It’s time to breathe in the air of surging progress and glorious empire... then break down in a coughing fit as the soot from nearby factory chimneys fills your throat. The latest iteration of Ubisoft’s city-builder, Anno 1800, sails into port April 16th, bringing the series’ colourful approach to city management in the Industrial era - with all the upheavals, exploration and exploitation that it entails.
Here’s everything you need to know when setting up your mercantile empire in Anno 1800, and to help you get to grips with its deep trinity of building, trading and discovery.
The first thing your empire needs is people (colloquially known around here as ‘workforce’). First, build a marketplace, where your imminent citizens can buy basic goods and food. Next, place plenty of farmer residences to house your first settlers. Do you work them to the bone to maximise production (risking civil unrest later on), or do you believe that a happy worker is a good worker? That is up to you!
With your workforce shacked up and ready to be worked, it’s time to establish chains of production. Lay down lumber yards in the woods, and near them build sawmills to turn the raw material into timber.
Whether you’re turning sheep’s wool into cotton or potatoes into alcohol, always keep the buildings of the same production chain close together for maximum efficiency.
Happiness and Control
Keep your people happy and employed, and your settlement will grow, offering new opportunities for expansion. Meet the needs of your farmers, and you can upgrade their residences into sturdy worker housing, creating a workforce for your factories and harbours.
If at any point you start hearing murmurs of discontent and unhappiness, you can manipulate the press to, ahem, ‘rephrase’ the headlines in your favour. But this will cost you precious Influence points - a new resource in Anno 1800 that you can invest into different areas of your island like military, trade, propaganda and culture.
Do you want to spend influence propagating fake news when you could use it to, say, expand your armada, or increase the number of stat-boosting public buildings in your cities?
War and Trade
As your empire grows, it will catch the attention of neighbouring city-states, for better and for worse. You can play against up to three AI rivals, each of whom has their own backstory, dialogue, and personality that you’ll need to suss out and navigate. Do you curry favour through flattery or threats?
To get in their good books and earn a little money on the side, you can carry out quests for your competitors, ranging from transportation jobs to bold attacks on powerful ships.
Anno veterans will quickly recognise the depth to the trade system, as you can specify the amount of goods to import and export, and set custom waypoints for your trade routes as you aim to maximise efficiency. If you don’t want to get too bogged down in trade route planning, you can use the simpler - but more costly - charter trade route system, similar to the one in Anno 2205.
But sometimes, to really get what you want, you have to assert yourself, and that’s what war is for. The Anno series has always thrived in naval warfare, and Anno 1800 evolves on it, letting you control multiple fleets, plunder enemy vessels and bombard rival islands into submission.
You can also use your fleets defensively, protecting your trade vessels as they make their way through potentially pirate-infested waters, or besiege the harbours of your rivals to claim their islands for yourself.
Back on the home front, as your fishing village grows into a bustling urban empire, you’ll need to satiate the tastes of your increasingly cultured classes.
Once you start upgrading your second-tier worker housing into third-tier artisan housing, you can build a museum, filling it with exotic relics and artefacts procured through quests and expeditions. The museum is modular and expandable, letting you flaunt your larger exhibits like sculptures and dinosaur bones in the traditional museum pleasure gardens that you lay out yourself.
Another tweakable tourist attraction is the zoo, which you can fill with captured-- no, not captured, ‘resettled’-- animals so that gentlemen with bifurcated capes and top hats can poke them with varnished wooden canes. Ahh, those halcyon days when animal welfare played second fiddle to good old-fashioned Victorian ‘curiosity’.
All this will boost your city attractiveness, bringing wealthy visitors to your island aboard handsome tourist ferries, who will blithely spend their money on the attractions your city has to offer.
Discovery and the New World
Third-tier housing also unlocks the opportunity to explore a whole other side of Anno 1800. Building on Anno 2205’s ‘multi-session’ system that lets you manage different cities in different parts of the world, you can send a discovery mission to the New World, where new opportunities and challenges await.
Once the New World is unlocked, you can take your finest ships on expeditions in search of fabled treasures and exotic discoveries. These expeditions are elegantly presented through characterful writing that immerses you in the journey, and forces you to make critical decisions along the way. Do you turn back when faced with what could be a mightier naval force, or do you push on into the unknown?
Here you can establish a tropical settlement amidst the white sands and palm groves, with its own architecture and industries, new trade routes, and opportunities to send exotic goods back to your Old World cities. You can seamlessly switch between the two sessions, and track your trade ships as they lug goods back and forth across the ocean.
It’s up to you whether you seek out the riches of the New World or focus on bolstering your power in the Old World, but will you be able to stand the sight of your rivals planting their flags in new lands that could equally well have belonged to you?
From pack mules to steel horses
The Victorian era was a collision of architectural elegance on the one hand, and relentless belching industry on the other. Anno 1800 captures it all, and it’s just as important to beautify your cities with parks, theatres and pubs as it is to keep them running efficiently. Factories and cramped living conditions will dent your city’s attractiveness, so it’s essential that you strike the right balances.
To stay ahead of your rivals, you’ll need to glide along the cutting edge of technological progress. So embrace steam and electrical power as you start attracting engineers to your city, delivering steam-powered trains and electric-powered industries to your fast-growing cities.
Anno 1800 looks to keep you subsumed in the smoke and prosperity of the Industrial Revolution, whether you’re micro-managing working hours in factories, or messing around in the metagame as you target daily challenges. It’s the most complete Anno game to date, learning from its long city-building lineage to snapshot the 19th century in all its splendour.