Anno Online Test: (Re)Discovering a Familiar New World

05/10/2013 10:05 am by Marcel Wuttig in TestsBrowser GamesStrategy

A desolated island in the middle of nowhere; one brave pioneer ventures out into this unknown world and founds a new society by establishing a hamlet. Over time, he and his fellow pioneers evolve into vassals, merchants, and imperials as their settlement develops into a thriving trading hub. 

The Anno series is the next economic simulation to make its way into the world of online browser games. The English-language closed beta officially started on April 23, 2013. Naturally, we here at took this opportunity to sit down by the fireplace, pour ourselves a mug of ale, and sharpen our quill as we traveled back in time to test the online version of the game.

Discovering a New World

Anno Online takes place on a newly discovered, desolated island with vast natural resources. It has everything your heart desires, especially if you’re a medieval discoverer who is trying to establish an independent colony in the name of his empress. 

Instead of overwhelming players with its complex gameplay, developer Ubisoft decides to take all gamers by the hand in a detailed and somewhat strict tutorial. While simulation rookies will appreciate this structured guidance, more experienced gamers might get frustrated with Anno Online’s caring, but fairly stringent help.

In the very beginning of the game, our friendly helper insistently popped up and told us what to do, never allowing us to independently evaluate a given situation. This got somewhat tedious because it prevented us from familiarizing ourselves with the game on our own terms. Our helper dictated where to construct what buildings, leaving no room for individual thinking. Accordingly, our hamlet successfully grew and developed into a thorp.
Because of its strictness, the tutorial managed to quickly and thoroughly explain the various parts of Anno Online’s controls and gameplay mechanics, providing numerous helpful tips and tricks along the way. As the game progressed, the precise directions subtly evolved into broader quests that involved more independent planning and thinking. 

Economic Chain Reaction

In Anno Online, our main goal was to build and maintain a thriving medieval society by fulfilling our population’s wishes and needs. We had to start off by building our first couple of residences in order to establish a basic population. Naturally, we needed wood to construct houses and built a lumberjack’s hut in a nearby forest. Next, our citizens demanded a marketplace to trade goods, a chapel to practice their religion, and a carpenter to maintain their wooden buildings. 

Lumberjack's huts need to be built in forests.

Roads connect buildings, and distribution houses circulate goods; goat farms provide fresh milk, and the fisherman’s hut delivers fish. 

One request led to the next as our city steadily grew. By providing for our citizens and accomplishing quests, we earned skill points and eventually leveled up. We found that completing quests was the quickest and easiest way to get ahead in the online game.

It was important to find a balance between spending and earning coins because one thing just seemed to lead to another and another... and another. Commercial businesses and industries were expensive to maintain, whereas residences provided money due to their capitalistic inhabitants. Accordingly, it was important to have a good amount of thriftless residents in our settlement who spent their well-earned money on our marketplaces. 

Evolving and Reorganizing

Our population’s demands became more complex and specific as we progressed further in the game. The pioneers demanded to wear clothes, forcing us to build sheep farms and spinner’s huts in order to produce woolen garments. As soon as we managed to steadily keep our population content, we were able to upgrade our pioneer residences into vassal residences. 

Our population was able to upgrade as soon as they were content.

At this point in the game, it had become much more time-consuming to accomplish Anno Online’s intricate quests. Our citizens started demanding a tavern to be entertained, a treasury to manage their finances, and a fire station to protect them from fires. We ended up constantly reorganizing our settlement and rethinking earlier decisions to guarantee that every new establishment was within our settlers’ influence areas. 
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