The campaign acts as a tutorial for the game. The story starts with the player's appointment as the head of a village working alongside the Emperor's advisor and cousin, Lord Richard Northburgh. Northburgh wishes to build a grand cathedral to pray for the Emperor's health. Along the way, a Crusade for the Orient is declared. Soon, Northburgh discovers something sinister about Cardinal Lucius and the true intentions of the Crusade, and he brings the player along during his investigations.
It has a 'Continuous Mode' wherein you can play as long as you want, competing with A.I. players (or other humans over multiplayer) for territory and resources, and a number of scenarios, often-times with several arranged to form a storyline. Players begin with a ship (or in some scenarios, a warehouse on an island) and a negative income (due to maintenance costs). You have to build houses to collect taxes, but then your peasants want fish, and then they want something to occupy them, and so on. In this mode, Lord Northburgh and Grand Vizier Al Zahir act as the player's advisors. You can also earn money by selling goods/resources to other players. Of note is that characters appearing in the campaign make up some of the A.I. players.
An expansion (subtitled Venice) was later released. New scenarios were added, along with espionage and the option to play the scenarios (though not the campaign) in the original game with the new additions. Oh, and there's a new advisor as well: Giacomo Garibaldi.
Dawn of Discovery has also been used in naming two Anno spin-off games for the Nintendo DS and Wii.
This Video Game provides examples of:
- Animated Actors: In the credits.
- Apathetic Citizens: For a glorious aversion, just try withholding (or not meeting) your population's needs from them for an extended period of time.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: Shown with Marie D'Artois' initially innocent and then increasingly delusional fervor of, but also done with great care so as to not paint religion as a whole this way: all of the other main characters are devoutly religious, and show themselves to be very good and wise people through their religion rather than in spite of it. This also gives a bit of contrast between the villains' Corrupt Church and the heroes' Saintly Church. If you have her as an A.I. player in Continuous Mode, her belief makes her a wildcard (She's rated as a medium difficulty A.I.).
- Cherubic Choir: A part of the normal soundtrack.
- Church Militant: Marie D'Artois is very enthusiastic about leading the armies of the crusade, and she's damn good at it. This somewhat ironically makes her somewhat easier to manipulate, as she will do almost anything if adequately convinced it is what God wishes her to do: including destroy the homes of innocent people she's been lead to think are heathens.
- Cloak & Dagger: Added in the expansion. You can use spies to irritate your opponents, and they can do the same to you.
- Corrupt Church: The Big Bad leads one. The main characters ultimately counter this with their own Saintly Church.
- Control Freak: The player can choose to micro-manage his settlements to this level. Justified as space constraints will pop up once you have a large population and many resources to produce/manage.
- Deadpan Snarker: Giacomo Garibaldi in Venice.
- Expy: Marie D'Artois is one for Jeanne D'Arc, while the Empire is one for the Real Life Holy Roman Empire. (only Catholic power to declare themselves an empire in the time period).
- Kick the Dog: It can happen that a Smug Snake like Guy Forcas can declare war on you simply because you are currently less powerful than him, and he therefore (rightfully) identified as easy prey. Not only will he either not give you the chance to make peace at all (or only against an outrageous sum of money), but also will your trade partners (and allies; even the mild and affectionate ones like van der Mark and Jorgensen) not help you to fight against him if they are allied to him as well. Instead, they will rather hate and denounce you for letting yourselves receive a declaration of war and even pull out of the defence contract entirely. Gee, thanks for the help, guys!
- Knight Templar: This is Marie D'Artois' schtick - she will destroy anyone who go against what she believes is right and holy, civilian or not. During the story mode, she even leads an army that could effectively be seen as an analogue to the real life organization.
- Large Ham: The announcer.
- Loners Are Freaks: Your population subscribes to this. Cutting off their access to a marketplace/bazaar (which satisfies their need for company) is a Berserk Button.
- Light Is Not Good: The "Crusade" in the campaign, which is a decidedly sinister power grab under a veneer of holiness. The storyline ultimately results in the player defeating the wicked Cardinal Lucius' Corrupt Church with an institution that proves Light Is Good after all.
- The Mentor: Lord Northburgh, who becomes the player's mentor and caretaker. There is even a moment where it appears he has suffered the Mentor Occupational Hazard, though he is revealed to be just fine.
- Money for Nothing: The late game can easily turn into this, if you have not been paying attention to your land usage. You have the money to build production plants and/or refineries; you just don't have the space for them.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Done quite directly - when Unwitting Pawn Marie D'Artois learns she has been used by the villains, she basically says this word for word. It works quite well, since her big character trait is her religious devotion.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: the music for bad events like war or fire.
- The Professor: Ibn al Hakim.
- Absent-Minded Professor: Izmir
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The Emperor and Sultan - as well as their advisors (Lord Northburgh and Grand Vizier Al Zahir). In Venice, Giacomo Garibaldi is very snarky about it, but ignore his advice at your peril.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: In Venice, by using your gold properly, you can buy over your opponents' settlements without them declaring war on you.
- Sinister Minister: Cardinal Lucius. Big Bad of the campaign and a hard difficulty A.I. in Continuous Mode.
- Smug Snake: Guy Forcas. He does have some bite, though. (He's ranked as a medium difficulty AI in Continuous Mode).
- Unwitting Pawn: Marie D'Artois in the campaign, very much so. She believes she is following orders to spread the will of God to the world. She's actually leading the armies that support a nefarious plot to take over the known world and scapegoat the Saracens. She becomes very distraught when she learns the evil actions she's helped cause.
- Upper-Class Twit: The patricians and noblemen, especially once you have a lot of them (triggering all their "extra" needs).
- Wandering Minstrel: Leif Jorgensen is a wannabe bard, but his singing is terrible.