Dawn of Discovery is a very fun but involved island hopping civilization game that focuses heavily on resource managment, rather than combat.
Discover the Orient!
Dawn of Discovery is a type of game you don't see produced much these days. In fact, Dawn of Discovery is the fourth installment of the "Anno" (Anno 1404) series of games that is fairly popular in Europe. I presume there aren't many American Anno fans out there, so Ubisoft decided to change the name for the most recent Anno installment on this side of the pond. It's interesting to note I finished installing DoD, the short-cut was called "Anno4". Considering this reviewer has not played any of the previous Anno games, I cannot compare nor contrast how this game is to the previous installments. Dawn of Discovery is best described as "real time civilization" simulator. The main focus on the game definitely comes from the resource gathering/production than it does with the combat element. This is a very involved game and I'm going to find this rather difficult to review so bare with me.
Game play modes
DoD has several game play modes. There's the requisite campaign mode that tells a story of a mad cardinal hell-bent on waging a crusade against the Orient. There are six non-linear game play modes that are focused on obtaining certain objectives. Objectives such as being recognized as a master builder, ruler of the world, or even a master diplomat to name a few of the scenarios that are available. During these game play modes you are given quests. In the more non-linear modes you have time limits to complete these quests to earn "honor". Honor points can be used to buy items to give units or your settlement bonuses to combat, production and so forth. Sometimes the quests aren't too clear on what to do, and I found myself confused on how to finish the quest. On multiple occasions I even had to restart the level due to bugged quests which can be rather disconcerting as you can easily dump five hours into one mission in campaign mode.
Resources, resources and even more resources.
When you first start a mission, you're given a boat with the bare minimum provisions needed to start an island settlement. The first thing you must do once you settle an in an uninhabited island is establish a marketplace and start gathering resources be it food and drink to keep your populace happy and materials to produce more buildings. During my first play through I was baffled as of why I was not gathering any new resources. I built fishing docks and lumberjack yards, but yet my resources continued to dwindle. The tutorial does a pathetic job explaining game play mechanics, so I had to go through a bit of trial and error before I figured out that not only did your resource gathering buildings had to be the area of influence of a Storehouse, but roads must be connected to the resource buildings so they can get access to the store house. Once you start gathering resources, you don't have to worry about running out of resources as most are infinite and the only resources that can run dry are the ones that can be mined, but you can refresh those resources by paying a certain sum of gold to restock the mines. I found out quickly that only certain goods can be mined and farmed on particular islands indicated in the HUD. Eventually you have to establish and manage trade routes to keep everything running as smooth as possible. On higher difficulties, storms and natural disasters can affect production so it's mindful to keep some kind of disaster plan ready for your settlements.
The Caste System.
Unlike most RTS games, your peasantry need to be maintained. If they do not have access to the basics, expect them to start picketing the streets and will start burning your settlement to the ground. On the flip side, if their needs are met, taxation is low, peasants can move up the social ladder and eventually become "citizens". With citizens in your settlement you acquire new farming and production units. As your populace continues to move up the socio-economic ladder they require a more diverse range of goods and buildings to keep them happy. Once you have citizens, citizens require spices from the Orient and pubs for entertainment. Citizens will also want clothing. Clothing has to be produced by growing hemp, then building a weavers hut to manufacture clothes. As you can see, this gets pretty involved and as your populace climbs the social ladder the more exotic goods they require. There are a total of four classes for the Occidental forces (Peasants, Citizens, Patricians and Noblemen) and two classes for Oriental settlements (Nomads and Envoys). And the happier your populace is, the faster they move in, therefore increasing you tax revenue. Of course, if taxes are too high on a specific social class, expect them to move out of your city. It can be quite the undertaking to keep everyone happy, but in the long run worth it to see what was nothing more than some hick town evolve into a thriving metropolis thanks to smart economic thinking and diplomatic relations with the Orient.
As your city grows larger it must be maintained. Over time buildings will become dilapidated and will pose a fire hazard. Carpenters are required to repair them. As with the Store house buildings, carpenter huts can only repair buildings inside their area of influence. As your city grows, more buildings with areas of influence will be required to keep things peaceful and sanitary. Buildings such as prisons, hospitals and if you choose alms houses to keep beggars off of the streets, unless of course you deny the beggars entrance into your city then turn into Bandits, raiding your production facilities.
Combat seems to have been an afterthought. Combat is rather simple. There are no counter units. Just various two levels of ships for ship to ship war-fare . Formation options would have been a plus, but alas there is none. So eventually combat just becomes who has the most units with the most hit points. Ground combat is even a bit stranger. You build military encampments that can attack/defend a given radius. Ground combat is pretty similar to ship combat. It's very bland and not very engaging at all since the core of the game focuses around your civilization as opposed to combat so I can't fault the designers too much for making combat an afterthought.
Sound and Graphics
The music is rather fitting. You get different music when your focused on Oriental settlements vs. Occidental ones. You get stylized music with a middle-eastern flare for your Oriental settlements and choir like music for the Occidental settlements. When you're zoomed in you can see and hear peasants toiling away in the fields, unloading ships and doing a host of other actions. My all time favorite animation was watching the executioner bring out someone to be be-headed as my citizens cheered him on.
Bugs and other problems.
As of this review, there are no patches available or a list of known bugs. I have encountered quite of few quest related bugs where the script did not kick in and I would have to restart the mission (defending the Academy in Chapter 5) and when I saved Lord Northburgh from the assassin's prison, I could not get assembly with the ailing emperor, seeing how he will only meet with family members in Chapter 7. I've also experienced some rare crashing but it's been few and far between. The same goes with a graphical bug I experienced where all the trees on the map were replaced with tree stumps. There is, of course the dreaded DRM (TAGES). When you enter the CD key, a snapshot of your hardware profile is sent to Ubisoft. You're allowed up to three different computer activations before the key is rendered invalid. I've never been a fan of DRM at any level as it introduces more problems than it does to correct the problem of piracy. I really hope a patch is released in the future to disable the DRM.
DoD is a very solid real-time civilization game. I've probably dumped about 30 hours into it so far and I still keep coming back. It's a great time sink of a game if you can get away playing games at work when nothing is going on, or if you're like me you'll be playing a lot of this on another dateless Friday night.