Crossing the Steams 12.01.12: Anno 2070 Thoughts
Posted by Marc Morrison on 12.01.2012
The global warming-themed RTS/city builder Anno 2070 got good reviews from critics upon its release, but how does it stack up a year later? 411's Marc Morrison takes a look in this week's Crossing the Steams!
Welcome to yet another edition of Crossing the Steams. This week I intended to look at Anno 2070 but you can't really get a feeling of Anno 2070 without a doctorate in Economics. So instead, I'll just explain some of what the game is about, and then catch everyone up on a few other games I've been toying with.
I really wanted to like this game. I've had no experience with any other Anno game, which is probably where some of the fault lies. However, I did hear about this game/see it, and was interested. Anno 2070 is an economic simulator/RTS game, where the breakdown is about 75% (eco sim) to 25% (RTS game). It takes place on Earth in the titular year of 2070, where global warming has caused an increase of sea levels, and the world is on the brink of an ecological disaster. That is a good premise to have, and to be fair, Anno 2070 does it a LOT better than the "Fate of the World" game from last year. However the premise alone isn't really enough to carry this game.
The biggest issue, by a country mile, with this game is the complete lack of insight into what the problem in the city is, or how to actually fix it. You do have access to a breadth of information on the city, but a lot of it feels ancillary and doesn't translate into the problems that will befall you. For instance, the game will say that people are starving and that you need to build a farm. So you do so, and nothing happens. Your farm (with the fields) will just sit there for a while, and you'll be perplexed as to why it's not actually doing anything. This type of thing happens all the time in the game, and you won't know what the problem is. I had to get more wood, so I had to build a lumber farm and then a lumber mill to convert the tree into wood. I built the farm fine, but the lumber mill wouldn't activate to start processing the lumber. I had built it far away from the farm, so I thought if I built one next to it, it would work. Nothing happened. Finally, after about 10 minutes of wondering what to do, I saw my first mill eventually switch on, and begin to (slowly) process the lumber. I plunked down a 3rd mill next to the first one to see if that switched on, and nothing happened. It took about 15 minutes for the first mill to process the 5 (yes 5) pieces of lumber I needed for the next part of the mission. It was agonizing to watch, and to have no idea what the problem was with the other two mills (they were sufficiently powered at the time).
In my time with the game, I made it up to mission 5, so beaten the first chapter of the game and onto the first mission of chapter 2. In those 5 missions, I've fought exactly one enemy. And the battle was so brief as to be almost completely forgetful. When typing this up, I tried to think of how many times you fight, and it's just the one time. You may get up the big battles later on (although I doubt it), but for the first few hours of the game, it's just one encounter.
Aside from the game giving you no help (where it's needed), and the languid pace of the overall game, it is still interesting. The game is very nicely detailed, and looks beautiful. The music is very new-wave sounding, but not annoying. The voice acting is largely decent but a bit over the top in spots. There are two main factions in the game, the Eden Initiative (eco hippies) and the Global Trust (Republicans), but the Global Trust are painted as such greedy assholes, you almost always want to go with the Eden Imitative. There is a third neutral foundation called the S.A.A.T. (Scientific Academy for Advanced Technology), but you can't strictly align with them in the main game, so they don't count. Even the title menu screen has a ton of different options for you to explore, be it the main game, a special time-limited mission or else voting who you want to be in charge.
For its one big fault, I think only certain players will get a lot out of Anno 2070. For more action-oriented player, I'd probably recommend against it. Still, it is an amazing game to try and wrap your mind around and to even enjoy on a base level.
I received this game a few days ago and after playing it for a few hours, I still have no clue what is going on but I like it. Hotline Miami is a top-down stealth (in a sense) game, where you go through various buildings and eliminate anyone you come across. You can melee them with your fists or an item, throw an item at them, or else just shoot them with a gun (if you have one). Enemies die pretty quickly while in the game, but then again, so do you. Most enemies only take a single shot to put them down, but this works against you, so you'll likely die a lot as you complete the levels. You can move the camera around though (past your character's model), so you can plan your attacks. You can also lock onto enemies, so that you don't need to really aim at all at them.
Everything about the story, music and graphics is like a fever-dream from 1995 though, with appropriate-era looks, and music. Everything is stylized to an extreme degree, so it all looks actually really fresh. The story is completely bonkers so far, but I enjoy it. It's a tremendously original game that would be masterful if not for one problemů.
The game is unstable as all hell, as it currently stands. This isn't a Windows 8 issue (as compared to Planetside 2/Walking Dead), but just a game issue at large. I can't play the game for more than a half hour without it just crashing to the desktop, or randomly locking up. It's compounded by how the game checkpoints (only after you beat a level), so some levels have 2, 3, even 4 different floors for you to get through, and when you make it to the 4th floor, the game crashes, you've lost all your progress. If it wasn't for this though, it would be one of the best purchases you could make at 10$. Here's hoping that another patch is on the way to address more of these issues.
Other Steam News
There are three releases coming out, one of which is pretty big, the other two a little less so. OBVIOUSLY, the big release next week is The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles, due on Dec. 5th. It's an adventure game with a kind of Disney aesthetic, where you solve puzzles and such. Also on the 5th is AirBuccaneers. It looks kind of like an action/RTS hybrid, but everything takes place on air-balloons in the sky. Finally, on the 4th (so one day earlier), a small, indie game called Far Cry 3 is due out. It's an open-world, first-person hunting/skinning simulator, where you also occasionally kill the random bad guy, and liberate an island's population. You know, like all hunters have done in their past. Next week, I may either look at a game, or address a subject within the gaming world, I've not decided yet.