I’ve been a fan of the Anno series for quite some time – I began playing it under my dad’s tutelage in fact! The series has seen the staple city-building formula throughout, albeit with aesthetic changes and slight tweaks or additions here and there. After a couple futuristic entries in the series and some questionable design choices, Blue Byte is returning to their roots with Anno 1800, and woah nelly is this a return to form. Not only is the game set in one of my favorite historical eras for mankind, it brings together everything I adore in the series and further polishes it to a brilliant finish. This is the best Anno game I have ever played and quite possibly one of the best city builders ever made – read on to find out why!
Developer: Blue Byte
Platform: Windows PC
Release Date: April 16, 2019
Players: 1-4 Players
Anno 1800 is the latest and greatest in the series, so despite its older setting – the game is absolutely gorgeous. Ocean water, buildings, terrain, crops, villagers, ships, everything is meticulously detailed and yet has a slight painterly touch. There’s a mix of realism and industrial era aestheticism.
I was playing the game on a decent card, and it runs beautifully. I have a modest CPU and a decent about of memory, and I never really noticed slowdown or visual issues with lots going on, save a few shadow textures popping with the draw distance when quickly zooming in or out.
While I play a lot of city builders and strategy games, I never really stop to really just look at what’s happening. The animations from the tiniest child to the biggest munitions factory, coupled with a superb visual style, really make you feel like you’ve leaped back in time to the Victorian era.
As mentioned earlier, Anno 1800 is a return to the roots of the series. While the previous game, Anno 2205, changed things considerably like how it simplified production lines, separated combat, removed randomly generated maps, and more – Anno 1800 goes back to what works.
There are three main modes: Campaign, Sandbox, and Multiplayer, and they all basically play the same. You’re given a single warehouse on an uninhabited island with enough provisions to start your own colony. Once you lay down houses, you get to work planning your industries out.
The game is set in the heart of the industrial era, so most of the technology involves big heavy iron, gears, and steam. To produce say, bread, you need wheat farms, flour mills, and bakers. Your colonists start off as farmers and can progress through a total of five tiers, each with higher needs.
The core of the Anno series has always been the balancing act of supply and demand, managing the number of available citizens for each tier, while making sure your stockpiles don’t run out. 1800 brings back colonialism in the New World, only now linked directly to the Old World. Support buildings like fire stations, police, and others become important as your city grows.
It’s a fun twist on the core formula that has captured so many fans for so long. Now, you have to manage your colonies in the New World, produce goods only available in their hemisphere, and bring them back to your increasingly needier citizens in the old world cities. You also have to keep your people happy, otherwise they’ll leave, or riot.
To further confound the resource micro-management, you have to make sure you don’t go bankrupt – as newer technology can cost a lot of upkeep in your budget. You can offset this by expanding your taxation pool, creating trading routes, or opening your stockpiles up to trade directly.
Once you get the hang of balancing the various industries and needs of each citizen tier, the game becomes insanely addicting. Honestly, the process of balancing everything and slowly expanding your budding city outward is cathartic, leading to me frequently losing track of time. I’d keep going hours and hours in my sessions, only to realize an entire day was gone.
The menus are quite improved and robust, and there are many quality of life improvements, however some things haven’t changed. The quests you can pick up outside the main story are usually repetitive or boring, and the combat still feels like an afterthought. The game is focused on island colonies with limited ship interaction, but I would’ve liked a bit more.
While previous games in the series required an always-online internet connection, Anno 1800 thankfully is playable entirely offline. Despite this, I have to bring attention to the shenanigans going on with the game and what stores offer it. It was on Steam, only to now be a timed exclusive to the Epic Games Store. If you want it on Steam, you’ll have to wait.
The musical score in Anno 1800 is simply breathtaking and as beautiful as the visuals. The game takes place in the height of the reign of Queen Victoria, and thus it reflects a nice mix of classical themes, inspiring hymn-like singing, and even some brooding themes as well. The score really fits the game’s theme so well and I frequently listened to its music, even when not playing.
The voice work in the game is also very well done, with the multitude of characters really coming alive as they interact with you. Pending the circumstance, performances are definitely frequently changing, as you’ll be hopping between story modes, regular sandbox, and the typical interactions with CPUs in gameplay.
Sometimes lip-syncing would get a little off, but it was usually fine or not as noticeable because the character portraits are smaller and would be gone after a bit. Another thing I noticed was the random voices attached to boat captains were usually women – for a historical game this is odd considering it takes place in the 19th century.
While the three game modes all plop you into a sandbox of sorts, the campaign mode does include a story of sorts, complete with voice acting. The story felt like a fun tale of familial discord, set within an era known for its brutal exploitation of land and life. You basically get coached the whole time, and get events thrust upon you.
The best way to experience the story in the game is to mostly focus on your own colonies and progression, while experiencing the quests and story bits as they come up. I found the more you engaged with NPCs, their automatic greeting phrases can sometimes get a bit repetitive. Quests tend to be repetitive too, where you’re asked to collect something, escort someone, and so on.
Anno 1800 is a fantastic entry in the long-running city builder franchise that remembers its roots, while introducing new things and further refining its formula into a superb product. The game really has a meticulous attention to detail on every aspect of the city building experience, and it really makes for an addicting experience.
If you’re looking for a robust city builder with a ridiculously polished set of tools and tech trees for you to live out your wildest industrial era dreams, look no further. Despite some tiny gripes, I really couldn’t be happier with how much Anno 1800 honors the series legacy, and further refines it.
Anno 1800 was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Ubisoft. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.