What Would You Change About… Anno Online?

Anno Online - op-ed headlogo - EN

We’re checking out Anno Online in our newest “What Would You Change About…?” series. This free to play browser based empire builder RTS is a follow on from the single player series of the same name.

In Anno Online players start with their initial boatload of settlers landing on a new island, building up their own settlement, acquiring resources, expanding the populous and generally taking care of them and their whims. The game overall has some quirky and decent enough elements, but at times the bad can outshine the good and here’s what we think is stopping the game from being great:

Anno Online general screenshot2 Anno Online general screenshot1

  • Overly Simplistic - The game has been made far too streamlined when compared to the previous titles. We’re big fans of the previous Anno games, though we typically lean towards more military minded strategies (like Civilization), but we always found Anno to be a decent enough bridge between military and city builders such as SimCity. The original was packed heavily with features and brought a lot of depth to the economic management aspect that Anno Online just seems to fail to deliver, a lot more shallow, simple and potentially pandering to a more casual audience to make it “accessible” that isn’t what the Anno predecessors were about. So much so we don’t really feel like Anno Online has that much in common with its heritage, it plays more like a Facebook/mobile app game, more so given that it is browser based, and the added micro-transactions just scream Farmville instead of in-depth RTS. The developers need more faith in their audience that they can handle a more complex game, more effort to provide something more compelling, or less greed trying to make it so accessible as to potentially bring in money; the state of the game is due to one of them, but we’re not sure which.

  • Production Cash Walls - The game hits payment wall after payment wall. One of the key elements of these types of free to play strategies is the production time; you choose to construct a building, train research, make an item or train a tech, and it will take time. Queue the Rubies Premium currency that you can earn from time to time in game or purchase with real cash, and these will clear away any construction timer so players don’t have to wait. The issue really is that you reach a point later into the game where it is a constant wait for stuff to be finished, you can spend less than ten minutes doing everything you need to (read: everything you can do without paying any Rubies) and then you might as well log off. If you DO pay to quickly end construction, well guess what, you just have something else you now need to build that’s going to take even longer. The game needs shorter construction times and better methods at speeding up your builds instead of relying on spending Rubies, which are pretty hard to get in late game, because becoming “Pay to Play” is kind of pointless when you have superior Anno titles that you can pay for outright and have a much better time playing.

  • Island Costs - It costs way too much to expand. Similar to Production Cash Walls above, whilst that is a constant headache that realistically can be bypassed by just playing casually and checking in on your settlement every so often (things DO still build, just slowly), the same can’t be said for Islands. You reach a point where your populous want linen shirts, for this you need a Hemp resource that you simply don’t have on your island, so now it is time to expand! You can send out Explorers who MIGHT find you an island (typically a tiny one) or you can simply buy a large or huge one for cash. Getting your first island isn’t that difficult as it is in conjunction with introducing the Islands feature, however, you won’t get all the resources you need to keep your people happy, furthermore as time passes they will want different resources, which requires more islands. The Explorers don’t do a a good job of finding you decent islands, and it takes a long time for them to turn up anything, so again purchasing your way forward is the optimal method. Unfortunately the larger islands will set you back around 20k in Rubies, around $60 (and you can buy up to 12 of them…), which is just absolutely ridiculous for 1/12 of a single feature… you could literally buy the entire Anno series and a bunch of other games for the amount Ubisoft want you to pump into this game.

  • Performance Issues - The game just doesn’t hold up well technically. Being a browser based title the game seems to want to focus players on using Chrome, it is Flash based and it uses UPlay (urgh…) or Steam, so it’s kind of all over the shop with its demands. Due to this the game is a buggy mess filled with disconnects, issues with actually connecting period, lag, plug-in errors and more that, for a lot of people, simply make the game unplayable.

  • Basic Combat - Combat in the game is kind of lacklustre. Although we wouldn’t expect the game to reach Sid Meier’s Civilization levels of combat, Anno Online has done a really half-assed job with combat offering pretty much a scissors-paper-rock with three ships for naval warfare (Caravel, Brig and Galley) where one ship is better than another but weaker than the third, and that’s about it. There is an option for consumables that you can use to upgrade your combat ability, but they’re rarely worth the cost in resources to make them, although you could always spend Rubies (surprise surprise). Honestly it feels like it’s sometimes better to have no combat system at all than a bad one, SimCity gets by just fine without combat, but we’d sooner BlueByte/Ubisoft put a little more effort into Anno.

So that’s what we’d change with Anno Online, but more importantly what do you believe should be changed? What do you think could/should be added to improve the game? What would you add to your own personal wish list? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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