Docklands opens the third year of downloadable content for Anno 1800, the management title created by Blue Byte and published by Ubisoft. Players get more options for trade and a new way to organize their harbors.
Once 250 artisans live on an island the main wharf appears as a build option. Once that is in place (and it requires a solid amount of resources for the moment when it is unlocked) a wide variety of modules can be put in place around it. They replace some already available buildings, allowing for ships to be repaired or for a wider array of goods to be housed in a smaller than normal space.
A new loading wharf will speed up the turnaround for trading ships. A special office ties into the new export/import mechanic. Keeping the entire set connected will make the island more attractive but there’s also freedom in placing everything to make the best possible use of space.
Import and export contracts are accessed via the main wharf and are designed to make trading more attractive. Gamers can create contracts to exchange surpluses not for money but for other items. Get more fish for that extra glass you are making. Get exotic resources for cannons or maybe bricks. As the trade develops and more tonnage gets moved, more options and more bonuses are unlocked.
Anno 1800: Docklands builds on the already impressive presentation of the game. The new harbor structures, modeled on the real-world Speicherstadt in Hamburg (but with some very video game touches) look great and seem to project power. The purely cosmetic DLC additions are also intriguing, although I tend to focus on buildings that add functionality rather than beauty. The Ubisoft title continues to allow for the creation of impressive cities and delivers a very appropriate soundtrack to admire them.
There are moments when the disconnect between real-world history and Anno alternate developments feels weird, especially in a DLC so inspired by a real-world set of buildings. But new options and mechanics are so useful and engaging that I was happy to ignore that. The game is a little guilty of cherry-picking the best elements of reality (trade can only improve!) to create its own universe, free of negative experiences, that celebrates human industriousness.
Docklands is a good addition to Anno 1800 and a solid first entry into the third year of downloadable content for the Ubisoft title and is recommended for long-term fans. Tourist DLC already revealed to include restaurants, and The High Life, featuring proto-skyscrapers, are set to arrive before the end of the year and complete the set. Blue Byte is also delivering free updates, fixing problems reported by the player community.
The development team has already massively expanded the scope, the mechanics, and the geographical spaces featured in the city builder. Docklands shows that they have good ideas on how to take very familiar elements of the game and make them feel different, keeping the core Anno 1800 experience fresh in the long run.