Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review

Written by Joe Martin

June 12, 2009 | 09:19

Tags: #blue-byte #historical #rts #strategy

Companies: #ubisoft

Dawn of Graphics

One of the first things to notice about Anno 1404 is that it’s actually quite a beautiful game, especially by the standards of most strategy games. The level of detail is actually quite astonishing when the settings are pushed to the maximum and the presentation of the game strikes an excellent balance between realism and the colourful, caricature-like style that’s obviously influenced the designers.

The water in particular is one area of the game that looks truly breathtaking, with the sun glistening off of waves around the edge of the screen and dolphins darting through the oceans like schoolchildren running around the pick and mix in the last few days before Woolworths closed.

Even on the low settings the sea looks practically photo-realistic when you zoom the view out a bit, though it looks a lot more plain when you push the camera closer to the waves. That’s true on the higher settings as well though and even though the galleons that zip across the water leave a trail of spume in their wake the water still looks a bit jelly-ish.

Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics
Graphics presets in Anno 1404 (from left to right) on Low, Medium, High and Very High, click to enlarge

Speaking of settings, we’ve snapped some screenshots of the different graphical presets available in Anno 1404 to help give you an idea of how the game might look on your PC – and we’ve done it with both zoomed out and zoomed in perspectives, ‘cos we’re extra nice. It’s important to get an idea for how the game looks at both levels of zoom because, while in other strategy games you might only play with the viewed zoomed out, in Anno 1404 there’s plenty of times when you’ll want a closer look. Taking a close look at reefs for possible salvage, scouring marketplaces for fighters you can draft as knights for the crusade – these are just a few examples of when you’ll want to put your specs on.

When it comes to performance, we didn’t have any trouble with Anno 1404 on our standard test system, with even the Very High graphics preset running at a smooth average of 54 frames per second with a Vista 32-bit, a 2.93GHz Core 2 Duo X6800 CPU, 3.25GB of accessible RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 280 under the hood. That’s hardly surprising though as the minimum system requirements for Anno 1404 list only a Pentium 4 3GHz, DirectX 9 compatible graphics card with Shader Model 2.0 support and 128MB of memory and 1GB of RAM – so our machine is way beyond overkill, really.

Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery Review Anno 1404: Dawn of Graphics
Graphics presets in Anno 1404 (from left to right) on Low, Medium, High and Very High, click to enlarge

That said, if you’re worried that your system won’t be able to handle the game on the higher settings then you can check out the latest instalment of our monthly buyer's guide to get recommendations on the best hardware to buy in terms of both performance and budget.

Much like the upcoming World War 2 Square Enix strategy game Order of War, Anno 1404 also includes a cinematic camera mode, though the one used in Anno 1404 is a little better than the one we’ve seen in Order of War by virtue of being controllable instead of automated. In Order of War the viewpoint will jump around as it pleases in an effort to catch the best view of the action. What with there being so little real action going on in Anno 1404 though, the camera can be guided as you please, but the field of view and viewing angle are adjusted to differentiate the camera mode from the standard viewpoint.

Oh – and Anno 1404s camera is better because the game is actually pretty to look at too, rather than just having a standard selection of boring trenches and tanks. The art style used in Anno 1404 is colourful, vibrant and actually nice to look at, with empty desert islands being especially striking as you watch the wind blow coarse gusts across the dunes and see the palm trees bounce in the breeze. This really is one strategy game we might play just to appreciate the view!
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