Anno 2205 hands-on: This city builder shoots for the moon

Two words: Moon cities.

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“Wait...so does Anno 2205 have a hands-on too?” I asked. “Oh uh...yeah, sure!” said the person leading me around Ubisoft’s booth at E3 2015.

Yes, this is the weird state of PC gaming—confronted with big-name Ubisoft games like The Division, Assassin’s Creed, For Honor, Rainbow Six: Siege, et cetera, I chose to kick off my appointment with a city builder—the latest in a series that also lifts ideas from real-time strategy games and economic management sims.

And I’m glad I did. I mean, come on: It’s a city builder...on the moon. Here’s what I learned about Anno 2205.

It’s big

After the SimCity-that-shall-not-be-named, my biggest question going into any city builder is, you know, does it feel like a city?

Anno 2205 most certainly does—not, maybe, on the same scale as Cities: Skylines, but definitely enough so there’s room for towering skyscrapers, vibrant downtowns, and rural farmlands. The developer I spoke to said the largest map in the game is about five times bigger than the largest map in Anno 2070.

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Furthermore, each map is but a single part of a larger world—similar to SimCity’s multiple-city concept. Cities you build will run in tandem, though I’m not sure how much interaction you’ll see between regions besides basic resource/energy trade.

Not to understate the importance of resource/energy trade. In fact...

It’s lonely out in space

Elton John thinks Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids? Try the moon.

After your society advances a certain amount, you’ll be able to build up your spaceport and launch colonists to the lunar surface. This allows you access to Helium-3—a vital energy source for a planet raked bare.

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But while the moon is rich in Helium-3 it lacks other things. Important things like air. Food. Water. Oh, and also an atmosphere, which means you’d better build massive shields to protect your fledgling colony from constant meteorite showers.

Your city back at home will be a lifeline to the lunar surface, supplying the necessities of life in exchange for Helium-3. And if this all sounds a little bit like the plot to Moon, well, it is. The developer I spoke to even name-dropped the movie specifically, and the Helium-3 harvester design looks ripped straight from Duncan Jones’s film.

The future is mobile and modular

My favorite feature so far though is really small—you can move buildings around, free of cost. Every city builder knows the pain of laying out a vast area and later realizing how poorly optimized it is. Time to bulldoze!

Not in 2205. You can simply pick up buildings and relocate them to other areas. Want to get your rice farms out of downtown? You can do that. Need to relocate your wind turbines to the outskirts? You can do that too. Want to re-concentrate your industrial sector? Done.

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This is especially important because of the modular nature of 2205’s buildings. Instead of automatically building more structures at each turn, 2205 urges you to add on to buildings (again, similar to the latest SimCity). You can, for instance, tack on a few extra turbines to snag more energy, or add a module to your mining camp that reduces energy usage.

With that sort of system, it’s doubly nice to be able to pick up your fully-upgraded buildings and simply drop them off somewhere else. And the same goes for upgraded residences—now you can pick up and relocate a high-occupancy building instead of bulldozing and building the population back up from scratch.

Bottom line

Moon. Cities.

To be honest, ninety percent of my excitement about Anno 2205 comes from those two words. While we occasionally see a fantastic city builder in the classic vein—Cities: Skylines—it’s the themed games that are doing the most to push the genre forward.Tropico, for instance. And Anno 2205, I hope.

It’s going to take quite a bit more time with Anno 2205 to unpack its systems and delve into the economic management side, but I’m liking what I’ve seen so far—even if it mostly made me want to rewatch Moon for the hundredth time.

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