There's a lot to learn, but one area where the game does a pretty good job is introducing these larger toolsets. On some level, the story mode is a glorified tutorial, lasting 14 hours or so and only releasing the actual combat to you in its last couple of levels - but I never felt as if I was being held back. The story - which has the emotional complexity of the Playmobil figures with which Wii graphics seem to be obsessed, yet has an agreeable humanist tone - actually justifies the individual aims of it all well enough. In fact, for an audience that primarily doesn't wrestle with economic games, it could even be necessary. And if it's too slow for you? Hell, there's the free-to-play skirmish mode where you can generate a map to your requirements and just go for it.

The friendliness, though, makes its flaws more confusing. For example, it's never made clear enough for my liking just how many production centres are required for every processing centre - or, even worse, how many resource-production centres are required for a given amount of the population. Generally, you expand until citizens start complaining about running out of milk or whatever, at which point you throw down extra milk until the problem is resolved. Which would be fine, except that if starved of the resources, the citizens will all devolve to their lower (and less taxable) level. Having a city of aristocrats turn into pioneers makes you appreciate your milkmen a lot more. A clear indicator on the stocks page showing whether the levels were rising, falling or keeping steady would have allowed this sort of thing to be monitored more carefully.

Another minor issue is the level of voice-over help. While you can turn it off or reduce it, the advisors are incredibly insistent on you dealing with problems that you simply can't deal with yet. It grates being told every minute that you have to go to the tribute bar to pay someone some resources when you know that you don't have the resources - and it's doubly annoying that when you do hit the correct level of resources, the game tells you that you've done so, showing that it was monitoring it all along. The problem, of course, isn't that you can't switch the voice-overs off, it's that it's inevitably going to annoy anyone who does want all the tips.

Villages have to defend themselves from ethereal grasping hands.

The biggest problems though - and the reason why I'm being a little downbeat on something that's a pretty fun strategy game - are to do with minor control systems. For example, when you've placed a building, there's no option to undo this. With the best will (and wrist stability) in the world, the Wii controller can be pretty shaky, so this means that if you misplace a building you have to demolish it, and this doesn't get back the resources you've just spent. Something as simple as allowing you to demolish within a few seconds to regain resources would have solved the problem.

More grating though is the combat system. It's really simple (barracks make soldiers, soldiers get on ship, soldiers kill all other soldiers on island, win!), but the problem isn't that, it's that its micro-management seems entirely at odds with the rest of the game. Painstakingly ordering each of your ships on the map, having to manually order them to help when friendly ships are being attacked, and a control system where I'm never sure which mode I want to be in to give this kind of orders, spikes into open frustration.

But still: I sat and played 15 hours of management. Its oversights are mainly ones where you wish the developers had pursued their line of thought longer. Only the combat system would require a complete rethink to come up to scratch rather than a tiny tweak, and combat is - as evidenced by it only appearing towards the campaign's close - a tiny, tiny part of Anno. Mostly, this is a relaxing Sunday-afternoon game, and good at either accompanying the digestion of a roast dinner or the slow exorcism of a hangover. I also liked the bit where I was complimented for delivering herb-tribute to the king, which sounds like some kind of drug-dealing slang. Although that may just be me.

7 /10

About the author

Kieron Gillen

Kieron Gillen


Kieron is one of the founders of the lovely Rock, Paper, Shotgun and nowadays writes comics for Marvel starring characters that even his mum has heard of.

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