Anno 1701 DS (Nintendo DS) - Review by andyr

7.8

Introduction

Anno 1701 provides a portable taste of world of the 18th century. You take up the reigns exploring, settling and expanding your civilisation. This provides a much needed addition to the turn-based strategy genre, which up until now has been dominated by the likes of Age of Empires. Anno 1701 enables you to prove yourself not only as a master tactician, but also as an adventurer, strategist, trader and town planner. As the game starts you embark on the journey of a lifetime and Set sail to explore numerous undiscovered islands and cultures. This is a fully fledged colony Sim.

The game is based on the hugely popular PC game franchise, ANNO 1701. It takes the original game and shapes it for a portable experience. Whilst it may have been ill advised to try and cram a fully fledged game into the little handheld, it turns out to provide a nuance and deep game play experience, without compromising the original premise of the game.

Gameplay

This is essentially a strategy simulation game that revolves around the idea of building a small empire on various islands. The general game structure is simple, but well designed so that it keeps you on your toes. As the game progresses you starts to establish a market on an island, then build houses and resource other buildings (such as sugar farms and tea factories).

As in Sim City, people move into the houses you build and start consuming the various goods you provide. As progression continues you are able to level up your village to gain access to new technologies and buildings. Accordingly, this also brings with it the need for more resources and greater management. As so the cycle continues as you slowly develop your own super-civilisation. The key to success comes through careful city planning, ensure your buildings sphere of influence is positioned to maximise their advantage.

There are three different modes provided; firstly a full-fledged campaign including cut-scenes; secondly a free-exploration mode where you can try out particular scenarios; finally a none-too-shabby multiplayer mode offering competitive play for up to four players via Nintendo WFC.

Controls

The game controls are mostly implemented through the stylus. The developers have recognised the investment required here, in both time and money, to ensure that they provide an intuitive experience for the player. To this end the game scores highly. Not only does it look smooth and well designed, but the required options and controls are only one or two taps away. Before too long you can soon forget about the control and concentrate on the game itself. High praise indeed for any game.

Graphics

The game is rendered in a two dimensional isometric style. This enables them to maximise on the DS's screen real-estate, ensuring that every pixel is put to good use. The visuals are clear and bright, and provide satisfying feedback whenever you upgrade to the next level.

Sound

As with elsewhere in the development, some sensible decisions have been made in the sound and music department. Rather than trying to replicate the full score from the PC game on the DS, selective stanzas and musical queues have been lifted out and pasted into key gameplay moments. The result is to lighten up the overall weight of the music, and create a much more playful and less intrusive backdrop for the on screen action.

Other spot effects are also used to good effect to highlight particular events in the game. As well as adding to the authenticity of the experience these also provide excellent audio cues of a whole variety of actions that may be needed to avert disaster for your cities.

Dual screen

Where the screen could easily have become cluttered, an intelligent use of the two screens ensures you always know where to look for the appropriate information. The upper screen provides all relevant game play information while the game takes its course on the touch screen below.

Additionally, and as mentioned above, the game makes great use of the stylus. To image the game being operated entirely on buttons would be almost unthinkable. The developers have therefore put the DS's touch screen to good use, and more than makes up for the lack of mouse and keyboard.

Final comments

As you can tell from our review, we really enjoyed this game. It brought together elements from other titles in the genre (Age of Empires and Sim City) and in many instances made more of a success of the implementation than these bigger budget competitors. To that end this game should be praised for sticking to its design guns and not wavering from their desire to provide a fully-fledged experience on the good old DS.

Pro: Empire building on a grand scale in the palm of your hand.
Con: The gameplay can become samey over time.
Final score: 7.8

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Boxart of Anno 1701 DS (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Simulation
Developer: Keen Games
Publisher: Buena Vista Interactive