Some thoughts on Anno 1800. 1404 is my only reference point so it’s impossible not to constantly compare them. I’m playing the campaign, not very far in but I’ve started on the New World and done a couple of expeditions so I feel like I’ve got a decent taste of it.
The presentation is great. I think I prefer 1404’s slightly more painterly style overall and 1800 has some strange flaws like terrain looking a bit plasticky and occasional LOD issues, but there are so many beautiful models for ships and buildings it feels petty to complain. The first thing I do when I build something new is zoom in to get a good look at it. There’s also a stunning amount of lovingly crafted animations that make the settlements feel busy and alive and the sound design and music are great. At the end of the day you’re still playing a glorified spreadsheed locked in a Skinner box, but damn if it doesn’t do a good job of distracting you from it.
The quests are still a bit crap and I’m disappointed to see the “zoom into your city and find the thing to click on” quests return. They’re a bit less pixel-hunty than they were in 1404 but it’s still garbage design. Luckily you’re also still free to ignore anything you don’t want to do.
The expeditions on the other hand I like. Outfitting a ship with resources and special crew and sending it off on a little text adventure is much more fun to me than the “go there, do that” design of the regular quests.
I still have no interest in the combat. It even seems pared down with only ships and coastal defenses in this (unless more comes into play later). The pirate factions seem little more than a nuisance, either busy work in keeping them in check or a money sink as you pay them extortion money to keep your ships safe.
There may be a bit too much to manage for my tastes. Things like making the population an actual production resource and having them generate income directly through consumption rather than taxes seems fairly small on the surface (and it’s nice to have a reason to keep the early population tiers around), but it becomes a gigantic change as populations are tied to the island they live on. If I want to settle a new island to grow peppers or some other resource I can’t get from my main island I have to set up a whole new population to manage, with their own needs and happiness to satisfy and I’ll probably have to ship in goods and resources I can’t get on that island and so on. If what you want is more complexity that’s great, but it all balloons very quickly.
Luckily it makes a lot more numbers transparent than Anno 1404, but I’d rather not have to spend a lot of time looking at production spreadsheets to figure out where factory chains have bottle-necked or trade routes don’t work.
The game also pulls some pretty dirty tricks to try and make you climb the tech tree faster. Because houses only fill up in stages as their needs increase you end up in situations where you build more houses to get enough workers to fulfill a need, but when that needs is satisfied the population suddenly shoots up and probably gets more needs to satisfy and so on. You can downgrade houses as they fill up to micro-manage the population numbers for stability and depending on playstyle this might not be a bad thing at all, but I’d much prefer having more direct control over population growth.
Given the setting I wish it would at least somewhat deal with the bad sides of colonialism a bit more. Anno 1404 kinda smoothed over feudalism and crusades and here I’m setting up sugarcane plantations in the New World and everything is remarkably happy and unconcerned with actual history. It’s kinda cartoony and fantasy enough to get away with it and I’d certainly not expect some in-depth take on colonialism and slavery, but it gets a little uncomfortable at times.
Despite all the complaining I’m liking it a lot so far. I’ll inevitably ditch the campaign and start up a big old sandbox game at some point, but I might look to turning off or modding a bunch of systems that just don’t add anything to or even detract from what I enjoy with the game.