Rome was built in a day, complete with variety theatres. And a union office. And lots and lots of snooty artisans.
Three months have passed since Ubisoft hailed the comeback of the Anno franchise with a very, very good instalment. The reception to Anno 1800 has ultimately been very positive. It’s a game that looks and genuinely feels epic. Set in a time period that leads players into the first industrial revolution, it offers a real evolutionary experience of city-building and maintenance. You go from tending patches of farmland to overseeing whole plantations. Mining the first load of iron, to having the whole place illuminated by the miracle of electricity. Building your first ship for her Majesty, to negotiating complex trade deals with your island neighbours. It is all very impressive but be warned, this is an investment of a game. Societal micro-managing on a scale such as this will not provide meaningful results in the space of one hour-long sitting. You need to dedicate real time and effort to the various elements that both power and threaten your empire. Civil unrest, food shortages, invaders. And these are all before you set out to colonise the island next door and have to deal with pirates and competitors.
Regardless of what we’re here to talk about, Anno 1800 proved to be both a visual and gaming success, despite some narrative shortcomings and gameplay that could be at times be very intimidating. For more on the base game, you can read my initial review of it.
And so, the time has come for even more colonial expansion. Sunken Treasures is the first DLC to be offered and serves as a real launching pad for the game’s Season Pass. I’m still on the fence regarding this method in how studios get you to pay up for content that has yet to even materialise, but Ubisoft has foreseen my cynicism and offers up the package as a separate purchase. Good move, made even better if the plan is to offer DLC that each contains a unique characteristic. Players can choose what they want their colonies to look like, and what goods and services to specialize in. Whether that strategy is actually feasible in the long run, however, will have to be seen.
The Queen’s gone missing, probably off trying to steal a dodo from Hugh Grant and David Tennant. Her confidant Sir Archibald Blake has dispatched you to find her, sending you on a voyage that docks you on the other side of the continent. Welcome to Cape Trelawny, the sight of an epic battle that left many sea craft on the bottom of the ocean floor. Turns out Queenie wasn’t just cavorting around, for she has a new mission for you: Set up shop at the Cape and dive beneath the waves to find and recover a historical artefact of great importance to the empire.
Now before one can even access Sunken Treasures, there are a few requirements to fulfil. Namely, the presence of seven hundred artisans on your established island of Ditchwater. This may sound intimidating at first since it implies that your overall population number needs to be in the thousands. Thinking about it, the requirement does mean that you have the skillset needed to hit the ground running with your new trading post. It’s a new island with extended objectives that first-time sightseers would have a greater difficulty of completing than those of the base game.
New island. Big island. MASSIVE ISLAND. Cape Trelawny is reportedly three times bigger than Ditchwater, occupying a full corner of the new map. Sprawling plains and enough resources to fuel you into the next century, it has the potential to one-up Ditchwater to become the centre of your empire. Knowing what not to do and making sure your settlement doesn’t disintegrate, you can get to work on the perfectly planned city. In fact, a huge chunk of the DLC is dedicated to establishing Cape Trelawny and its operations within the region. It is an essential downfall for the DLC on the whole though; the necessity of having a base of operations takes up a large amount of time and effort when one would rather hope to fully indulge in the new stuff. Because of this, the DLC won’t have any redeeming value for those who don’t like the base game (if that was the case, you have my condolences for your costly dissatisfaction).
The treasure hunt at the core of this package is conceptualized to have a permanent impact on your overall game experience, rather than being an open-and-shut storytelling event. In the beginning, you are acquainted with Old Nate, an inventor who lives in a steampunk palace just a sail away from you. He immediately equips you with a diving bell attached to an old trawler and sends you off to plunder every inch of the ocean floor. While you may be on the lookout for a specific object, every dive is profitable in the form of various tiers of scrap. This scrap is then sold back to Nate, who then comes up with unique and interesting inventions that benefit both your progression and your islands. One of the inventions he came up with was a slot machine, which made Ditchwater’s inhabitants very, VERY happy. The scrap is a welcome addition to the game’s mechanics, and it provides more than enough incentive to keep diving and find Queenie’s artefact. The story surrounding it is pretty standard. The visuals are still up to scratch, and it now has the added aesthetic of Steampunk. Everything is made better with Steampunk.
The scrap also introduces a randomized element into gameplay which is heavily structured and ordered. This is the biggest advantage that the DLC has. You’re not exactly sure what invention Nate might end up giving you, and how and where that invention will serve the most benefit to your empire. In short, the sandbox has been made even deeper. However, it is not necessarily bigger. For a game the size of Anno 1800, Sunken Treasures offers a relatively small amount of content. It’s fun and engaging content, and it is a step forward in intricate world-building, but it is limited in its scope. I’m not convinced by the asking price, especially as a standalone product. And the key factor to keep in mind is that it, like the rest of the game, takes time and patience. Even though I am a fan of the genre, I did start to grow impatient with the speed at which I progressed. As much as I can appreciate Cape Trelawny for its size and the utopia I began building there, all I wanted to do was jump in my diving bell and disappear beneath the waves for a while.
Sunken Treasures is a solid expansion of a solid game. Nothing groundbreaking (despite breaking ground on a new city), but the core gameplay remains intact with a few additions that broaden the horizon. It is meticulous in its implementation and I can see Ubisoft doing more like it. Because of that however, it won’t draw in any new gamers beyond those who liked the base experience. It is smooth, uninterrupted sailing.
Last Updated: August 7, 2019