Review: Anno 2070

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Climate change is a topic that invokes spirited debate. Though most agree that global warming is happening, some still claim it is fiction. No matter what the political world thinks or does, the world of fiction embraced global warming as a theme as far back as, let’s say waterworld (that’s as far as my memory takes me). In 2011, Ubisoft also embraced that same futuristic world where climate change is no longer a point of debate, but a harsh reality, with the release of Anno 2070.

Anno 2070 is the fifth game in the Anno-series and the first one that takes the gamer away from it’s previous medieval settings. As said, the premise this time is the availability of new islands that can be cultivated because of rising water levels. As the world flooded, it took the world governments with it and politics is now governed by corporations and movements. It is as one of these corporations (the more industrial oriented, the green movement and the technology one) that you will settle new islands. Each population will have their own buildings and needs and also influences the game world in a different way. For instance, one new addition to the game mechanics is the eco-balance. A lower balance will result in lower yields and population satisfaction. When playing the industrial faction, or simply when building industrial buildings, the eco-balance will degrade.

The Eden Initiative is, how did you guess, it, the environmental lobby.

As you start the game, you can just jump right into the action, select a faction and start colonizing islands. It is, however, advisable to run through the campaign to get yourself familiarised with the new factions, the new buildings, production chains and earn career points that will make it easier to play in single missions or continuous play. Even thought the game has a back story, the campaign doesn’t really get into that. There are the occasional oil spills and environmental disasters that you need to take care of, but the core story of the campaign is focused on something that has absolutely nothing to go with global warming. Not only that, it didn’t really resolve itself (though there is a bonus mission that can be bought and maybe that can clear something up).

The world itself looks beautiful. The islands, the ocean and the people are detailed and gorgeous to look at. When playing, however, don’t stop and stare at the graphics or smell the roses you plant. As with all Anno-games, it’s about growth and settling the best islands as fast as you can to ensure a proper supply of the necessary goods to get your population to and advanced state.

The beautiful word, however, doesn’t hide the ugly truth that comes out when playing the game. In fact, in my own experience, I was already quite fed up with Anno 2070 before I started the game. You see, in the future, the world may be flooded, but the world of Ubisoft right now is stuck in a strict and non-responsive DRM-scheme.

Not only did I need to enter my cd-key three times, one needs to install Uplay, a sort of steam for Ubisoft games, from which you can launch your games and collect and redeem points for extra’s. It’s not optional and it get’s in the way of normal play. But that didn’t bother me as much as the hour and half I needed to wait before the game had installed and updated properly.

Uplay and Anno 2070 also wants to be connected to the internet to ensure that the game you’re running is legit and the points and upgrades you earn in game are only saved and carried over if and when you are connected. Now, I like the career points, the Uplay points that allow you to buy extra’s without actually forking over money (though most DLC is only available for cash). What I didn’t like was that sometimes, my game forgets me.

In Anno 2070, the world is flooded with DRM.

So after entering my key three times during install, registering my game with Ubisoft, registering a new account on Uplay and an online account for my Anno 2070 in-game profile, I sometimes get a game that doesn’t want to login, or that asks me for my key again when it does login, or simply looses connection and claims it can’t save your career points.

But even if you get past all that DRM, there are also technical issues in-game. In previous games for instance, when doing a quest for someone, you needed to transfer the goods from your ship to the NPC. Anno 2070 makes it easier and automatically detects the goods and asks if you want to complete the quest when you get near the NPC. Sounds great, right? Right. Apart from the fact that sometimes, when there’s too much going on, or you go too fast with various quests, the automatic quest-end fails. So you have the goods, you are near the NPC, and nothing happens. Checking with other players, I’ve discovered that this happens quite often. The solution, start the map again and save often.

So should you play or buy Anno 2070? Well, it depends. Yes, it’s bloated and hard to play due to the DRM. Yes, you need to restart maps because of a failed ‘improvement’ to the game mechanics and yes, the campaign story has nothing to do with the premise of the new world you play in. But I did start the game again. I did quit and restart when the DRM failed me and I finished the campaign in the wee hours of the night because I wanted to build just one more thing or try one more strategy.

So the game itself must be good. It is a great continuation of the Anno-series and a good RTS in general. I would however, be loathe and worried about buying another Ubisoft game if these problems with the DRM are not looked after. And I do draw the line at buying more content through expansion and DLC’s that cost more than I paid for the game itself.