German developer Sunflowers has told us that they are currently applying the finishing touches to ANNO 1503 - The New World, an empire-building real-time strategy title set 500 years ago, almost to the day.
The game world is said to be very ambitious, with six climatic zones; polar, tundra, prairie, desert, moderate northern and jungle, and each region has its own natural resources, materials and animal wildlife.
"The Climatic regions in ANNO 1503 give the game a lot of graphic diversity as well as making the player think," according to Sunflowers' Wolfgang Duhr. "Some of what they'll encounter is very obvious, for example, growing spices in Polar Regions is impossible, and the demands for fur and wool in hotter climates will be less. As the player explores these regions, they'll encounter indigenous cultures - which is where the challenge steps up a gear."
The AI is also said to be of a high calibre, taking its cue from the player's actions instead of tank-rushing in familiar style - depending on how the player handles his forces, the AI will skew the gameplay between peaceful and aggressive, and fighting to a level the player can deal with instead of working to a script.
ANNO 1503 is due out on the PC in February 2003, published by EA.