Anno 1404 Review

Starting with Anno 1602, the Anno series has been a highly successful one, spanning over several games so far. They tend to be popular mainly among fans of the genre though, so if you don’t play city building games often, you may not be familiar with the franchise.

The Anno series is all about designing a successful empire, while attempting to keep peace with (or eradicate) the other nations around you. Each Anno game has been set in a different time period, visible in the title – and Anno 1404 is the “oldest” one so far.

Gameplay

For a city building strategy game, Anno 1404 offers a remarkably interesting plot, which we’d spoil by touching even on the surface – but it would suffice to say that you’ll encounter mysterious plots and conspiracies, things which you don’t normally see in games of this genre. The city building element prevails through the majority of the game, as you’ll have to expand your colonies and develop newer and better technology.

Initially, you’ll only have access to technology needed to move your cities forward – however, at some point you’ll be able to start building combat technology, which is where things get serious – you’ll have to decide which of your neighbours are your friends and which should be dealt with, and manage your strategy accordingly.

The game features a very fine element of balance in this regard, as the player’s choices of alliance early on in the game can have a huge impact on the final outcome of the scene at hand – this adds an extra layer of replayability, as you’re always left to wonder what would’ve happened if you had wiped out that guy you considered a threat instead of siding with him.

Graphics and System Requirements

Anno 1404 offers some beautiful graphics – the cities have some impressively detailed buildings, the style of architecture is very neat, and the natural parts of the environment look really great as well – you can see some small bits of detail if you just look around the mountains and hills. The overall Oriental theme of the game gives it a unique setting, and as with the previous Annos, it feels like a completely new experience just because of that.

Despite being able to run on just 1GB of RAM and a DX9-capable video card with at least 128 MB of memory, Anno 1404 still requires a fairly capable CPU for some reason – you’ll need at least 3GHz of processing power to run it smoothly, especially when you get to the combat part which can put extra strain on the CPU due to the heavy use of particle effects and such.

Other

Anno 1404 still offers no multiplayer, which has been a commonly requested feature by fans of the series. Still, the single player should keep you well interested for long enough, and even after you’re finished with the campaign you’ll probably have a good desire to come back and do it once again, this time trying out different things.

Conclusion

Another solid installment in the Anno series, Anno 1404 proves that its developers are far from running out of ideas and should keep fans of the series satisfied for a good while.

Cities XL Review

If you’ve played any of the SimCity games, then surely you’re familiar with the concept of a city building game. You control your own town, and are tasked with developing it and helping it prosper, by expanding the various zones and building better amenities. The game is suitable for those who enjoy a more relaxed style of playing, and should be perfect for you if you’re coming from the fanbase of another similar game.

Gameplay

Building your city’s zones is quite similar to the SimCity games, and you actually have the same three types of zones available – residential, commercial and industrial. In order for your city to be successful, you’ll have to cater to the masses’ demands, and build the appropriate types of zones that your city is lacking in – for example, if you want to open more job spots, you should concentrate on commercial and industrial zones, while you’ll also have to support the incoming residents appropriately by building residential zones.

There’s a good degree of realism to how the zones interact with each other, for example building a residential one right next to an industrial sector will cause the quality of life in that zone to decrease drastically, and with it the prices of apartments/land. You also need to select appropriate “classes” for the zones you’re building – that is, what grade of citizens may work/live there, from low to high.

Graphics and System Requirements

Cities XL is done in a 3D engine, which is only shared by the last game in the SimCity line. The graphics look moderately good, and if you zoom in close enough you’ll see a satisfying level of detail on the buildings and streets. There are realistic transitions in the weather, and the game feels really varied even if you play it for a long time.

The system requirements aren’t affected that largely by the game’s good looks, and you should be able to run it on even a moderately good computer – you’re provided with several options and settings that you can tweak to accommodate it to a low-end machine more accordingly. But generally, if you can run SimCity 4 without hitches, you shouldn’t experience any slowdowns in Cities XL either.

Other

The game used to feature online play with a monthly subscription at one point, though that was dropped due to lack of popularity/revenue. The multiplayer mode allowed you to visit the cities of other players and interact with them to some degree, plus it gave access to a new feature – the bus. After the service was shut down, the bus has been made available for the regular single player mode, so you can make use of it if you’re playing now.

Conclusion

It differs from SimCity 4 in many ways, but it also sticks to the basic formula that makes this type of games so successful – and while it could use the odd touch of polish here and there, it’s still a satisfying experience that should keep you entertained for a while.