay on everybody's good side I have to do some major sucking up. The Corsairs keep hassling me a 7000 gold tribute or they'll blow my ships out of the water. An AI player is happy with our Peace Treaty but decides to take advantage of me, asking for 9000 gold to help out their people. Agree and they stay happy. Disagree and I lose reputation. Lose too much reputation and they go to war with you. And believe me; you don't want to go to war with anybody unless you're ready! The combat isn't what I would call fun but sometimes it is necessary.
The game also has another currency known as Honour. You get Honour for huge amounts of trade, completing quests, been more powerful than other nations and for hosting tournaments. Honour comes in very handy. You'll need it to gain progress in numerous areas of the game but it also lets you upgrade your ships and your islands. I like to add 20% speeds to my trade ships or +30 damage to my warships. You don't lose honour or reputation for not completing quests in a Continuous Game but most of them are worth doing. If one of Lord Northburgh's ships has broken down and he needs you to send out one of your boats with supplies then it's always best to check the reward before turning down such an easy quest. If Al Zahir needs 40 Glass and 40 Mosaic but he's only offering 2000 gold and 20 tons of rope then this just isn't worth it and its best you turn it down.
While there is no multiplayer there is still a lot to keep you occupied in this game. Continuous Games will actually last forever unless you give yourself some goals to achieve. Scenarios are rather fun and come in multiple difficulties. But of course, like all games of this nature, Anno 1404 has its very own Campaign Mode. This is a great place to start because the first few levels are very much done like a tutorial. The story isn't exactly Lord Of The Rings but it's enjoyable al the same. You'll be taken from one side of the world to another in a time of discovery and war. There's loyalty, betrayal and bloodshed. It really is a lot of fun and will take you a good 40-60 hours to complete.
The graphics are simply amazing. From the ocean to the land, everything looks and feels beautiful. The people have a sort of cartoon look to them but with the great voice acting they still feel very real. The ability to zoom in and out lets you fully appreciate the quality of the graphics. The game wants you to zoom in as well. There are numerous quests where the game asks to you to find people in your city and it shows off the beauty of the buildings and market places.
You really cannot fault the sounds in this game. From the incredible voice acting to the sounds of creaking wood and the sea crashing against rocks. Zoom in far enough and you'll hear people going about their day, selling off stock or simply just talking about how happy they are. And then of course there's the music which is some of the best I've heard in a game of this kind. You can be building your city with a nice soothing tune in the background when suddenly your ship is under attack and the music changes so dramatically that shivers will run down your spine.
Have you ever played a game before that had to warn you for playing so long? Well Anno 1404 does just that; and for good reason. The game is very addictive and everything takes a lot of time to achieve. To build an Imperial Cathedral you're looking at 4-6 hours in total. To get from Peasant to Nobleman, you're looking at about 5-8 hours in total. The game is very long and you'll probably pour a hundred hours into this game before you build your first Metropolis. There is always something to do and so many different goals to achieve that you might have to stick your social life on hold for a while if you want to get it all done.
o OS: Windows® XP (SP3), Windows Vista® (only)
o Processor: Pentium 4.3 GHz or comparable (dual core recommended)
o Memory: 1 GB (3 GB recommended)
o Graphics: DirectX®9-compatible graphics adapter with 128 MB RAM (DirectX®10 with 512 MB recommended)
o DirectX®: DirectX®9/10
o Hard Drive: 6 GB free space
o Sound: DirectX®9-compatible
o Peripherals Supported: Windows-compliant mouse, keyboard, gamepad, headset
* Supported Video Cards at Time of Release:
o ATI® Radeon® 9600-9800 / X300-850 / X1050-1950 / HD2400-2900 / HD3400-3870 / HD4300-4890
o NVIDIA GeForce® 6100-6800 / 7100-7950 / 8200-8800 / 9200-9800 / 120-140 / 250-295
o Laptop versions of these cards may work but are NOT supported. These chipsets are the only ones that will run this game. For the most up-to-date minimum requirement listings, please visit the FAQ for this game on our support website at: http://support.ubi.com.
NVIDIA® nForceTM or other motherboards/soundcards containing the Dolby® Digital Interactive Content Encoder required for Dolby Digital audio.
Nowadays you can get this game very cheap indeed. www.amazon.co.uk have the game currently listed for £12.20. You might notice on their site that Anno 1404 has quite a number of negative reviews. This has nothing to do with the quality of the game. This was to do with DRM Security that was causing people a lot of issues. This has now been removed.
I picked up my copy from Game on my local high street for an amazing £9.99. I'm not sure if it's still the same price though.
