CO-OP REVIEW: Co-Op Mode Adds a New Challenge to ‘Anno 1800’ (PC)

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Anno 1800 Co-OP Review

Over the holiday, Anno 1800, the latest installment in the successful city-building and strategic franchise from Ubisoft, released an update that allowed players to play the game in a co-op mode. If you haven’t played Anno 1800 before, it sets you at the dawn of the Industrial Age where players take charge as they settle an island and lead it from small port town to a city in a growing empire. As you travel the world and settle new islands you must manage your fortune, your production, your population, and their needs.

The game moves quickly, while you navigate the rapidly evolving technological landscape that causes you to adjust your focus on certain production and harvesting aspects, you also need to manage your space. With settlements situated on islands of varying sizes, just expanding isn’t the answer, but finding ways to optimize your resources is. Additionally, you have to deal with situations caused by the population. Sickness, riots, fire, all of them impact your gameplay and you have to find ways to keep their happiness satiated while also keeping production up.

Anno 1800 facilitates the need for expansion to the New World by intertwining the necessities of more advanced population tiers in the Old World reliant on goods from the jungles of South America. Additionally, with the newest expansion, you even get to settle the harsh cold Arctic north. All of this makes for an immersive game and the fact that it runs in real-time adds an additional challenge. From the campaign to multiplayer, there is a lot to do in the world of Anno 1800 but with the recently launched co-op mode, you get to do it with someone else.

It’s beyond just playing together, two players against the world of pirates or others in their multiplayer lobby, with their own resources. Anno 1800 co-op allows players to share the responsibilities of raising and managing an industrial empire with up to four people per team, with four team slots, there can be matches up to 16 players. We got the chance to check out the co-op mode and after putting nearly 100 hours, we have to say, it’s one of the best city building-strategy experiences we’ve had in a long time.

How did you adjust your playing strategy when working together?

Matt:  The main adjustment I made to my playing strategy was that I had to be okay expanding much earlier than I do by myself. This was mainly so that we could each run our own island at the beginning without stepping on each other’s toes. The early expansion also allowed for more focus on gathering resources that were not found on our beginning island as “my” island was chosen to complement the original island.

While expansion does happen every game and is an essential mechanic of the game that pushes you to manage your money across multiple locations and gain missing resources, expanding right from the start is almost necessary for co-op. By doing so, this allows each player to focus on just a singular island and to be honest, knowing that missing resources are still being farmed is a nice relief and helps down the line as you establish routes for constant trade between the two. This also allowed for a better building strategy using our limited space since we knew exactly what was needed and not needed from each island right from the start.

Kate: I hate using boats. There isn’t a single game I’ve played where handling boats was easy and to be honest, building cities and optimizing them is why I play games like Anno 1800. That means that in multiplayer, while I’m slow to push out the pirates and only maintain one or two trading routes with my own island, I upgrade my populations quickly and focus on maximizing what I can from the island. That being said, I consistently have high populations which is great to maintain the coins in my coffers, but it means my blind spots are expeditions and utilizing the NPC traders regularly which can easily turn my high population into my weak spot.

By working with the same resources in co-op, I was able to use my strengths by maintaining and expanding the islands while Matt took over trading and pirate fighting. This also showed me how much better my individual game could be if I embraced ships instead of only using them when absolutely necessary. Anno 1800 co-op showcases a variety of ways to play the games and just how far you can go by embracing multiple strategies.

What does Anno 1800 Co-Op add to the game?

Matt: Co-op allows for a variety of ways to divide up the responsibilities and for people to not have to multitask and manage as many things, which usually happens. I know for my experience, I enjoy managing the ships, keeping the pirates at bay, and doing plenty of quests so not having to manage every single aspect of the islands as I have another person doing that allowed for me to focus more on those things. Splitting people into regions is another way that makes things easier and another dynamic to the game. Having one person run the entire New World and another run entire Old World allows for better management and easier time since no one really has to flip back and forth between regions.

Kate: Playing Anno 1800 in co-op mode makes the game feel brand new. It feels like a wholly different game because of the way you interact with the game’s mechanics. Co-op makes you analyze your own strategies and choose whether or not to embrace them or shift them. This depends entirely on your cooperation with your teammate and how they play as well. By working to build your empire from the same pot of money and with the same resources it adds a level of communication that isn’t necessary when playing multiplayer in alliances. This makes you focus on not only how good you are, but how can you compliment the other player. By adding the need for communication, co-op mode turns Anno 1800 into a new experience and adds to the already immense replayability of the game.

Does Co-Op offer new challenges?

Matt: Anno 1800 co-op added plenty of new challenges to the game. The main being resource management. In co-op, you share all resources, such as coin, so being able to communicate with your teammate(s) what is being bought and money is being spent on is important. This is vital if you and your teammates plan to expand early so people have their own islands to operate. There were plenty of times playing where I would go to buy something only to realize all of our coin had been spent on something that Kate had just bought. The same can be said about ships as with teammates grabbing and maneuvering ships around you can easily lose track of where your ships are and end up needing one quickly only to find out it is across the map or worse a different region.

The biggest challenge Anno 1800 co-op adds is communication. This is really where the game really differs from just being in an alliance. In the end, everything a teammate does will affect your team as a whole, whether it’s as simple as losing a ship and having to replace it or buying a fancy new theater on island number three that cost 10,000 coins. This is a challenge that just doesn’t show up in standard multiplayer. This means that you really need to be playing with someone that you can communicate with easily, or at least know well enough to understand their play style.

This is because different play styles could lead to issues, though if both are skilled then they can possibly overcome and still focus on the main objective. If the other players can’t communicate well together then it can definitely lead to issues especially when it comes to building since at mid-game, the prices of buildings and items increase. So, depending on how well the team is doing financially, some projects have to be put on hold.

Kate: The biggest challenge that co-op adds to Anno 1800 is teamwork. At the end of the day resource management, early expansion, and coordination which are all things you experience differently in Anno 1800 co-op rely on teamwork. If you don’t listen or share your plans with the person you’re working with it’s easy for your plans, trades, and islands to quickly go downhill. Bankruptcy is one wrong upgrade away.

At the end of the day, we closed out 2019 playing Anno 1800, and with a co-op mode, we were able to take our game time and strategy to a new level. With campaign, multiplayer, and co-op, the game offers up different experiences with a little bit of something for fans of the game-type. If you haven’t picked up Anno 1800 yet, and love RTS, this is a game to play, and it’s even better with a partner.

Anno 1800 is available on PC through the Uplay Store.

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