PC Gamer

What Anno 1800 gets wrong, and right, about colonialism and the Industrial Revolution

Samuel Horti
 

Zoom in on a fishery in Anno 1800 and you'll see men dangling rods off the end of a rickety pier, while others carry boxes full of the day's catch to storage, ready to be transported. Zoom in on the pub and you'll see men and women sitting on wooden benches sipping beer, listening to a band in brightly colored clothes bang on drums. Blue Byte has gone to great lengths to sell its 19th century setting, right down to replicating the types of crops that you would've found in its South America-inspired New World at the time, but it's vague about any actual historical context. That's deliberate—the dev team says it's supposed to be a "tongue-in-cheek celebration" of the era "in which time, place and identity blur.

" But as I lay out another perfectly formed square of apple trees opposite a sheep farm, I can't help but wonder: How much, if anything, can Anno teach us about the way European people lived, worked and colonised during the 19th century? I spoke to two experts to find out, one an industrial archaeologist, the other a historian on the Atlantic World. They told me that in some ways Anno 1800 is meticulous—but in others, especially on slave labor and the experience of the native people during colonisation, it's far removed from reality.

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