In conclusion, this game is amazing. It feels very authentic. You really will feel like the Donald Trump of 1404. For those who like multitasking, this game will be your wet dream. There's always something to be doing and your only problem is finding the time in your real life to get it all done. If you haven't played this yet then my advice is to get on Amazon and order yourself a copy. You will not regret it!
(I'VE ALSO POSTED THIS ON CIAO)
This is the latest instalment into the Anno game series. In the main campaign you are a leader who has been given an island from the Emperor of Rome (or so I recall) and the Emperor has called you and many other leaders to go and destroy the empire of the Orient. You must build an army to help someone called Guy Forcas (a person who has been appointed to command troops to fight the Orient). At first you believe yes, the Orient are a savage race and must be rid from the earth, but as you follow the game, you slowly recognise that the Orient are very nice welcoming people who don't want to get into any wars and just want to live in peace. So then you turn your back on Guy Forcas and all other followers of the Emperors orders and go and help the Orient.
There has been a lot of controversy in this game due to DRM protection which Ubisoft (the games creator) likes to keep putting on its games. I can confirm that this game no longer has DRM protection on it, as long as you patch your game to version 1.1 or above.
So the aim of the game as you've seen above is about a battle against who you were once allied with. So you are going to need an army. All wars and fights that happen in this game all take place on the sea. So you are going to need to construct and fleet of ships but to do so you are going to need resources. You are also going to need to populate a town on several islands so you can make an income off taxes so you can afford all of these ships. You have resources such as wood, stone, wheat, iron... I could go on. There are a lot of resources and many of the resources can be used to manufacture other good like, wheat to bread, hemp to rope ect.... These are all good in creating ships but you also need resources to keep the people living on your islands happy. The more happy they are the more money they are willing to pay in taxes so more money to you, so more ships. The whole resources chain works well as a circle. As your towns on different islands get bigger the people in your cities can upgrade a citizen rank. Unlocking these new citizen ranks will unlock new resources and buildings you can use. Which means the more people of higher citizen rank you have living in your town the more better the ships in your fleet are going to be.
The resources which you collect can also be used in trade. There are AI players playing with you on the map and if you are ever short on money you can collect some of your resources onto a ship and sell resources to friendly player to make more cash.
As you go further and further into the game you'll have loads of islands to control. All of which have different kinds of soil meaning only certain types of resources can be grown on certain islands. That means you have to construct a very big trade network between islands to make sure that populations on certain islands remain happy. This means you'd have to be able to manage the production of you resources and make sure you have enough money to gather resources and the ships to transport to different islands and that you are generating enough of certain resources to go to certain islands. As you can see, the game is starting to get more and more complicated but really, that is as complicated as it gets, and what I've told you is pretty much how the game is played.
There are two types of game that can be player. You have the campaign which I told you at the start of the review, and also can play scenarios of different difficulties which, you play the same way as, except you may or not have enemies to fight (depending on the difficulty ) and in these scenarios you win it if you reach all the targets of that scenario. The targets range from control a population of around 15,000 people to controlling certain islands and earning a certain amount of money. Which, even on an easy scenario will take a while to reach, which means you'll get plenty of hours out of this game reaching those targets.
I've now pretty much said everything I can think of about how the game works. I'm not going to rate certain aspects of the game /10.
The water detail is the first thing you'll be amazed to see. The water looks so realistic. The buildings look pretty good as well. All in All, it is a very beautiful game. Though I believe if they could make the water look so realistic they could have tried to make the players seem amazed when the see the buildings. I'm not saying the graphics on the buildings are bad but I just believe that they don't match when it comes to the quality of the water in-game.
It's very easy to follow, plenty of stuff to do and many challenges which the player must face. It's filled with hours of game time and it will take a while for you to get bored of playing this game. The only thing I can see which could have been an improvement is that the game speed could have been a little faster. In normal speed, the boats travel really slow and pressing the speed up x2 button really doesn't speed it much at all.
Graphics Cards/Processors /Sound Cards Equipment needed: 9/10
Even on a fairly low performance computer you should be able to play the game on normal settings. Though if you do have a low performance computer might be good getting a better graphics card. A cheap one which I've tested an runs at top settings is an ATI Raedon 4350HD. Runs perfectly with not much extra cost.
All I can say is £6 is an absolute bargain for a game like this.
Would recommend anyone who likes the Settlers Series which Ubisoft also create and SimCity or any kind of strategy game to go and buy this. Fun for all ages.
Hope this review helps.
Thanks for Reading.