Ubisoft’s Anno series of games have been running for years – both in terms of how long the series spans and it’s numerous releases – and finally it seems that Ubisoft want to evolve the franchise beyond what they’ve already offered. So, with Anno Online, Ubisoft have taken their much loved series and mixed it together with the free-to-play model that graces social and mobile gaming and then integrated it completely into the web browser. Interestingly though, this isn’t a web browser game that you’d expect to find on Facebook or MiniClip.
With Anno Online you can expect to find a fully formed and realised Anno title, none of that watered down rubbish that your prejudices may have thought it would be. You’ll still have full abilities to build houses, full production facilities and routes as well as settlements and island exploration and empirical expansion too. Essentially, it’s another Anno title but accessible on your browser with near instant loading times sumptuous visuals – all without having to put a strain on your system.
As it’s an Anno title at its core, you’ll be nurturing your young and fresh village into a city and pleasing the needs of your people and settlers to help fund your ever growing city. You’ll sail off to discover new islands and form new lands, that you can then form trade routes with and grow your empire even more. Things begin to differ with Anno Online when you factor in it’s persistent online nature; thanks to this you’ll be able to interact with others. You’ll be able to trade goods with other players, continually chat and plan your cities expansion, and you’ll work together to build some massive structures like grand cathedrals.
As this is an online game, BlueByte and Ubisoft have ensured that it doesn’t look too intimidating for newcomers – as now barriers to entry are lower they expect more people who have never played before to show interest. They’ve managed to do this by creating a sleek and stylish UI that still contains all the features that the retail games have. Everything’s just been streamlined and tucked away so you can really see the isometric, and highly detailed, visuals with ease.
You probably want to know exactly how this F2P model works, after all you don’t want to be hit by some limit on building or city expansion just because you decided that you didn’t fancy playing. Well, as we heard many times mentioned throughout Ubisoft’s presentations, it’s known as ‘fair-to-play’ – meaning that you won’t be charged for wanting to just play as you want to play. However, you will be charged when you want to own more islands than the six or so slots you’re given to start with, you’ll also pay if you want to hire ships for travel – that is instead of building up shipyards and making ships so you can sail across for free. Essentially, you’re paying for ways that’ll make your city building and colonial expansion just that little bit easier, but you won’t be buying victory.
Combine this with an avatar system that apparently has over 3.5 million unique combinations for players to use, plus a daily quest system that’ll keep you coming back for more, it seems that Anno Online could well be a stealthy killer app for Ubisoft’s free-to-play browser efforts. If like me, you like building and managing cities, you really have no excuse to give Anno Online a go, and right now it’s in closed beta, so you can go and try your best to squeeze in before release and get your building hands ready.