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ANNO 1701: Dawn of Discovery

For: DS

A brave new world

Product: ANNO 1701: Dawn of Discovery | Developer: Keen Games | Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios | Format: DS | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
ANNO 1701: Dawn of Discovery DS, thumbnail 1
We human beings love to organise things. But as our lives become bogged down with day-to-day concerns, such as whether it's now worth buying Berbatov for our Fantasy Football team or whether a final bid for an eBay item should end in 21p or 57p, it's worth remembering the Herculean effort required by our pioneering ancestors.

Take ANNO 1701: Dawn of Discovery, for example. Dumped onto a faraway island at the start of it and immediately you're thrown into tasks, such as stopping your fledgling nation from starving to death as well as avoiding the attentions of hostile natives.

While military concerns do crop up quite frequently, the main focus of the game is the micro-management. Keeping your colony as prosperous as possible is akin to juggling - you've always got several balls in the air at any one time and it's imperative that you don't let any of them drop.

Thankfully, we're not shipwrecked back in the 18th century when it comes to ANNO 1701's presentation. Although it started life as a PC game, unlike the recent disappointing SimCity and Settlers conversions, it's one of the best designed DS games we've played.

What's most important in this context is the excellent stylus-driven control system, which replicates the fluidity of using a mouse with resounding triumph. It's easy to drag the map around, while the zoom button makes it straightforward to see detail, as well as get an overview of the action occurring in your colony.

Equally important is the interface, which is boldly designed to make the most of the DS's small screen, and the way information is presented to the player is also impressive. For example, the quick jump icon enables you to immediately focus in on areas of pressing concern, while the stern-looking advisor will warn you when things are going horribly wrong. Juggling all the different tasks can sometimes cause confusion but the excellent controls go some way to alleviating the chaos.

But back to the game itself. Starting out with nothing but a small warehouse, then, you must ensure your settlers have the proper building materials, which means sending a lumberjack out into the wilderness to accumulate wood. As with other town-management games, constructing roads is vital for ensuring the flow of materials around your settlements, so it's only after linking the lumber mill to the warehouse that the first set of wooden houses can be built.

From here on in, it's a question of the increasing requirements of a capitalistic state, with requests for food and clothing expanding into specialist buildings such as pubs and churches. All of these structures also need protection from fire and theft, and so it goes on.

As your settlement grows from a diminutive township to a fully-fledged city, so too does the social standing of your people. New building types and amenities, such as schools, hospitals, bathhouses and military barracks, become accessible. Your existing structures alter their appearance to represent their continuing development, as well.

The dazzling number of different buildings may seem intimidating at first, but thanks to its excellent tutorial mode and ever-present onscreen hints and tips, ANNO 1701 avoids the issue of drowning the player with too much, too soon. Indeed, the pacing of the first few missions is timed to perfection and enables novices to get to grips with the many options before more demanding events take place.

But constructing such an empire is merely one facet of your duties. To truly succeed, you'll have to come to terms with administrative responsibilities, too. Money is a constant worry, so it's essential that trade and retail are encouraged by constructing marketplaces and keeping a watchful eye on the manufacture of valuable goods. Income is also generated by taxes, thus it becomes important to keep your populace happy and content as they'll be more likely to contribute cash to the state.

And relationships with peoples outside of your sphere of influence are vital to progress. Fairly early in your campaign you encounter Native Americans who grant you a distinctly frosty reception at first, but they soon warm to you when a tribute is given to symbolise your friendship.

Other forces are less welcoming. In fact, the central plot of the game revolves around your Queen battling the nefarious advances of a rival European state that fully intends to steal away all of your hard-earned colonies in a brutish display of military might.

In total, there are 15 meaty missions to complete, set over three difficulty levels, so the challenge offered by ANNO 1701 is considerable. If you crave creative freedom there's also a mode that removes constraining objectives and gives you the opportunity to see just how large an empire you can construct on one single map.

And should you tire of facing off against a computer opponent, then the wireless multiplayer mode - which supports up to four local budding imperialists - will come as a godsend, although sadly it doesn't use the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

But let's not end on a negative. Particularly when ANNO 1701 should come as a pleasant surprise to many DS owners. It's one of the most successful uses of the hardware we've seen so far, thanks to the refreshingly comprehensive degree of control over proceedings it grants players.

Combine this with the engaging and addictive play mechanic and you have a game that will keep empire-builders glued to their DS screens for weeks.
ANNO 1701: Dawn of Discovery
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 22 August 2007
One of the best strategy games released on DS, ANNO 1701 brings engrossing micro-management to the mainstream
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