Blue Byte Software
|Genre(s)||City-building, business simulation, real-time strategy|
Anno 1404, known as Dawn of Discovery in North America, is a city-building and economic simulation game with real-time strategy elements, part of the Anno series. Released in 2009, it was developed by Related Designs, produced by Blue Byte, and published by Ubisoft. Anno 1404 is the sequel to Anno 1701 and is followed by the futuristic sequel Anno 2070. Though the game centers on a series of fictional events, the overall concept of the storyline is based upon real life aspects of medieval and renaissance history such as the Crusades, advancements in gothic architecture, construction of cathedrals, and hanseatic trade involving the rise of patrician merchants and early forms of capitalism.
An expansion, titled Anno 1404: Venice, which adds multiplayer and other features, was released on February 26, 2010.
As with other Anno games, the player, at the will of their unnamed country of origin (probably the Holy Roman Empire as it refers to an Emperor) creates and manages their fief aside AI players. The player must colonize islands, plan settlements, set up factories and farms to meet their citizens' needs, enter diplomatic relationships with AI players, and engage in naval and ground combat with others.
One of the main focuses of the game in the "city building setting" sense centers on the construction of monuments, namely a Gothic cathedral and an Arabic mosque. The construction phases of these monuments are dependent on certain preconditions which have to be met in order to continue building. The player also needs to stockpile building material in order to commence such a project. The process of the construction of the cathedral resembles very closely the castle/palace (and Asian Dragon Temple) feature that was displayed in 1404's predecessor, Anno 1701.
Trade is an essential element of forward progress. Occidental populations can not grow past a certain level of success without Spice, and later Quartz, that can only be generated in Oriental lands. Although populations generate taxable income, it is difficult to generate enough gold to make meaningful capital investments without extensive trading. This is simplified by an automatic trading process that allows an island to make resources available to visiting merchant ships.
As players progress through the game, they gain access to naval vessels and troops which allow them to invade and ultimately to defeat other players. Anno 1404 features an updated interface, bigger islands and worlds to explore, a sandbox mode and other features new to the Anno series.
- Occident and Orient
As was the case in Anno 1701, the game world is divided into two culturally distinct zones. In Anno 1404, these zones are inspired by, though not intended to be historically accurate to, northwestern Renaissance Europe and the medieval Near East, referred to as the Occident and the Orient respectively. One of the major differences between previous entries in the series and Anno 1404 is that players are required to build both occidental and oriental settlements simultaneously in order for the inhabitants of their settlements and available buildings to advance. Despite the addition of player-managed oriental settlements, the Occident remains the primary focus of the game. The Orient acts more of a trading partner in order for Occidental people to advance in class. In order for this to occur, Oriental goods such as spice, indigo and quartz must be produced and shipped from Oriental colonies.
- Housing levels
There are a total of six levels of housing including both occidental and oriental settlements (one more than the levels included in Anno 1701). The four occidental levels are peasants, citizens, patricians and noblemen. The two oriental levels are nomads and envoys. In the Occident, the player starts by building peasant housing, and in the orient, the players start by building nomad housing, both of which advance when conditions are met. These conditions include the acquisition of goods as mentioned above, as well as the construction of specific buildings, such as a debtors' prison, bath house or a cathedral.
- Civilization class ratios
In Anno 1701, every residential structure could be advanced to the uppermost class, so a city could be entirely made up of Patricians by the end of a game. In Anno 1404, a number of peasants are required to support a moderate amount of citizens who in turn support a number patricians and noblemen. There are several other factors that can impact the ratio of lower class to upper class, however. For instance, the number of envoys settled in the player's oriental settlements will satisfy a sum of the peasants and citizens required to support patricians and noblemen in occidental settlements.
- New goods
Since the game takes place in the year 1404, the range of goods available is significantly different from the goods available in the previous games, which took place later in history (although goods like fish and beer were retained from the previous installments). Some of the new goods include spices, bread, meat, candlesticks, leather jerkins, and brocade robes for the Occident and dates, milk, carpets, pearl necklaces, and marzipan for the Orient.
Although quests are not new to Anno 1404, both it and its expansion, 'Anno 1404: Venice,' feature far more quests than previous games in the series. Quests are given at different intervals to the player by neutral powers, mentors like Northburgh and Al Zahir, and from various people living in the player's settlements. Computer opponents, if they become allies through diplomacy, will also offer quests to the player. Quests offer rewards such as honour points, ships, gold, goods or upgrades for settlements or ships (such as items to boost goods production in a settlement or increase the firepower of a ship). There are several quest types, including fetch quests, reverse fetch quests, sinking enemy ships, or finding specific individuals in a settlement (a mini game similar to Where's Waldo). Some quests of these quests can be quite complicated, with multiple smaller quests in the chain. The 'Anno 1404: Venice' expansion adds 300 new quests and two new types of quests: trading race and ship boarding.
