Review copy provided courtesy of Ubisoft.
Anno 1800 is the new game in the series of strategy games Anno. In these games you create outposts, advance your technology and infrastructures and try to balance your settlement needs in order to have happy and prosperous citizens. You can achieve this by exploring, making discoveries, establishing diplomatic relations or declaring war if you prefer a more aggressive approach.
The game is played in real time but you can pause or accelerate the rate time goes by. This genre is quite relaxed in its gameplay as thinking is the key to winning instead of physic skill and usually very friendly for gamers with mobility issues. The graphics are rich and detailed, the music and sound good and the gameplay quite refined. As always I’ll comment mostly the accessibility for people with reduced mobility but I will also enumerate other options without going deep into them.
The game is PC exclusive and I played using mouse and keyboard. I want to thank my friend Vantezzle for his contributions to the making of this review. His knowledge of the genre and game mechanics proved invaluable and he deserves my gratitude for all the time and help.
I usually don’t comment on this aspect but due to special circumstances, and with Courtney’s feedback and blessing, I’m adding this to the review.
In Audio you have separate sliders to adjust the volume of all the game’s sounds, voices and music although it would be nice to have one for ambient too.
In-game cinematics have subtitles with the name and a portrait of the speaking person. As you can see there is a subtle background box behind the text.
All dialog text is presented in a vignette showing the speaking character too.
Instructions for how to perform actions is also presented as text on screen. Ambient sound and one-liners like when you click on a building and such have no subtitles. There’s also a narrator that says “Game Saved” and warns you to take a rest when your session reaches a certain amount of time. For these you get text notifications with the same warnings but not exactly the same wording. All in all only flavour text is not subtitled.
In Controls you can change all the keybinds, up to a total of 79. Yes, that’s a lot but they are mostly just keyboard shortcuts and almost all functions can be performed using only the mouse. You can assign combination keys to all these and even functions that are usually not remappable in many games are available here, such as the menu/pause key or the one to access the popular photo mode, called Postcard View here. As a negative note you can’t remap any mouse buttons.
In Gameplay you can choose the Text Language, turn Subtitles on/off and enable the Right Click Menu to have access to more functions using the mouse right button. There are no mouse sensitivity controls or camera speed adjustments, which is strange in a game designed to be played only with a mouse.
How to Play
In all game modes you manage resources, build up your economy and city structures. Upgrading and completing requirements unlocks new buildings and gameplay possibilities.
The Campaign mode serves as a good tutorial and also has a nice storyline developing through four chapters, with a nice balance between structured gameplay and freedom of approach.
Sandbox mode allows you to create a game customized to your specific preferences and taste by adjusting the map size, resources availability, factions, winning conditions… This the core of the game and provides unlimited replayability.
And finally Multiplayer works like Sandbox but up to 4 players compete for the victory. You can create your own game or join someone’s else. The game can be saved and continued later. During Multiplayer only text chat is available.
All menu navigation and in-game actions are performed by clicking the left or right mouse buttons, except rotating buildings which is performed by clicking the middle button. The camera is moved by placing your cursor near the edge of the screen. To pan your camera you hold down the right mouse button and drag in the desired direction. To zoom in or out you use the mouse wheel. To tilt the camera hold the middle button and drag your mouse. Pausing and changing game speed is done by clicking on the top right UI icons, and the same goes for accessing the menu. All the actions mentioned and some more can be also performed using keyboard shortcuts.
Conclusions and issues
The game is very accessible overall. There is no rush performing actions and the pause and save are always there to make sure you don’t get tired. The mouse controls are simple and comfortable but sensitivity and camera speed settings would be appreciated. The key remapping is really good although the lack of mouse button remapping might be troublesome for some players. It was a wonderful surprise to see that the Cancel/Menu and photo mode keys are remappable, a feature so many times requested finally done right! It’s also worth noting that the mouse cursor isn’t locked in Windowed Mode, allowing to use on-screen keyboards.
There a few minor issues. For one, if you pause the game using the UI icon the only way to unpause is pressing the Cancel key. This is hopefully just a bug that can be corrected soon. In the meantime pressing the Menu UI icon will act as pause the game too without causing this problem.
The other issue is that during some quests you have to take a picture of a certain place and the camera controls rely on the mouse for aiming but the cursor keys are used to change the camera position. The same happens when you are in Postcard View/photo mode. In both cases, you also have to press the Cancel/Escape key to exit this view.
Despite these small things Anno 1800 is an extremely accessible game in terms of mobility and a wonderful strategy title that I really recommend.