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Anno 1800 running a free beta weekend before launch

The first taste of imperialist power is free

Someone is clearly confident in historical city-builder Anno 1800, as Blue Byte are throwing open the doors for everyone in the weekend before its launch. The game recently slipped to an April 16th release but anyone curious will be able to poke around its gorgeous Victorian-era architecture and smoke-belching factories from April 12th to the 14th. There'll be no sign-up necessary, just turn up in time, download the game from Uplay (it is a Ubisoft-published game, after all) and start exploiting the working class for fun and (ideally) profit.

While I didn't have time for it last weekend (an Anno game is a serious time investment), I don't think I've heard a single negative thing said about the recent closed beta event from the strategy buffs I follow. The buzz was so positive that Ubisoft started throwing around invite keys by the bucketload. Can't deny that this is the best-looking Anno game in a series already famous for their eye-candy. If you've got the hardware for it, you can create some spectacular environments to zoom in on, but it's still going to look great if you have to scale back the options a little.

My only possible grumble about 1800 at this point is that it's set in a rather delicate point in history, but is barely engaging with some of the more troublesome economic forces of the era. Blue Byte say players will be colonising the 'new world' and running plantations there, but slavery will be skirted around almost entirely. Admittedly, the game is leaning a bit more into the closer-to-home political tensions of the age, including pollution, the plight of the working class and propaganda making its way into printed news. To be fair, no Anno game has really dealt with heavy stuff - not even the age of sail games like 1404.

Anno 1800 launches April 16th for £50/€60/$60. Another $10 gets you a Deluxe edition, which will include the first DLC after launch, plus some in-game decorations, an art book & soundtrack. You can find it on Steam here and the Ubisoft store here.

The free weekend starts on April 12th and runs through until the 14th.You can sign up here for a heads-up closer to the time, and read more on the official Anno Union site here.

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