"Rome wasn't built in a day," some might sniff, but guess what? Nobody cares about Rome. I'm totally going to build PCGamerLand in a day. Maybe even before dinnertime. That's something that's very possible to do, now that Anno Online's entered its English-language open beta.
It’s easy to be impressed and – if I’m honest – a little overwhelmed by Anno Online. I’m staring at a city built by one of the developers at Ubisoft Bluebyte, which he describes as “several weeks worth of playtime” and it’s a sprawling, intensely busy scene as tiny people dash around between myriad buildings, while ships clog up the harbour keen to deliver their goods. There are exclamation points everywhere. Apparently I need to build more vineyards to start wine production, there’s a shortage of goat farms, and some citizens in a far-flung corner of my empire are upset because they don’t have a road to the local market. Aaaaaaargh.
The latest Anno trailer highlights the difference between the city-building sim's two factions. There's the Ecos, who use sustainable energy sources, floating blimps that clean the air and a smug sense of satisfaction to power their economy. The Tycoons plough through Anno's luscious terrain with complete disregard for the eco-balance. Their cities are sprawling masses of rust and fumes. They can store the negative products from their enormous factories inside mountains, which is the equivalent of sweeping all your rubbish under a sofa in the vain hope it will one day turn into gold. This never works.
The Anno series of city building sims have so far been set in the distant past. They involved chopping down lots of trees and building up the most advanced settlement possible out of wood, sweat and tears. The next Anno game will thrust the series into the far future, where there is no wood: only iron, concrete and giant diggers. The first four screens of Anno 2070 are out, and you'll find them below.
Also: WAT? ANNO IS IN THE FUTURE NOW?