DLC REVIEW: ‘Anno 1800’ Season 3 Kicks Off Strong With “Docklands”

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Anno 1800 Docklands

It’s 2021 which means for Anno 1800 fans, it’s time for a new season of their favorite city-building and management sim. Developed by Ubisoft Mianz, Anno 1800 tasks players with plan and create their cities in during the Industrial revolution. You plan efficient logistics networks, settle new continents, send out global expeditions, and dominate their opponents by diplomacy, trade, warfare, and new tourist attractions. But while there have been major developments with new maps optimization on land, we hadn’t gotten any big updates for our coastlines. That all changes with the first DLC of Season 3: “Docklands.”

With “Docklands” and Game Update #10 that rolled out with it, your coastline and your harbor area can be optimized in a new way. Most importantly by allowing players to build a modular warehouse district starting with the main building inspired by the world-famous “Speicherstadt,” the world’s largest warehouse district and an UNESCO World Heritage site in Hamburg, Germany. Similar to the Palace that was introduced in Season 2, “Docklands” each added module comes with a different effect, including increased loading speed or faster repair times. While those elements added boosts are great, the biggest edition and game changer to come with “Docklands” is the introduction of new way of trading: Exports.

This new way of trading allows players to export rare goods and reinforce their economy. Alongside Captain Tobias Morris, who will be the link between the players and companies all over the world, players are given the possibility to encounter interesting exports and become a market leader. This allows you take items you mass produce and export them in exchange for much needed items that may not be natural to your island.  Or, take care of the items that are hard to maintain or take up a lot of space.

For example, in our game session, my lack of optimization skills left our main island with with a surplus of glass – and I mean I may have accidentally maxed out our 550 storage for the resource. So, we turned it into exports which allowed my mistake to become the driving force to optimizing the island in other ways. Specifically, we exchanged glass for things like work clothes, schnapps, and sausage. The ability to import these items without trade routes meant that we kept an unlimited stream of necessary materials regardless of our aggression status with pirates or neighboring leaders.

While removing trade routes for the limited items available to import is great, the even greater element is the fact that we were able to free up space on our island by eliminating schnapps distilleries (and the fields that go with them), sausage factories and most important work clothes buildings. This is important because this freed up our workforce. This allowed us to upgrade farmers and workers at a faster rate and also import enough resources to keep them satisfied.

Additionally, the ability to import higher tier items like goulash allows the player to remove large section of farmland which would have been used for pepper farms by allowing them to simply import the item above it. This seems simple but as you approach the Investor tier of residents, space becomes extremely limited.

Now, you may be thinking that this simplifies game play, and while it does in some ways, the joy of Anno 1800 comes from learning new optimization balances. If you rely on exports and imports you need to ensure that your production your export resource doesn’t dip or that steady stream of imports can leave you high and dry. Additionally, as you export resources on your island, different resources yield different exchange rates. Management appears in the form of taking stock of your export resource, maintaining it, and knowing when to switch your mass production to a new and more profitable resource.

In typical Anno 1800 fashion “Docklands” isn’t just a DLC that adds to the game, but in fact, provides vital quality of life of improvements. The introduction of the wharfs greatly optimize gameplay but the additional update rolled out with the DLC also showcases that the way the developers have taken community feedback and looks to increase the quality of life of the game. Simple improvements like not being forced to build fisheries or pearl farms directly connected to the coast frees up land and allows players to find new ways to optimize their harbor space. That said, whatever production you build in the water has to still be connect to a warehouse which must be built on-land. this means that the coast isn’t entirely freed up, and that you’re restricted on how far our you can place your production buildings. This is a small frustration, but one nonetheless.

Additionally, the reduction of size of depots takes into consideration that the introduction of the wharf module reduces how much you can put in the designated harbor space. This leads us to one of the few issues with “Docklands.” While the developers did correct some limiting issues like depot size, and now allow for roads to built in the water, the size of the coastline is unchanged. This is a restrictive elements that both keeps the game challenging when it comes to building strategy but it also becomes a struggle for players with so many additions to the space which was previously just used for the one-off floating elements. To put it simply, increasing the amount of buildings you can place on the coastline should also have come with an extension of that usable water are as well.

Anno 1800 Docklands

Next, “Docklands” only allow you to build one wharf per island, but only in the Old World. While the restriction makes sense from a balance standpoint, the New World would have greatly benefitted from access to a warehouse district of its own that could have facilitated export trade for islands which also require goods not found on that zone. It would seem natural, since as you unlock new import resources, New World only resources become one of the largest benefits of importing.

Finally, the cosmetic DLC ornaments to improve a city’s attractivity that come with Game Update #10 allow players to focus on building a whole wharf equipped with benches, boats, lights, and more. The same way that the industrial ornaments allowed players to build out their factory areas to help make it look like a more cohesive city, these wharf based ornaments do the same. This allows you to build out a cohesive vision that fills in gaps between buildings and help drive the immersion of building a city.

Not to be overlooked, “Docklands” can integrate naturally into every game session, meaning that you can start building your warehouse district in an existing game or build it from scratch with a new save. For us, we decided to begin from scratch because our coastline and harbors would have taken too much optimization to place the warehouse district. Starting with a new save allowed us the ability to plan ahead, and ultimately since the “Docklands” additions are unlocked in the Artisan tier of development, it’s easily achievable.

Overall, “Docklands” is a tremendous start to Anno 1800 Season 3. It not only adds more to gameplay but also helps improve the quality of life of the game. Truly, the developers at Ubisoft Mainz don’t miss.

“Docklands” is just the beginning, Season 3 will also introduce players to the tourism industry through “Tourist Season” and  “The High Life” on the other will teach Anno adepts how to manage a big city full of skyscrapers, and how to satisfy demanding citizens with new commercial goods and malls. The former is slated for Spring 2021 and the latter for Summer 2021.

Anno 1800 “Docklands” is available now.

Anno 1800 - "Docklands"
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TL;DR

“Docklands” is a tremendous start to Anno 1800 Season 3. It not only adds more to gameplay but also helps improve the quality of life of the game. Truly, the developers at Ubisoft Mainz don’t miss.