Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery DS
Published by: Disney Interactive Studios
Developed by: Sunflowers
Release Date: 24th August 2007
If you've ever played any of the previous Anno games, such as Anno 1602 or Anno 1503, you'll know that they can be extremely engrossing. The games charge you with settling islands, building communities and providing all of the resources your people need to survive. When your people have all the resources they need they will evolve to the next level of civilization. Your people will begin as Pioneers and as more of their needs are satisfied they will become Settlers, Citizens, Merchants and ultimately Aristocrats. Each of these groups has their own specific requirements to keep them happy. Whilst it's more difficult keeping the higher level groups satisfied, it's worth it because they will pay more in taxes. Of course as well as looking after your people and producing goods for them you'll also want to settle other islands, trade (as every island in any given game can only produce a few different resources), carry out diplomacy and when all else fails, fight wars. To date the Anno series has been exclusive to the PC but with Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery the series comes to the Nintendo DS and the transition has been a remarkably smooth one.
Anno 1701 offers three different modes for you to enjoy. The Story Mode leads you through five separate chapters and each of these chapters contain a hand full of missions for you to complete. The first couple of chapters serve as a tutorial and will gently ease you into the game. In fact it's quite possible to get to grips with the game quite quickly even if you haven't played an Anno title before. All of the chapters are interesting and the missions have been cleverly designed to give you a thorough knowledge of the game by the time you've finished the Story Mode. After you're done with the Story Mode, you'll want to choose the Continuous Play mode which allows you to play an open-ended game against up to three AI opponents. You can also play multiplayer games against three other opponents. We couldn't experience the multiplayer game because the game requires each player to have a copy of the game and the game doesn't support online play. This is understandable given the nature of the game but nevertheless it's a little disappointing.
Just a couple of years ago most people would have thought it impossible to have a game such as Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery on a handheld console. The DS, with its touch-screen control, has changed all of this and it's no surprise that games such as Anno 1701 have appeared. The game, as you would expect, essentially plays out on the touch screen with the top screen being used to convey important information. You essentially use the stylus as you would a mouse pointer and this affords a level of control that is both intuitive and user friendly. You'll be delving into various menus to select which buildings to construct and conducting trade deals etc. However, you can setup the four hotkeys to allow you quick access to four functions of your choice.
Are there any downsides to Anno 1701? There aren't many to be honest. It would have been nice to have been able to rotate the map, as you can in the PC versions of the game, but I daresay that's a limitation of the game being on the DS. It would have been nice to have received tool tips for the various buildings you can use, so that you don't have to constantly go back and forth to the Annopedia to check what benefits every building has. Some may find the combat rather simplistic although, to be fair, the combat has always been simplistic in the Anno games. Some may also find the various icons in the game a little too small. However, once you're familiar with what the icons mean you'll only need to glance at them so it's not much of an issue. Whilst I really like the customisable hotkey functions it's a shame that you can only have four. The commands you assign to the A, B, X, Y buttons are simultaneously assigned to the right, down, up and left directional buttons and really it would have been better if you could have also mapped the directional buttons to different functions so that you would have had eight hotkeys instead of four.
To be honest, I didn't expect Anno 1701 to look that good on the DS. I have to admit to being surprised at how good the game looks and I think the developers have done a great job considering the small screen you have to play on. In fact whilst the game doesn't look as good as either of the PC versions, there's only so much detail you can fit on the DS screens after all, it will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has played an Anno title. The main action is displayed on the touch screen meaning that the top screen is used to display information and advice from your advisor. There are two levels of zoom with the first giving you an ideal overview of your island and the second zoom level allowing you to see your people walking the streets of your island. Both views are useful. Whilst Anno 1701 probably won't go down as one of the better looking DS games I think the developers have done a great job, both with the look of the game and its presentation.
Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery won't give deaf gamers any problems. All information in the game is delivered using either text or icons. This means that deaf gamers will be able to fully appreciate the Story Mode and as a result have no problems in learning how to play the game. You can access your mission book at any time and all of the tasks you have to complete will be listed there which is useful if you don't play the game for a few days and can't remember exactly what you needed to do. During the Story Mode your advisor will regularly communicate with you in text. You can click an onscreen icon at any time to recall the advisors previous ten messages which is a very useful feature, particularly during the early stages when you're learning how to play the game. Anno 1701 comes with an in-built guide known as the Annopedia which explains the various features and building types are etc. in the game. The game manual has been well written too and covers the various aspects of the game in a short and concise fashion.
Having played and enjoyed Anno 1602 and Anno 1503 I was looking forward to seeing if Anno 1701 could capture the spirit of the previous games in the series. Thankfully I was not disappointed and DS gamers have an absorbing strategy game that will make hours seem like minutes. The Story Mode is very enjoyable and really does a good job of introducing you to the game in such an entertaining way. The Continuous Play mode is where you'll spend the bulk of your time with the game and is very satisfying. Whether or not you are able to enjoy the multiplayer mode doesn't really matter as the game is impressive as a single-player title. Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery is a great example of what a handheld strategy game should be.
If you are a fan of the Anno series or city building type strategy games, and own a DS then this Anno 1701: Dawn of Discovery is pretty much an essential title.