It seems today that free-to-play are popping up everywhere these days and with very few exceptions, most of them are absolute garbage to play. Then there’s Ubisoft’s Anno Online.
This game is exactly what would happen if SimCity and RuneScape had a baby, and somehow that’s a good thing. Anno Online combines the browser based, free-to-play game-style of RuneScape with the city building experience of the SimCity franchise, and is easily just as addictive as both of them combined. Once you start playing, it’s hard to put the keyboard down as you want to expand the size of your village, obtain more resources, and explore more areas of the map. Before you know it, you’ve sucked up hours upon hours of time and you’re a couple weeks late on writing a review for the game (ah-hem…oops!).
Like most free-to-play games, Anno Online has a micro-transaction system in place that will allow you to buy more resources without waiting, or explore more areas of the map faster. However, one thing Anno does correctly is that the game gives you some of the in game currency every time you level up, so that you never really have to pay a dime out of pocket in order to have the full experience. There are even quests in the game where if you spend some of the marketplace currency, you are rewarded with more. This results in a truly free-to-play experience and is one that some other developers should take notes on.
Like with all games, Anno Online does have it’s short-comings. The entire premise of the game is one that has been done over and over again. Build a village, obtain villagers, become more powerful, ect. Does the world really need another one of these games? Probably not, but do we really need a new Call of Duty every year either? The problem with these games is that it is extremely hard to revolutionize something that is already perfect just by letting the players control their own game environment. Still, seeing the perspective from a game not made by EA is a truly refreshing change of pace.
Overall, the similarities between this game and every other city building game make it incredibly difficult to tell what’s worth praising, what’s worth scolding, and what’s there because, well, it just kind of has to be. Anno Online is loads of fun to play, just like SimCity would have been if the servers had been working when everyone was trying to play it, but while both games are always online, Anno is browser based. This means that you can play your same village from any computer in the world, without downloading anything.
Let’s be honest, gaming laptops are expensive, and if you’re traveling around from convention to convention, you’d never be able to download your games even if you had one because of the terrible wireless connections you get in most hotels. That is why Anno Online is the perfect travel companion for any gamer on the go. Any computer, anywhere, no downloads. Plus, it’s loads of fun and free. If you can’t give this game an honest shot after that, at least you can still look at your bank account and cry over the $60 you spent on SimCity.