Anno 1404 is a metropolis constructing and colonization sport revealed by Ubisoft in 2009. Nowadays, it’s a bit unhappy and lonely – the collection’ successors have headed into the long run, its personal servers seem to have switched off (and Ubisoft’s notorious previous DRM rears its ugly head) and except you’ll be able to arrange a LAN occasion, you’re out of luck relating to multiplayer. Nonetheless, for the traditionally minded (like this author), it stays a superb metropolis builder with a wide range of playstyles obtainable.

Let’s take a second to say that Anno 1404’s naval fight is definitely fairly poor. It mainly boils down to greater ships being stronger than smaller ships, with the odd (costly) energy up added in; there’s no actual approach to beat a robust enemy in a direct engagement besides to deliver extra, stronger ships. That is no Firm of Heroes on the excessive seas, that is for positive. However we’re not right here to debate Anno 1404’s fight per se. As a substitute, we’re going to have a look at naval technique within the sport. While many different technique titles have good naval mechanics, they usually lack the strategic factor that this hybrid expertise does surprisingly properly.

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Anno 1404 facilities on a considerably underrepresented interval and site. The 14th and fifteenth century is perhaps well-known for Europe’s colonization of America, however one other key improvement was the rising interplay between East and West along with the expansion of commerce across the Horn of Africa and the spice islands of the East Indies. Keep in mind, the entire level for Columbus was to search out another route East that didn’t require an extended journey round Africa. As a substitute of specializing in the conquest of America, Anno focuses on that rising interplay, with the participant starting on European-looking islands full of verdant forests and being compelled to colonize different Sahara-like islands, all of the whereas overseen by a grand vizier straight out of Disney’s Aladdin.

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Notice the term “islands”? To progress – to have any kind of functioning city that isn’t stuck in the dark ages – you must make use of the sea. Not only do you need to produce a variety of specialised resources, but they must also be transported to where you need them to be used. It is impossible for a single island to produce everything you will need; not if you wish to progress to more effective units and more lucrative buildings. Your survival thus rests in keeping your sea routes open.

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Let’s pause for a moment. If we consider naval combat in other games, most – without naming names – treat naval strategy as peripheral. A map might not even have water in it (despite waterways being key in many conflicts). Ships are, at worst, used only to transport units and to defend those units from attack. At best, they will be treated as simply providing the player with a way to get extra cash (and provide enemies the ability to cut off those sources of income) in addition to transporting units and similar.

The nature of logistics and supply trains in strategy games is a subject for another article, but suffice to say that with no need to transport material over long distances, naval strategy finds itself playing second fiddle to the often intricate and extremely tactical depictions of land battle. A rock-paper-scissors balancing system is usually the best that naval combat gets.

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In contrast, Anno’s emphasis on the participant holding their sea routes protected, lest they undergo catastrophic reversals, locations its naval fight at a degree far above its rivals. At first of hostilities, a participant has a wide range of choices obtainable to them. Do they select the Copenhagen choice, launching an all-out assault on the enemy’s port to knock out their fleet when struggle has barely been declared, thus successful a decisive benefit from the outset? Do they await the right second to assault the enemy fleet when they’re at their weakest and destroy them in a decisive battle? Or do they assault their enemy’s commerce, ruining the enemy’s financial system, inflicting riots of their cities and emptying their coffers?

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These ideas aren’t new. They’re previous – very previous. The Copenhagen choice is borrowed from a real technique adopted in 1806 when Britain, contemporary from Trafalgar, was involved that Denmark would possibly ally itself with France and put its spectacular navy at Napoleon’s disposal. So Britain attacked first, took Copenhagen’s fleet intact, and all of a sudden Denmark wasn’t a risk. The decisive battle choices was what Britain tried (and failed) to do in World Battle I, and assaults on enemy commerce was what Germany sought to do (by way of U-boats) in each World Wars.

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The interplay between the necessity to carry sources, commerce and the sealanes they need to traverse offers naval fight that means within the higher sport. As a substitute of merely knocking out a number of docks and fishing boats and transporting items to do the true preventing, naval fight could be among the decisive moments of the sport, the place the destiny of every little thing you may have constructed hangs within the steadiness. Some video games do that, however few do it in addition to Anno 1404.

Regardless of it is strengths in selling significant operational choices, Anno 1404 is not in any method a wargame. Poor unit selection and tactical choices simplify fight into a big pile on, however the strategic choices obtainable to the participant are ones to be emulated and applauded. Naval technique, the ugly – or non-existent – duckling of many a method sport, turns into the star in Anno, with all kinds of decisions and choices obtainable. Regardless that it is a metropolis builder initially, Anno 1404 is ready to give ships in video games an actual level; one which so many different video games miss out.

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