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Dawn of Discovery: Early Moments

July 11th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · City Builder, Review, Ubisoft

I’m about four or five missions into the campaign for Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery. The first few are tutorial missions that get you quickly up to speed with resident needs, resource chains, trade routes, etc. In fact, they are one of the better city builder tutorials I’ve seen since they start you out with a city that is already partially laid out so you get an idea of how things should be set up. You get a ton of FedEx quests to complete, and then these are added up to give you a score at the end of a scenario.

Dawn of Discovery seems a lot lighter than the Anno fare I remember. Cities don’t bounce around from poor to rich as much as they used to and the interface is much cleaner. But I remember why these games aren’t near the top of my city builder fan list – the missions take forever.

Now, to be fair, this in itself is not unusual in city building campaigns. Some Caesar IV maps would take tens of hours. The problem here is that there is isn’t enough other stuff to do to make those hours pass. Once you get to the second tier of buildings, you need tools, bricks, wood and gold to build something new and fun. But if you’ve been trading those bricks and tools to make easy coin, you won’t have enough to expand the city, so you need to stop trading that and move on to trading fish or something less glamorous. There is a lot of busy work in this model – if I get a quest from the Vizier that asks me to give him weapons, I need to rejig everything I’ve been doing up to that point so I have the infrastructure in place for weapons. Weapons need patrician citizens who need spices and a tavern which needs 2000 gold and some of those tools and you can’t sell all your fish because everybody loves fish. In other games I love this sort of thing since it requires flexibility. But, in a city builder, it is a bit of a design failure for me because it means that there is a firm limit on how organically my city can grow.

In Caesar IV, your goals were pretty clear but in a vague kind of way. You needed to get to X amount of gold or make Y pieces of furniture or have a prosperity score of Z. How you got there was really up to you. DoD is a little bit tighter on the reins. Islands are usually small, the requirements for each of the dozen or so quests are very specific and if you waste you time occupying an island you don’t need to, then you might as well burn that money.

I am still captivated by DoD, at least so far, because the cities look great and the resource chains actually require quite a bit of planning if you don’t want your town to stagnate. I will probably mess around some in the free build later tonight, and I haven’t tried the military side of things – generally armies and city builders do not mix.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • mystery

    I’m 3 weeks in, and the damn thing still has me by the balls. I’ve always been a sucker for city builders, though, so I guess I should have expected this.

  • David

    I think the great value in that game is found in the continuous play mode. The depth of presets and customization options allows you to craft very specific start points which force different styles of play and unique experiences.

    The supply-and-demand balancing act that you’re always playing is difficult and compelling enough without these mandatory quests messing up your plans. It requires you to be constantly vigilant of every aspect of your economics without giving you the feeling that you’re always falling behind. The game always allows you to progress at your own pace, which you can customize to your liking. It’s great that I can spend all of this time balancing my complex trade network and production facilities without getting the feeling that I’m wasting time not pushing forward to the next technological tier.

    I think you’ll enjoy the continuous play mode a lot better.

  • moromete

    In terms of long sessions Pharaoh really takes first prize with the mission s where you needed to put together a huge pyramid, a pyramid complex and the damn Sfinx. I used to put my city together on Monday and then just launch the game and let it run while eating during the week as the nicely set up economy slowly built up the huge projects…

  • Jason

    I’ll second David — I found the continuous play mode to be much more enjoyable than the campaign. I made it only to mission 5 or so of the campaign before becoming frustrated with the inflexibility of the missions; just what Troy is complaining about. The continuous play mode allows you to set your own goals (both literally during setup and figuratively as you play), and feels a lot more like the open-ended targets Troy describes from Caesar.

  • Jimmy Brown

    I thought it was a shame that Caesar IV was so soulless compared to its predecessor.

  • Nodrownboy

    Either continuous play or the standalone scenarios. The scenarios are basically predefined continuous play setups rather than being like the campaign.

  • Ginger Yellow

    What David said – if the mission requirements annoy you, don’t play the campaign. I’m only playing it myself to get a refresher on how the economy and combat works since it’s been ages since I played an Anno game.