Starting with Anno 1602, the Anno series has been a highly successful one, spanning over several games so far. They tend to be popular mainly among fans of the genre though, so if you don’t play city building games often, you may not be familiar with the franchise.
The Anno series is all about designing a successful empire while attempting to keep pace with (or eradicate) the other nations around you. Each Anno game has been set in a different time period, visible in the title – and Anno 1404 is the “oldest” one so far.
For a city building strategy game, Anno 1404 offers a remarkably interesting plot, which we’d spoil by touching even on the surface – but it would suffice to say that you’ll encounter mysterious plots and conspiracies, things which you don’t normally see in games of this genre. The city building element prevails through the majority of the game, as you’ll have to expand your colonies and develop newer and better technology.
Initially, you’ll only have access to technology needed to move your cities forward – however, at some point you’ll be able to start building combat technology, which is where things get serious – you’ll have to decide which of your neighbours are your friends and which should be dealt with, and manage your strategy accordingly.
The game features a very fine element of balance in this regard, as the player’s choices of alliance early on in the game can have a huge impact on the final outcome of the scene at hand – this adds an extra layer of replayability, as you’re always left to wonder what would’ve happened if you had wiped out that guy you considered a threat instead of siding with him.
Anno 1404 offers some beautiful graphics – the cities have some impressively detailed buildings, the style of architecture is very neat, and the natural parts of the environment look really great as well – you can see some small bits of detail if you just look around the mountains and hills. The overall Oriental theme of the game gives it a unique setting, and as with the previous Annos, it feels like a completely new experience just because of that.
Despite being able to run on just 1GB of RAM and a DX9-capable video card with at least 128 MB of memory, Anno 1404 still requires a fairly capable CPU for some reason – you’ll need at least 3GHz of processing power to run it smoothly, especially when you get to the combat part which can put extra strain on the CPU due to the heavy use of particle effects and such.
Anno 1404 still offers no multiplayer, which has been a commonly requested feature by fans of the series. Still, the single player should keep you well interested for long enough, and even after you’re finished with the campaign you’ll probably have a good desire to come back and do it once again, this time trying out different things.
Another solid instalment in the Anno series, Anno 1404 proves that its developers are far from running out of ideas and should keep fans of the series satisfied for a good while.