Anno 1404 and its add-on Venice add the possibility of rewarding achievements to the player. Those achievements can be seen as 'milestones' and vary from quite easy to extremely hard, since a lot of them are 'hidden'. The achievements are divided in 5 categories: diplomacy, setup, economic, military and general. Quite a few of the achievements are interlinked, being part of another 'bigger' achievement. In the base game there were 206 achievements to be had, the Venice expansion added another 110 of them, totalling 316. However, as of patch 2.1/1.3 not all achievements are reachable, as syntax errors in the games' xml files are still present. Trying to correct these game files will result in the achievement not being awarded as the game recognises this as modification. This has been addressed by an unofficial user-made patch, about which see below.
The campaign begins when the player is sent to administer a fief granted to him by the Emperor, in the Occident. The Emperor is unwell and Lord Richard Northburgh, cousin and treasurer of the Emperor, is building a magnificent Cathedral to pray for the Emperor's health. Meanwhile, Cardinal Lucius is making preparations for a Crusade against the Saracens of the Orient, aided by Guy Forcas.
In the first few chapters of the campaign, the player learns the basics of game-play and the economy by assisting Northburgh and Forcas with supply and construction tasks, as well as meeting some of the other main characters.
As the Crusader ships leave the harbor, Northburgh begins to uncover clues to a mysterious plot. He and the player travel to the Orient and befriend the Grand Vizier of the Sultan, Al Zahir, who helps the player to defeat a band of Corsairs and break up a child trafficking scheme. The plot thickens as further clues reveal that a main character is implicated in a sinister conspiracy to overthrow the Emperor himself. Because he comes too close to the truth, Lord Northburgh is captured and the player is tasked with unraveling the mystery.
Over the next several chapters, the player must win over new allies, convince the leaders of the Crusade that they are being manipulated under false pretenses, and survive dire circumstances in order to defeat the villains and restore the Emperor to his rightful place.
The campaign is divided into eight chapters and each chapter can be played on 3 different difficulties: easy, medium, and hard. Apart from the story elements, the campaign serves as a tutorial to prepare the player for the more rigorous scenarios and continuous game modes.
All of the main characters encountered in the campaign are also encountered in the scenarios mode and can be selected as computer opponents in continuous games, although the actions of the characters during the campaign are unrelated to their actions in these modes apart from having similar personalities. Lord Northburgh and Al Zahir act as mentors and trade partners in the other modes, much like they do in the campaign.
Digital rights management
The game has a rigorous digital rights management (DRM) system based on Tagès. It forces users to activate their game online once by submitting an activation code after each installation on a different computer or a significant hardware change. The activation can be performed on any PC with an Internet connection. It can only be activated three times by default and unlike many other DRM systems, it does not support revocation of already used licenses. Further licenses can be requested free of charge by contacting Ubisoft.
The copy protection has been completely removed with patch v1.1 for the DVD version. Digital download versions retain the copy protection.
Version 1.0 of the game was shipped with a number of bugs in it and although patch 1.1 addressed some of them (and removed the copy protection), a new patch was released with the release of the 'Venice' add-on (originally version 2.0), updating the base game to 1.2. On November 25, 2010, a third patch was released to address (among other things) a serious save game bug, patching the base game to version 1.3 and the 'Venice' expansion to version 2.1. The 'Gold' version of the game that includes both the original game and the 'Venice' expansion was also patched in November 2010 to version 3.1, which combines all the changes of the version 1.3 patch of the base game, and version 2.1 of 'Venice'.
Ubisoft never released North American patches for the final version 1.3 patch for the base game and the version 2.1 patch for Dawn of Discovery: Venice. However, the North American game can be manually patched to version 1.3 and version 2.1 by simply downloading the already unpacked European patch files.
An unofficial user-made patch (version 1.10 as of February 2013) was made available in September 2011. The patch addresses issues with broken quests, fixes spelling and grammar errors, adds proper English localizations, adds English translations for over 1,000 quests which only had description text in the German version, and fixes countless other issues. The patch is created in such a way that the game will not detect modding and therefore fully allow unlocking achievements. The patch can be installed and uninstalled at will since it does not affect saved games.
IGN gave the game an 8.2, saying it was "a worthy successor to the Anno franchise."  D Critic praised the game, saying that "with up-to-date graphics, a great soundtrack, and great gameplay, there’s a lot to love about this game."  CVG gave the game a 6.1, saying "The Anno series has been delivering solid if unspectacular city-building and strategy for a few years now. Imagine a straight-faced The Settlers and you're getting there."
Anno 1404: Venice was released on February 26, 2010. The expansion includes 15 new scenarios, an espionage system, volcanic islands and an added third non-player power known as the Venetian dignitary Giacomo Garibaldi. Garibaldi enables the player to sabotage other player's cities and/or buy them out. Originally, there were also three new computer players planned but these were scrapped for unknown reasons. The Venice expansion also allows the player to play the original 6 scenarios of the base game but with all the added features and improvements of the Venice addon.
Many new buildings were added:
- A multi-part personal mansion
- New ornamental buildings such as Saint Mark's pillar
Two new quest type were added: ship race and privateering.
Furthermore, the player now has the option of requesting a quest in order to gain more honour points and/or gold coins/goods.
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