Browser-based games haven’t garnered much attention from me in past times. I think that’s due to a bad experience playing Ogame where I was obliterated the moment my noob-protection ran out. I like the idea of long-term gaming; waiting for hours for upgrades as opposed to seconds, such as is common in more conventional RTS titles. Ahh yes, RTS games. That I’m more familiar with. Not competitively at all, mind you, but I’ve enjoyed some days of AoE, and Warhammer 40K (my first PC game was Total Annihilation…). Never in that time did I bother getting into the Anno series (which admittedly appears to be more a city-builder title like SimCity… which I have also played), and I have no idea why. Somehow I had just missed the entire existence for the series, and upon participating in the closed beta for Anno Online, I feel fairly remorseful for that.
Considering that it is a work-in-progress, Anno Online is already highly polished. One would think this should be expected from a big-name company such as Ubisoft, but I’ve been disappointed a bit in these past few months… Of course, this latest Anno title will bring in the go-to real-time-strategy gameplay elements; you’ve got to farm basic resources and use these to build houses and unlock technological upgrades to further the development of your city-thing; standard formula stuff.
Where Anno Online differs from the RTS and city-simulator titles I’ve played is what I’ll try to focus on here. Though this feels like Age of Empires 2 once did, there is no military goal in Anno; the aim is to develop your city into a trading giant, and this is actually really fun.
The entire island that you now know as home is not revealed as soon as the game begins; you are left in one area until you can afford to unlock the next sector and expand, which helps the game’s feeling of progression a whole lot. This progression is seen in other ways too, such as the development of your people’s needs. Initially they may only require a house, fish to eat and milk to drink, but soon enough you’re building chapels, taverns and fire stations to keep them satisfied.
Anno Online has so far made sure to not show all its cards until we’re ready for it. Instead of overwhelming new players by showing them the ins and outs of every aspect of the game at the get-go (like, say, A Valley Without Wind 2, *cough*), mechanics are introduced gradually, so as to make sure there’s always a new obstacle to overcome in your efforts to… I don’t know… Build a city? Be awesome? I’m note quite sure where the game is headed.
Anno Online is now in open beta, and to any fan of city-builder or real-time-strategy games I recommend a visit. Don’t let the fact that it is a browser-based title put you off, this recommendation is coming from someone who has only had bad experiences with them. So you know it’s serious.