Preview: Anno Online brings city-building to your browser
Ubisoft Blue Byte potentially has the best browser city-building game to date.
Anno Online, which is based on the critically acclaimed Anno 1404 and just went into open beta, is a free-to-play medieval city-building game for your browser. The player manages trade routes, population and economics in an attempt to grow and advance their city.
The first thing you might worry about with a free-to-play game is that you'll have to spend money. While that's definitely a route you can take, you're never pressured to spend money in-game. If you're patient, you can do everything in the game – it just takes more time. If you'd like to have faster construction and trade routes though, you can spend real money to get rubies.
Anno Online starts off holding your hand. It'll present you with quests that will guide you through the basics of gameplay, from building your first pioneer residence to gathering food at your first fisherman's hut. Like a real economy, everything is intertwined; all the little details are reliant on one another. While the tutorial shows you the basics, you're left to kind of sink or swim on your own shortly after – kind of like college preparing you for the real world.
Anno Online does a lot of things right. The interface is pretty straightforward, and while there's a social component to the game, there doesn't seem to be any requirement to spam your Facebook to get more friends. While the music is a nice orchestral piece that's fitting for the setting, you'll want to mute that and play your own music – especially if you'll have the game open in a separate window while you're doing other things.
Since I've dabbled with quite a few browser city-building games, I can say with assurance that Anno Online is the nicest looking of them all. You can zoom in and see the nice detail work on the environment and buildings.
One thing that is a little difficult on the eyes, though, is how the roads look. All of the buildings need to be connected by road; unfortunately, they can become lost in the visuals. It's hard to see where roads end and connect. Odds are you'll build some roads that you'll have to delete to fit in buildings. It's no big deal; it's just that the buildings pop and the roads don't.
Anno Online is the type of game you'll revisit a few times a day. Progress takes time – unless you're paying for it. There's an enormous amount of depth to be had, especially for a F2P browser game. If you're the city-building type, look no further than Anno Online. You can play the game at us.anno-online.com.