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On Site Review: Dawn of Discovery DS

February 10th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · City Builder, Review

When you move a strategy game from a major platform to a handheld device, you have to expect a certain amount of change. RTSes like Age of Empires and Age of Mythology become turn based games. Wargames like Advance Wars and Panzer Tactics impose strict time limits or encourage the promotion of a group of persistent campaign units.

Dawn of Discovery becomes less a trading game and more a city builder. In the PC version, the transportation of goods from one island to another was a central game mechanic. On the DS, it isn’t. And this proves to change the game’s pace in some very remarkable ways.

The first thing you’ll notice about resource management is that some goods you acquire will be accessible to every island you own. So if you have a ton of wood production on island A, then you can use this wood on any island you occupy. This means no more shipping basic goods from one over-productive metropole to the hinterland colonies as they try to get up and running. Peasants need milk to become settlers, but so long as you have milk anywhere, you have milk everywhere. This makes it much easier to upgrade tiny settlements and allows even more specialization than the original game encouraged. You don’t just focus island production on particular luxuries – even the basics can be built in one location and not another.

This makes ships a lot less important. How less important? When you settle a new colony, your ship turns into the starting warehouse. Since you aren’t carting goods between settlements, you won’t miss it much. Selling goods doesn’t require schlepping them from one port to another, all you have to do is open the market interface and pick how much you want to sell. You will eventually need ships to explore new lands and warships, but there is a lot less emphasis on protecting trade routes since there are no trade routes.

On the PC, Dawn of Discovery had the delayed gratification of waiting for a ship to reach its destination. On the DS, Dawn of Discovery is about knowing what you have and need at this moment.

It’s still obviously an Anno title, but it feels a lot different. It’s not nearly as frustrating, for one thing. You can encounter characters who will “buff” your city’s production. The story based campaign is a lot more straightforward. This is an easier, lighter game than its very German original. There is a lot of repetition as you move from mission to mission but it’s the good kind of repetition – you already know what you need to do, so you do it and then see what the next step in the mission is.

All of which makes it the perfect DS strategy game, I think. It is challenging, but not so annoying that you have to start over and over again on a mission. Some of the interface things take a while to get used to, but once you do, Dawn of Discovery DS becomes ideal when you are waiting for a plane or taking a subway trip. It doesn’t have the rhythm that you’ll find in the PC game, which means you can easily interrupt whatever you are doing in the game and get on with your day without losing your place.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Jenn

    Wow. You make the original sound like a somewhat painful experience! This seems like a game I should really check out. It’s always nice when devs pay attention to the time constraints of portable gaming and allow for it in their design.

  • Troy

    The original was a little painful, but also one of the best games of last year. The frustration was all good.

  • Tom H.

    Sounds very much like the Wii version. I found that the very end of the story-based campaign there turned into whack-a-mole combat; up to that, it was much less micromanaged than the PC version, and my 7-year-old loved it.

  • Troy

    Haven’t tried the Wii version, but I’m not surprised there’s overlap. And always nice to feel like a 7 year old.

  • Ginger Yellow

    How does it compare to the last DS Anno game? I can’t imagine it’s different enough to justify a purchase, but maybe I’m wrong.