Nove is a magic number for the boys of Blue Byte; a kind of wish for the success of their new creature.
Nine, in numerological symbolism represents the beginning and the end of everything. A cycle that is completed, dying and being reborn without a solution of continuity. Where does this number come from, since we are talking about Year 1800 ? Well, just add up the numbers that make up the figure. You will get the same result by adding those of each single episode released to date, from Year 1602 to 2205 up, of course, to the brand new version of the famous series published by Ubisoft. A superstitious habit for the boys of Blue Byte (in which, moreover, a lot of developers of the old guard are back), who almost always brought good .
More than now have passed twenty years after the first release and, if we remove some less effective proposals, the series has a very good following among the virtual city builders. The mixture of managerial mechanics and historical context has in fact always produced a considerable attraction in the players, except, perhaps, of the recent foray into the futuristic shores of Anno 2205 and 2070. For their new chapter, however, the development team it took some time to explore the potential offered by the return to the historical context and, in 2017 at the GamesCom of Cologne surprised us with the announcement of the Year 1800. The new era will coincide with a return in style of the Blue Bytes?
Between the past and the future
We are used to reading the term " industrial revolution " in the history books, often underestimating what it meant for whole planet. As we know, it was a long and tumultuous period characterized by irrepressible economic, social and productive upheavals that traced a clear demarcation line between a purely agricultural and commercial past and a future made of sudden innovations, but also of great instability . Furthermore, progress did not arrive – or spread – uniformly in every country, nor in the same economic-productive sectors.
The challenge for the boys of Blue Byte was therefore quite burdensome: merging two souls at the antipodes . In other words, making tangible and transmitting to the player a mixture of past and future as coherent and precise as possible while maintaining a traditional management approach. And, based on what we could see, succeeded .
During the many hours spent in the company of the Ubisoft license, we experienced the advent of the industrial revolution, observed how the society of our city has evolved before our eyes and experimented with the introduction of technical innovations that made the change possible.
Anno 1800, in a sense, represents a return to the origins for the development team but also a pleasant novelty in terms of depth and care put into the study of playful mechanics. Past and future intertwine, precisely.
For all those who have never had the opportunity to try an episode of the saga, Anno is basically a " city builder " in which the player has the task of founding his own city, administering it taking into due consideration parameters such as the economy, the happiness of the population, the territorial expansion and so on.
Unlike other colleagues, the series has always stood out for accessibility and " lightness ". For this reason, the decision to want to approach and make accessible such a tumultuous and multi-faceted historical period as that of industrialization has involved taking a serious risk.
Nevertheless, the development team was able to tell it without having to come to terms, maintaining its characteristic style made of light tones and round and jovial aesthetic without giving up historical coherence and management complexity.
I return to my homeland
Anno 1800 welcomes the player with a good variety of contents . First of all, a campaign single player which, in our opinion, would be a mistake to underestimate considering it a mere superficial outline with respect to the main courses. Certainly it is very useful for learning the rudiments of good governance, assimilating all the information necessary to get by in other ways, but also enjoying the narrated plot is a pleasant pastime, seasoned with secondary missions given by the other actors commanded by the AI or by the same inhabitants (who will reward you with interesting objects), able to enrich the gaming experience.
The vicissitudes of our alter ego are the most " Victorian " you can imagine: a huge family tragedy forces us, recalled by our dear and desperate sister, to return quickly to homeland to try to restore the fortunes of the commercial empire (as well as the good name) of the broken family and disliked by the crown.
Our first settlement, therefore, can only rest on really disadvantageous premises : financial difficulties, large debts and total lack of infrastructure.
The children of Blue Byte must be recognized for the merit of having arranged a simple but effective narrative able to weave a strong common thread on which to anchor entertainment and the need to make us discover (and test ) all the features of the title in a timely manner and without major pitfalls. Through the story, in fact, the constructive and productive process of its own settlement is studied in depth; one comes into contact with the exploratory and diplomatic component; social dynamics are better understood. Above all, during the campaign you learn the difficult art of balance.
What is genius if you don't balance on the edge of the impossible?
Whether you tackle the single player campaign or whether you jump headlong into sandbox mode or into the "competition" online (to which we will dedicate a more in-depth special as soon as the servers are sufficiently populated) the correct management of the city passes through the reading of the innumerable needs of our citizens.
To be successful in the 1800s, as we have already anticipated, this operation cannot ignore the understanding of the historical reference period . The first cluster of houses we erect, in fact, is made up of humble barracks, suitable for hosting a predominantly agricultural workforce, without sought-after needs. By starting to produce or trade with other companies, it is possible to provide more services to citizens.
Consequently the well-being begins to increase, as well as the "new" needs of the inhabitants, clearly linked to completely new production chains and much more complex than the basic needs.
Fortunately, the development team studied an accessible, clear and always precise interface which allows us to understand the process for every good and what we need to be able to produce it. Just to give an example, to have canned meat (one of the products of the better classes, the artisans) you will need a cattle farm for beef, a plantation of peppers, a factory in which to produce stew and one, instead, where to assemble the cans that must contain it.
The first inhabitants therefore "quickly" give way to a new type of labor; the houses expand by welcoming increasingly specialized workers who are eager to improve their social status. In doing so, however, there is a risk that the base of the pyramid will be missing and that everything collapses like a house of cards .
As we said, is a question of balance : turn the peasants into artisans or entrepreneurs and the fields will remain deserted. The largest manufacturing complexes will in fact require dozens of skilled workers, so it will be of fundamental importance to take care of the "base" workforce with which to maintain them.
The task is far from easy, even if it is possible to make the home evolve, avoiding sudden shortages, choosing the right time for the upgrade. All this has a direct influence on the finances and resources to be allocated between maintenance and trade. One false step and one can find oneself struggling with a financial crack, or with riots, strikes and union revolts to be tamed with violent methods. The magic of progress .
Printed paper and tourism
Anno 1800 thus becomes more complex stratified and historically coherent in the advanced stages, when the dense smoke of the factories begins to plague the suburbs where workers are exploited and underpaid, all for the god of money. However, having a thriving economy made up of factories and cultivated fields is not the only guarantee to ensure the well-being and happiness of its citizens.
In the nineteenth century the concept of "tourism" developed for the first time, a parameter that the team did not leave out. In fact, we can work on the attractiveness of the city, relocating industries to distant areas, limiting pollution and vulgarity in the city, building moorings for ships of visiting tourists, organizing fairs and parties.
Tourism, in short, can turn out to be one of the sectors with which to replenish the coffers with very few tricks in the urban planning phase. Another method to control consumption and guide the mood of the city's belly comes from diffusion of the printed paper . With the connivance of the editor of the newspaper we can sweeten the news, hiding uncomfortable truths and urging citizens to spend more.
Net of these preciousness, however, the title of the Blue Byte boys unfortunately omits to investigate other aspects that could to be developed decidedly better. First of all diplomacy : this takes the form of very few options dedicated to commercial relations and military operations, too elementary compared to the rest of production, so much so as to become almost negligible for the gambling economy. Furthermore component RTS obviously bound to naval conflicts, is not very accurate compared to the other aspects that make up the recreational framework.
Finally, balance sheet between income and expenses is punctuated by a few voices that do not always allow to understand where to act to cut some expenditure or, on the contrary, where to invest to raise money quickly without risking collapse. Perhaps an excessive simplification that risks instead complicating the life of the player. These are three small moles, for an otherwise excellent product in every respect.