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Anno 2070 Demo Impressions

Anno 2070 Demo Impressions

Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PC
Release Date: 17 November, 2011

It’s pretty obvious that Anno 2070 is set in the future; the name's a dead giveaway. In the future, the ice caps have melted, the coast is flooded and natural resources are big business. Oh, sorry, Big Business. The intro video makes you aware of this, as well as the fact that there's a potential conflict of interest awaiting you – the corporate Global Trust is hell-bent on securing all the natural resources and energy production on the planet, while the Eden Initiative has ultra-modern green technologies. A slow, patronising clap for the first person to see where this is going.

The imagery of the two factions is stark too – Eden Initiative cities have trees, curved buildings and look lovely, while Global Trust settlements look like dull, grey industrial slums. The game purports to let you make your own choice, but the bias in the delivery of the two factions is palpable. It’s like the worst game-show ever: do you want to be a) an irresponsibly capitalist corporate puppet, or b) a human being? Tough choice.

Anno 2070 Demo Impressions
The most fun was this one-off escort mission. We got to shoot something

This continues into the first mission, where some corporate shill bosses you around like a minion: go there, fetch this, oh well done you’ve completed a basic task. It’s hardly endearing. The main crux is that you’re tasked to build some super-efficient turbine thingy for the hydroelectric dam to increase energy production, and you need to build a new settlement to house the workers that are going to do this for you.

This is a dull series of micro-managed menial tasks: build this, then this, build something else, do this thing that the game’s pointing at, make some tea, wheel around the office on Joe’s silly ball-chair, discuss whether human and large-dog faeces might look identical... The last few instructions we had to add, just to keep ourselves interested.

About two thirds of the way through the first level, a well-meaning and humble engineer comes to you saying that the turbine is over-specced for the design. It’s not been tested, it’s likely to break the dam, flood the town behind it, cause untold chaos and some other stuff you’re meant to care about. So, you’ve been bossed about by some jumped-up corporate tit that’s treated you like dirt and now you’ve got good reason to mess up his precious two-year plan that he keeps going on about. Great, let’s do that.

You can’t.

Anno 2070 Demo Impressions
Don't believe the experts; you must stick to the corporation's financial targets

There’s nothing you can do to stop the production of this turbine; rather than make your own choices, you have to blindly follow orders from The Man like a soulless drone. After fitting the turbine, the dam inevitably breaks and the town is flooded. Curiously, you’re then presented with a screen declaring that you’ve won the level. Well done for ignoring your conscience and drowning all those thousands of people, here's your monthly pay-cheque!

The second level doesn’t get much better, as the tedious fetch-and-carry tasks become more laborious and confusing. There’s a point where you have to build some mines, but if you build them too quickly the game doesn’t realise. It prompted us to construct another mine building, but all the natural resource points had been claimed (by mines we’d just built).

Anno 2070 Demo Impressions
Good job, genius

We waited for ages to see if something would happen, but had to resort to demolishing everything we’d built to reset the mission. We did all this while the game was ‘urgently’ telling us to meet with the kind engineer to repair the dam and restore normality to the townsfolks’ lives. We had no idea how to do this, so ignored the task; no punishment was meted as we mucked about with building, destroying and then re-building settlements, and we presume we drew our salary as usual.

It doesn't help that the menu system is divided up into little sections, scattered all around the screen. The icon design is also fairly generic, to the point where the purpose of each icon isn't always clear. After a few hours with Anno 2070 we became bored with the watery conceit of the game and its build-this/do-that gameplay and resigned our posts. Take that, Global Trust!

Think we might be wrong? You can download the Anno 2070 demo to see for yourself; the game is on sale for PC from 17 November, and is published by Ubisoft.

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