Those who played Anno 1404 will remember that at a certain point there was a poll by Ubisoft regarding the time-period for the next title of the series. I opted for Feudal Japan, but most of the fans, probably bored of the medieval background of the four Anno games decided that the fifth installment should have a futuristic theme. Related Designs and Blue Byte not only conformed, working on the visuals accordingly, but they also introduced changes and improvements of a magnitude comparable to that of Anno 1404 vs. Anno 1701.
In essence, nothing has changed. You start with a ship, settle on islands and start building, from houses and factories (industry) to farms (agriculture). And train military units, because the end goal is not only a solid economy with a well-developed city, but also military supremacy. Yet, as you go through it, you realize that Anno 2070 isn’t just an Anno 1404 mod with futuristic textures slapped on it.
First off, you have an Ark, a mix between a Warehouse and a ship: it can store goods and special items, but it can also be moved in various predetermined places on the map. Moreover, based on the spaceport model from Dune 2, you can call down goods with an almost immediate delivery, but with not so negligible wait time in between requests. Besides the storing units, the Ark can be improved with modules that can be bought (and sold) or obtained via quests or Academy research (these are persistent only in a certain situation).
The game offers a single-player campaign divided into chapters and missions, a campaign which in large part is a tutorial, judging from the difficulty (there are a few scenarios that can be played against the AI or in multiplayer… with or without co-op). Regarding the single-player campaigns and scenarios, the item persistence in the Ark no longer applies. It’s active only during the Continuous play mode, being very useful against the AI. For instance, you can complete a map with no opponents, then, with an Ark choke full of items, you can go head-to-head with the AI even on the maximum difficulty level.
The Continuous play mode is available in multiplayer (with or without co-op), at which point the item persistence is optional. Don’t accept challenges with this option turned on if you’re not an experienced player or have a suitably equipped Ark of your own – you can run into some very nasty surprises. Also, item persistence is an integral part of the player profile, so it can’t be shared (via saved games) or lost.
Unlike its predecessor, Anno 2070 doesn’t allow multiple profiles. In Anno 1404 you could have two profiles on the same Uplay account: each had the single-player and achievements progress stored separately. In 2070 there’s only one profile, connected to the Uplay service, so if you want your girlfriend to play, but without sharing the achievements, you’ll have to buy a second copy and take turns on Uplay. On the other hand, you can play in offline mode as well, but your achievements won’t be saved and you won’t have access to the online-exclusive content.
Aside from the Ark, the second major novelty is the number of factions. In Anno 1404 we had two, with the Orient being a subsidiary or the first (the Western world). Here we have two groups, distinct and complementary at the same time, plus a third that can be considered an annex of the first two. You can think of them as an isosceles triangle, with the sides being the Ecos and Tycoons, while the Techs represent the base.
The Eden Initiative / Ecos are the environmentalists; their buildings take up a lot of space, but the ecological balance can be positive, which offers them superior economic output; however, on the military side they are vulnerable in the first third of the game. The Global Trust / Tycoons have the strongest military unit and are unmatched when it comes to energy efficiency (cost/space/production), but the alliance with the S.A.A.T / Techs is only possible if the ecological balance is in the negative.
The third faction becomes available to the players when the citizens of both groups reach the rank of engineers. From this point on, you can build underwater structures, with an immediate effect on what goods you can produce to satisfy the rank 4 citizens. You also gain access to the other main faction when your population reaches the maximum development level.
Just like in Anno 1404, in a pyramid fashion, the well-being of each class of citizens depends on the economic support offered by a minimum number of the immediate, lower class. So not all Workers can become Engineers, just like not every Engineer can become Executives.
The third major change compared to Anno 1404 is the implementation and melding of three concepts – energy, ecology and politics. As previously mentioned, positive ecological values yield better crops and higher taxes. Also, the lack of a minimum energy flux necessary for a normal functioning economy will result in ups and downs when it comes to the productivity of buildings which require energy.
Since some energy producing buildings also pollute the environment, and some that clean it up are very energy hungry, a balance must be maintained between the two, a balance that varies depending on what faction you’re playing with and the technological / economical level that you’ve achieved.
Outside of the game proper, Anno 2070 allows you to periodically vote for one of the three factions in the Global Council and Senate. The vote results is embodied in the ability to access certain bonuses (using the Ark), such as improved productivity for certain goods, or superior firepower for turrets. The aspect, called the metagame, influences every game mode, regardless if its single or multiplayer.
The bonuses are temporary, but can be obtained again after a while. The only condition is that you have enough licenses (the Honor Points from Anno 1404), which you can either buy or obtain via quests.