Year 1800 has managed to resume the Year for the Hair series from the whirlpool in which the previous chapters (Anno 2070 and Anno 2205) were dragging it, not bad in an absolute sense, but too busy integrating improper and compromise mechanics to be truly convincing. Blue Byte has therefore decided to do self-analysis and return to look at his masterpiece, Anno 1404, to give the series the luster it deserves. In no uncertain terms, among the triple A productions, Anno 1800 is the citizen management best in recent years, much higher than the recent and still valid Tropico 6. The reason? Let's try to understand it.
Year 1800 has different modes, both for solo players and for those who want to spend time online. In single player it is possible to face the narrative campaign or engage in sandbox mode. As the title suggests, the setting is that of Industrial Revolution, even if it must be said that the title of Blue Byte has very little history, at least at the plot level. The campaign tells the story of the protagonist's return to his homeland after a long journey overseas, which finds his father murdered and his company expropriated by his evil uncle. Together with his sister and an Indian friend, he must therefore be able to develop an abandoned island, while trying to find out who killed the parent.
All this translates into a gameplay with two souls: on the one hand you have to worry about the construction and management of our city, while on the other you have to carry out missions by sea to obtain resources and information from the other rulers. The narrative campaign map is fixed and designed in such a way as to accompany the progression of the game, both in terms of urban development and in terms of the succession of events. For example, at a precise moment in the plot, we will be required to remove a piece of mountain with dynamite to reach iron mines, without which it is not only possible to produce some objects that we need to carry out a mission, but also to create some production lines that allow us to expand our city. Obviously all these constraints are not present in the sandbox mode, fully configurable, in which given some initial resources, we are left free to experiment.
In general, Anno 1800 can be tackled at different levels of difficulty, of which the simplest ones are really suitable for everyone and the most difficult ones dedicated to fans of the genre. Fortunately, the compromises are few and touch only some aspects of the game. But let's not run too fast.
To amaze of Year 1800, whichever mode or difficulty is selected, is theuser interface, made with truly incredible care and intelligence. Blue Byte had the intuition to avoid the classic menus that contain all the buildings of a certain category in a single screen, instead studying an intuitive system linked to the production lines, which allows you to immediately identify the structures to be built to obtain a certain resource and type of workers required to make them work.
The level of specialization of the latter is closely linked to the development of the urban fabric, which changes significantly with the changing of their needs. To say, the first type of workers, the agricultural workers, have few basic needs and are content with modest houses. They are employed to work the fields, raise animals, produce timber and so on. More complex productions, such as glass or canned food, require specialized workers who are not satisfied with a frugal life, but ask for culture, entertainment and want more refined food. As long as the needs of a certain social class are not met, it is not possible to access the next one, that is, it is not possible to improve the buildings in which citizens live to attract advanced workers. It is a simple and effective system, which has the great advantage of allowing a thorough planning of the city as well as never confusing the player, who can thus manage the urban development in all its aspects.
Another ingenious intuition of the interface, which from now on we want in every management system, is the planning mode, which allows you to position buildings on the map even in the absence of the required resources. Basically the player can create a skeleton of the city, anticipating his own moves. After placing a building blueprint on the map, it only takes one click to build it. Those who love to visualize things before deciding how to proceed will find it an incredibly versatile tool, which they will no longer be able to do without.
From the point of view management, Year 1800 is made with great competence. For years, a triple A management system had not offered a gameplay in which the city must be rationally designed and it is not enough to place buildings here and there to get everything. Here each building enters into a relationship with the others and the factors to be taken into consideration to create an economically sustainable urban fabric are many: from the quality of the streets, to the positioning of the inhabited districts, passing through that of the production buildings themselves, which must never be too much. far from the sources of raw materials and warehouses, otherwise production will slow down.
The only real simplification concerns the unified warehouses that also contain and make available the resources stored in very distant areas. Evidently we wanted to avoid complicating the logistics of goods too much, making the player concentrate on something else, in particular on satisfying the needs of citizens. In short, in the case of Anno 1800 some simplifications seem more a way not to weigh down the gameplay than shortcuts to attract the general public. However it is one urban planning rationality also gives other advantages, such as the lower monetary expenditure to maintain law enforcement and firefighters, as well as the greater influence of schools, markets, pubs and other buildings that provide indispensable services for the population. Also not to be underestimated is the maritime side of the game, which starts with the construction of a port equipped with everything (captaincy, warehouses, arsenal and so on), to get to have a commercial and military fleet capable of dominating the seas. Knowing how to manage trade, making friends with the other rulers so as to be able to establish increasingly fruitful routes, is essential for the economy of our city, as well as having ships that can defend us from pirates and the aggressions of the opposing factions. Managing vessels is really very simple: just select them and click on the point on the map where they must go to make them move. When in ports you can load, unload or sell goods, or you can take on board personalities with special abilities. As mentioned, the ships also have the function of avatars to carry out some of the missions that are assigned to us and to organize expeditions that are used to discover new territories.
Some of these missions unfortunately represent one of the biggest weaknesses of the Blue Byte title, since they are often not very interesting, if not exactly asphyxiating. We are thinking in particular of escort missions or pursuit missions, both of which require us to follow the movements of our vessel to avoid ambushes or to be seen. Probably they were put to give some variety to the gameplay and to make the narrative campaign more interesting, but in essence they are negligible, if not annoying.
Under the profile technical Year 1800 it is probably the best management software on the square. In terms of details of the buildings, Tropico 6 stands up to it (we use it as a comparison because it is very recent and of a similar production level), but from the point of view of the vitality of the city there is no comparison: the title of Blue Byte offers an urban environment alive and full of citizens who behave in a credible way. Zooming in on the streets and watching is a pleasure, which is rewarded by nice events. For example, weddings are organized in the local church, while schoolyards are teeming with children playing. Build a square in front of the town hall and you will see it swarming with people. Furthermore, as the social classes present in the city increase, so does the variety of models of citizens, dressed in different ways to reflect their condition.
Things are definitely worse with some of the ancillary elements of the single player campaign, such as the acting of the main characters. In this case it is almost fortunate that the dubbing is only in English. Bad also the texts, decidedly uninspired and sometimes annoying, with characters who in the diplomatic screens repeat the same phrases over and over and who end up fragmenting the gameplay a little with their intrusiveness. For heaven's sake, they are not defects that spoil the game, but since they are still very present, there is no doubt that they have an influence. Things are much better in the sandbox mode, which is the one you play the most on balance, but it's a shame that we couldn't do more for the campaign.
Anno 1800 is the best chapter of the series since Anno 1404. This should already make you understand that we are talking about a highly recommended title for fans of the genre. The only flaws concern some accessory elements of the single player campaign and gameplay, which end up weighing on the gaming experience rather than enriching it. On the other hand, the interface deserves praise, in particular the planning mode, which is highly readable, structured in an intelligent and innovative way. In short, this time Blue Byte really hit the mark.
- The user interface should be studied in schools
- Finally a real management system
- Convincing city development, exciting urban planning
- Some accessory elements leave something to be desired
- The single player campaign isn't exactly great.