Anno 1800, the city-building real-time strategy video game, developed by Blue Byte and published by Ubisoft Mainz, recently released its most expansive DLC yet with “Land of Lions.” The DLC not only introduced a new zone but seamlessly wove into the advances that can be gained in the Old World, the starter area of the game. Unlike other DLC, cultivating land in a harsh climate is necessary to move research in the Old World. In “Land of Lions,” players will experience a wide range of new content. “Land of Lions” brings new gameplay mechanics (Irrigation and the Research Center), two new citizen tiers in Enbesa, one new citizen tier in the Old World, new production chains such as Hibiscus tea and telephones, 90 new buildings, three quest islands, 134 new items, and even more. Additionally, “Land of Lions” introduced new mechanics that pushed the game’s difficulty while also raising its rewards.
We got the chance to talk with Erwin van Hoof, Game Designer at Ubisoft Mainz, and Oliver Walz, Community Developer at Ubisoft Mainz about “Land of Lions” and more.
BUT WHY THO: With The Passage, you need to maintain heat, and with Enbesa you have to irrigate unfarmable land, what was the thought process behind choosing new areas with harsh climates?
ERWIN VAN HOOF: The core idea behind the new sessions in Anno 1800 was, to offer new and challenging gameplay. This is something Anno games do for a while, as also some of the previous titles offered new areas with different gameplay, such as underwater in Anno 2070 or the orient in Anno 1404, to name a few. For Anno 1800 we looked at possible scenarios which made sense given the century the game is inspired from and what would feel fresh. So, the Arctic and Enbesa, obviously offer a completely new look and feel, compared to the Old and New World of the main game.
BUT WHY THO: When it came to designing canals, how did you decide on the area of effect? Do you have any tips for working within these constraints?
ERWIN VAN HOOF: Anno veterans will know that we had a similar system in Anno 1404 with the Noria in the Orient. So, we wanted to do something else. It became clear we wanted this system to provide a puzzling challenge in the form of logistics and capacity management. However, the goal was also to provide a system that doesn’t feel too restrictive. The area of effect came from rounds of internal, as well as external playtesting, and fine-tuning based on the results and ultimately the community feedback.
In terms of tips, there’s a few! Keep in mind the main building of the farm does not need to be placed in fertile soil. A buff, as well as several items that increase the canal capacity, can be earned through the narrative questlines included. Pre-plan a bit more and think about where your cities will be placed, since you don’t want to use unnecessary tiles of canal on the required fire-stations!
BUT WHY THO: Why did you all choose to make Enbesa so critical to building up your Old World settlements and impacting the Research Center as much as it does?
ERWIN VAN HOOF: One of the main points criticized with the Passage DLC was, that its not really connected to the Old World, as this is still the session where you spent most of your time. So, once you unlocked the airships there was no real need to go back to the Arctic. With Enbesa it now becomes important that you visit the session from time to time and make progress. It was critical for us during the design process that not only we made a DLC which impacted the Old World more than the Passage did, but we also wanted to make sure this is a two-way process. We did not want Enbesa to be a region you visit once and then forget about it. When we first had the idea of the Scholar character, this is where everything made sense as well. The Scholar with his wish for products from his homeland of Enbesa is what connected everything in a way it made narrative sense.
BUT WHY THO: The quests for Land of Lions are more intricate than others we’ve seen in the game. They have more puzzles and have more ramifications, depending on who you choose to help. Why did you all design them this way? Did more intricacies cause any issues?
ERWIN VAN HOOF: We have a very creative narrative team, and for Enbesa it was clear they wanted to do things which haven’t been done in Anno before and take the narrative layer to a next level. In many ways it’s also an experiment for us, and we get to see how the Anno community likes this new narrative layer.
In terms of issues, we had to make sure to clearly flag this content as optional. During some play tests we found that it wasn’t clear to players which content was optional, which led to perceived pressure as everyone felt they had to play every quest. This is also not how these quests are intended. The optional story lines are intended to be something which is offered to the players which makes Enbesa ultimately a richer area but can be explored at the players own pace and choice.
BUT WHY THO: We know that players have been asking for a way to pick items that doesn’t include shuffling Eli, Archibald, and other vendors inventory. What went into designing the Research Center and balancing out its benefits that meet community asks while also ensuring the game’s challenge remains intact?
ERWIN VAN HOOF: We were very well aware of the fact that offering a building that grants access to almost every item is a slippery slope, but at the same time a much requested feature, which is why we moved forward with it.
The main goal was to design something which felt well integrated in the game world. Not something which just exists because the design team wanted to give the player access to every item. This is where ideas such as the link to the Scholar population, and having to first learn how to make the items through recipes comes from. The player has to work to get the Research Institute to a state where it can do everything they wish, and this certainly isn’t the starting state.
At the same time we didn’t want to completely devalue the old way to get items. The Research Institute is intended to be an alternative way to get items. Sometimes this might be the easier way to get an item players have been struggling to get, but sometimes this might also be the harder way. The fact that the costs keep increasing means the player always has to consider their options and how to proceed.
BUT WHY THO: One of the reasons we love Anno, is because of how responsive you are to community feedback. What has the community response been like for Land of Lions?
OLIVER WALZ: Land of Lions was perceived very positively by the community and we have seen many players returning to check out the new content. However, it’s hard to name one fan favorite feature as many players define a different favorite. In general, you can say that the Scholars and the Research Institute were the biggest surprise for most players, as they didn’t expect a completely new citizen tier in the Old World and because this added a more intricate connection between the different regions, which we already touched on above. Also, the narrative for Land of Lions was praised a lot, as the DLC offers more content in terms of story as previous DLCs. And then there is the general perception of Enbesa as a new, challenging and beautiful looking new edition to the sessions in Anno 1800, not least because of the new irrigation system which additionally created some nostalgic feelings for Anno 1404 players.
BUT WHY THO: What’s your favorite new addition from season 2? Were there any surprising community favorites from this season?
ERWIN VAN HOOF: For me personally this must be Land of Lions. Although I am biased, since I was the responsible designer. I’ve handled it from start to finish. To see it finally release and be so well received by critics and our community alike is an amazing feeling. It’s ultimately the most satisfying feeling of being a game developer: the day the piece of content you worked on gets released, and to see people enjoy it. I honestly can’t ask for more.
OLIVER WALZ: For me, my favorite addition was the statistics screen together with the option to search for specific items for my expeditions – to start adventures and get even better ones! I should of course say there were no surprises since we’re working so well with our community 😉 But generally, it was great to see the feedback about smaller quality of life improvements which often caused just as much positive feedback as bigger features or additions and confirmed our strategy for the free game updates.
BUT WHY THO: We have to ask, is this the end of Anno 1800? With the end of season 2, can you all share any info if we’re getting a season 3?
OLIVER WALZ: Sorry, but we don’t have any information to share at the moment. What about you? Would you like to see a season 3? And of course, always keep a lookout for the latest news on Anno at www.anno-union.com!
For us, we can’t wait to see what the recently announced Anno 1800 Season 3 will bring to the game. If Season 2 is any indication, the world of Anno 1800 is just going to keep getting bigger, better, and more challenging. And let’s be honest, we’re here for it.