Anno 2070: what lies beneath

, | Game diaries

One of the new additions in Anno 2070 is underwater gameplay. My concern at first was that an entirely new layer of gameplay could be more trouble than it’s worth. What is there to do down there? How does it relate to the above-water game? Is it feature creep or an exciting new level of gameplay?

After the jump, dive, dive, dive!

It’s easy as could be to see under water. Just zoom in while you’re looking at the ocean and you’ll plunge right into the waves. It’s mostly empty open ocean down here. But you’ll also find underwater plateaus, which are basically islands. You’ll need to grab one of these early on to grow algae and manufacture special health food for your advanced population. Beyond that, you should probably also set up an oil drilling platform, since drilling for oil on land isn’t nearly as efficient.

The above screenshot shows one of my underwater bases. The blue domes on the left are algae farms, which are the main ingredient for the icky health food my technicians enjoy. Weirdos. I’ve had one of those wheatgrass shots. The only thing that could make it worse would be a fishy aftertaste. The orange pits on the right are diamond mines. You can’t really tell from the screenshot, but they’re very busy. Spinning blades churn up the ocean bed to find the precious stones my tycoon executives demand in the jewelry they use to woo trophy wives. The segmented pipes snaking up to the surface carry oil to floating platforms. I bet you see those pipes and you think of the BP oil spill. Suffice to say you might get to experience it first-hand in Anno 2070. The view underwater looks very different when that happens.

If you look closely, you can make out the rails that underwater cars use to carry goods to the main base. These are then sent topside to a floating platform via an elevator on a cable. This means goods can be shuttled from my undersea base to my main island in regular boats; I don’t have to commit submarines to my trade network. You do need a submarine to settle an undersea plateau, of course. But once it’s set up, these settlements don’t require a lot of attention. That’s the beauty of Anno 2070’s undersea gameplay: it doesn’t require your constant attention, which you can devote to your topside settlements.

Even during warfare, you can control your submerged submarines from the surface. A wireframe display shows any underwater vessels. Being submerged isn’t a matter of hiding so much as it’s a matter of being part of the game’s paper/rock/scissors balance among submarines, ships, and aircraft. There’s no stealth in Anno 2070 until you research special modules for your ships.

However, you will occasionally have to go underwater directly. For some of the quests, you explore underwater areas with a submarine and a spotlight. But one of the main reasons to go underwater is this guy:

That’s where Hiro Ebashi lives. Think of him as a Japanese Nemo. He’s one of the game’s neutral factions, which means you can’t declare war on him and he doesn’t compete with you for land. If you make friends with him, he’ll sell you rare goods, useful modules for your settlements and vehicles, and even submarines. But most importantly, he’s a source of high-end tech. When you max out your relationship with Ebashi-san, as he’s called in the diplomacy screen, you can buy the coordinates of ruins that hide lost technologies. Then send a submarine to loot the ruins for rare ingredients that go into Anno 2070’s crazily open-ended tech crafting system. Without Ebashi-san, you can craft these items, get them as quest rewards, and even buy them from the other factions. But Ebashi-san is sort of like taking a spin on a crafting ingredient slot machine. And even if you don’t need whatever rare ingredient you find in your current scenario, you can store them in your ark and carry them over to your next game.

That’s one of the insanely effective draws of Anno 2070. You’re never just playing your current game.