Announcing itself as the "Creation of a New World," Anno 1602 is a real-time strategy game in the SimCity 2000 or Settlers II style. The action happens continually around you and every move or command you make takes place immediately, not further down the timeline. As the title suggests, this game is set in the early seventeenth century, at a time when there were plenty of empty islands available to colonize.
The game plays like a slow-paced, peaceful strategy game, yet could be considered a trading and war simulation. After finding a suitable island, building the docks and warehouses, and creating a town for your population and their animals, you have to trade with the goods that your (hopefully) contented workforce produces.
This is where the fun really begins, because the other races around you are equally industrious, bloodthirsty, and intent on building up their own trade empires. You can either adopt a suave, diplomatic method of trading with them or be more aggressive and go for a warfare approach to doing business.
Gameplay is made easier by the use of icons which explain themselves when the mouse is passed over them and the interface makes use of eye-pleasing graphics, especially when run at resolutions of 800x600 or higher. There is a zoom utility to make things easier to examine in detail.
If you've got the patience to play Anno 1602 (it can take weeks for the game to reveal all of its subtle tricks), you will be rewarded with a worthwhile and satisfying game. Peaceful it can be; boring it's not.
Graphics: Colorful and detailed.
Sound: Stirring, especially when fighting.
Enjoyment: Fun and easy to master.
Replay Value: The games will enthrall you for weeks.
I'm a sucker for colony building/trading games. Over the past two decades, I've spent hours buying low and selling high in historical sims like Imperialism, Colonization, Machiavelli and High Seas Trader, in the present with Capitalization, Railroad Tycoon and Transport Tycoon, and in the future with titles like Starflight, Psi 5 Trading Company, and, of course, M.U.L.E. It doesn't matter where or when they send me, as long as I'm buying goods or building houses, they've got my attention. Sadly, in the last few years, there haven't been all that many titles that fall into this quirky category. Most of the new strategy/sim titles that have hit the shelf in the past couple of years are far more oriented towards world building and conquest through military action than there are towards discovery and conquest through economic action. Many of the big advancements in strategy gaming that have made straight military conquest games so entertaining (real-time movement, 3D graphics, faster processor speeds) have never been applied to the trading titles I loved as a kid. Enter 1602 AD. While it's certainly not the cutting edge of gaming technology, it is a first peek of what the category will look like in the years to come.
1602 AD is, at its core, a pretty basic colony building and trading simulation. You start as an unnamed European nation in 1602 AD that is looking to expand their power into the New World. As the game starts, you'll need to quickly find a nearby island, survey it to make sure that it is capable of growing the resources that you need it to an.d then build a colony. Once you've completed this basic task, you'll gather building materials, start industries, make trade agreements with neighboring islands and start to grow your population. Although it definitely has a historical feel to it, 1602 AD is designed to be as nationalistically neutral as possible (as the game was originally released in Germany, I'm pretty much okay with this). After entering your name, you are asked to pick one of four different colored banners to represent your country. From here you can either choose to play out one of the game's many scenarios or engage in a free form game. The scenarios, which make the real meat of the game, are basically preset missions banded together by a storyline. In the first scenario, 'New Horizons', you and your men have nearly run out of resources when you finally find land. Sadly, all the good islands have already been taken by a competitor. Your challenge is to develop the poorer areas to gain enough resources to crush your cocky opponent. Another scenario, The Magnate, delivers a completely different game ¿ here your goal is to trade with natives to gain 50 gold. The US release of this game contains all 6 scenarios (in addition to the tutorial and training game) that were included in the original European release, as well as 9 new scenarios. While I really enjoyed all of the different scenarios that were included in the box, What really kept bringing me back to my desk was the free play. Here you and three opponents start with a limited amount of goods on a random map. You've got to scramble to find and grab the good islands before your competitors do and then you've got to work really hard to populate them before all your money runs out. Most of my games tended to be pretty friendly for the first few hours and then, as resources became a little easier to come by, we all started to build armies... just for defensive purposes. It's never long before someone steps on someone else's toes and once a battle starts, everyone on the map seems to get pulled in pretty quickly.
1602 AD's combat is definitely more economically focused than just about any other real-time game out there. Simply getting the resources together to build an army is a major task and keeping yourself profitable enough to maintain that army is nearly impossible. Fans of action oriented titles like Command & Conquer or Starcraft won't find their RTS battle fix here but I found the shift in focus to not only be a little bit more realistic but also a great deal more challenging. Here's why. In a traditional RTS, all you need to do to create a battle unit is to build a factory and then tell it to start churning out troops. This action usually costs you a few resource points which can be replenished by heading to a mine/gas leak/etc. and setting a peon to work. In 1602 AD, you've got to have a certain population level before you even get access to weapons factories. Once you've got them, you'll need to have an Iron Mine that will carry ore to your Ore Smelter that turns raw ore into Iron bars as long as it's provided with wood that comes from a Wood Cutter. Each one of these buildings costs a fair amount of money to keep active. If you ever quit bringing in enough cash (acquired by selling finished goods or taxing your population), you won't be able to create new units. This means that even if you've built up a ton of soldiers, your enemy can cripple you by keeping a blockade around your island that keeps trading ships from making it to your dock. This form of combat is a lot more similar to the supply line tactics that were used in the great European wars.
Even though combat is sometimes unavoidable, 1602 AD is really about discovery. As your colony grows and spreads, you'll get access to more and more building types and your citizens will construct bigger and more impressive housing for themselves. I found myself loosing track of hours at a time just trying to grow my population to the point where I could build a new structure or unit. If you get too tired of paying attention to your colony, you can take control of a scouting ship and start looking for new islands that might be good to colonize. If you get bored with drifting around the seas, you can put together and army and go menace one of your nearby neighbors. The game has enough flexibility to keep even the most fractured mind happy for really long gameplay sessions. Best of all, once you feel like you've exhausted all the possibilities of the single player game, you can get some friends together and either play a four player game over a LAN or play head-to-head via modem.
1602 isn't without its share of problems. The graphics are amazingly dated and the economic model of the game requires a great deal of time and patience to master. I can't tell you how many games I played where I found myself with no money and no way to earn. Still, with its polished interface, deep gameplay and surprisingly low price this is a game that's pretty hard not to recommend. If you're looking for a new strategy game that'll keep you busy while you're waiting for the next batch of big name releases you'll have a hard time finding anything stronger than 1602 AD.
People who downloaded ANNO 1602: Creation of a new world have also downloaded:
Anno 1503: The New World, 1701 A.D., Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Age of Empires, Age of Empires III, Caesar IV, Age of Mythology, A*M*E*R*I*C*A
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