Being no stranger to dumping hours of my day into city builders, the prospect of building a futuristic city on the Moon sounded like an excellent premise. Jumping into Anno 2205, I was presented with a mission to do just that. Before long, I found myself as the president of a corporation, trading goods between my three cities to increase revenue and support my colony on the Moon. Unfortunately, there were some tedious features that distracted me from my empire and my grand Moon-city.
Most games similar to Anno 2205 recognize that an arching narrative is not necessary to make building an empire engaging. Anno 2205, on the other hand, does not shy away from this idea. Doing so, however, does have its hits and misses. The player takes charge of a corporation that is tasked with completing the ‘Lunar Licensing Program,’ which is to build a city on the Moon. You are pitted against three other corporations, all set on the same goal. As well as being rivals, bonds are formed between you and the other corporations to acquire resources as well as discounts on products that can improve your cities.
While that story was more than enough to get me invested in expanding my cities, the relationships with the other corporations added to the world. Then, Anno 2205 takes it one step further and adds a villain. Claiming to be a native from the Moon, our villain, named Drake (who has about as much depth as his name suggests) is set on destroying the corporations. I found the introduction to Drake a bizarre twist that introduced elements of the game that did not feel like features so much as distractions. The attempts to make memorable characters within the narrative falls short. This, coupled with awkward dialogue and strange personalities, failed to resonate with me.
The distracting features are a real shame since the core design of Anno has always been solid. Being designed a lot like a city builder, Anno 2205 is a lot less intimidating than other titles such as City Skylines or Sim City. There is a lot less focus on city micromanaging, as the game places more of a focus on managing resources in-between cities, and RTS elements are more prominent.
Cities are built in three different regions, namely temperate, arctic and the Moon. Each region can farm different resources and, in turn, can develop different products. As a result, trading between each city is necessary for each city to thrive. On top of this, each region offers unique challenges that allow your city to expand. This can include needing a heat source available for all residences in the Arctic, or a shield operating near all structures on the Moon to protect buildings from asteroids. These features placed more emphases on the strategic layout of each colony later in the game.
The RTS influence is pushed further, as a completely different game mode is introduced where the player commands a small fleet of ships to fight Drake in a series of naval battles. This feature plays a major role in the game but still feels tacked on. The combat gameplay felt like a chore to complete as I was eager to get back into my cities and develop them further. It didn’t help that there were only about four missions to play that got repeated throughout the game, either.
The core city-building in Anno is a lot faster paced than your typical city-builder, as the main objective is to get a city producing goods as quickly as possible. This sets up a trading system that is a lot of fun. I jumped between cities, expanding my colonies to produce more goods that allowed me to expand my other cities in different regions. Once I got into the flow of the game, hours of my time was spent watching my money rise as I expanded my colonies into empires. However, once when you get all your cities turning a profit, and money is coming in faster than you can spend it, the game ends.
Early game has a strong start, and I watched my first city grow and my skyline change as I upgraded my population through various tiers from residents to executives and further. However, I felt let down later in my play through, as the other regions didn’t have nearly as many tiers to work through. As a result, the game fell flat pretty quickly. There really is not much left to do, and any sense of achievement is lost as you repeat the process of expanding each city to provide resources for each city to grow. I reached this point quickly, and the only motivation for another play through was to build cities in different sub-regions that housed distinct features, such as a dam that will give you power or a hotel that will attract tourists, which are constructed as a sort of sub-quests. The gameplay experience lulls not only towards the end but also while waiting for sufficient resources when building up your city.
The only way to kill time as my cities generated income was to either run combat missions or complete various side quests in the city regions, but I only was interested in them to gain resources and not for the gameplay itself. The combat missions lost their appeal fairly early on, there were very few missions to complete, and the resources needed to upgrade your fleet would be much better spent on your colonies. The city region side quests mainly involved controlling a boat and collecting crates or looking for objects on the map and clicking them. These fetch-quests were a chore to complete and were very tedious, and the necessity to gather rare resources via these quests was annoying at best. I had a city on the Moon to build but instead found myself stuck doing fetch quests!
Visually, Anno 2205 was fairly well presented. Apart from a couple of frame drops, as your cities populate the entire map, the game looks nice enough. The city themselves tended to look bland, as buildings weren’t all that diverse, but this reflects the modular nature of the buildings. The world is quite dynamic, and you can watch citizens go about their everyday life in the cities. Anno does well to pay attention to detail in this futuristic world and to make it look more authentic as your colonies grow.
With tha being said, however, Anno falls short when it comes to presenting the story. The voice acting is very awkward, and it appears that no attempt was made to lip-sync the voices to the high-poly character models that represented the character speaking. In addition, it was more often an annoyance when portraits would pop up trying to feed me with uninteresting exposition that I simply didn’t care about.
Taking the parts of Anno 2205 that worked well for me, this game could have been a fresh take on the city building genre. Unfortunately, the parts of the game that did not involve expanding the colony and managing resources felt tacked on and were distractions from the main game. This lead to a boring late game due to the lack of depth in the advanced colonies. With less focus on the story and combat elements, Anno 2205 would have left a much better impression.