Anno 1701 / Ubisoft / Nintendo DS


The teaching of American history in United States schools has always been very interesting. Up until about twenty or so years ago, it wasn't very honest or objective, and in some areas, it still isn't. For example, when I was in school as a young tot, we had our heads filled with Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue in 1492, the Nina and Pinta and Santa Maria, and Thanksgiving as the great feast of unity between English settlers and Indians. Nevermind the seven to ten million people that were estimated to have already inhabited the continent at the time that Columbus stumbled into it, economic conditions in Europe that affected the way the New World developed, the whole "origins of slavery" thing or pretty much anything at all that happened south of, say, Florida from 1500 onward.

It'd be fair to say that American schools have largely taken a Euro-centric perspective that ignores or skates around anything too ugly or controversial ... which is most of the history of the "settlement" of the Americas, basically. Anno 1701 was originally made for PCs by a German publisher, and while it exists in a sort of oversimplified parallel universe, it does basically hew to that Euro-centric Disney-style view of history. You work for Good Queen of Europe, who is at war with Evil Queen of Europe, and the goal is to gobble up and settle as much land as possible in the New World before Evil Queen does. There don't even appear to be any native inhabitants ... the New World is just represented as this giant unclaimed territory waiting to be populated and exploited for resources.

Anyway, I didn't give the Ugh rating to Anno 1701 because of it's politics - I gave it because it's just a boring game. The generic fantasy-world perspective it takes on history reflects on it's unimaginativeness in design, and I certainly don't like the worldview it (perhaps unintentionally) promotes, but that's not actually my major issue with it. The major issue is that it is really just not that fun to play. The game is basically a hybrid of SimCity and Civilization, with both simplified to a great degree. You start out with an island to settle, you gather lumber and other resources to build stuff, which adds to your population count, and as you grow and become more prosperous your people start demanding Moar and Moar Stuff, which you have to build to pacify them. Meanwhile Evil Queen launches attacks from her islands sometimes, and eventually you can invade those, plus Jonny Depp might come around and hassle your ships and port towns, so you have to balance a military with domestic production. All of this has been done many times before, and both with a better interface and in greater detail. The stylus control is as bad as would be expected with a game with lots of tiny units clustered together on a small screen. Only recommended if you are absolutely jonesing for some sort of civ-building sim on the DS and the actual Civilization title released for the system isn't doing it for you for some reason.



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