The game is currently in an early stage of development. On occasion, a development snapshot is released. The current release is 2009.2a, which is the fourth alpha release. The first public alpha version was released on October 1, 2008.
The player guides a group of people settling in a newly discovered archipelago of islands. The player must provide miscellaneous goods and public services for the settlers' welfare. When supplied adequately, the population will grow and the settlers will rise to higher social classes. On the one hand they have more needs then, but on the other hand this process also unlocks more buildings.
To help with this goal, the player can also trade with competing settlements, or wage war for more expansion space.
Unknown Horizons is based on the FIFE engine and features isometric 2D graphics. Since FIFE is currently also in an early stage of development, and Unknown Horizons is the first major project based on this engine, the developers of Unknown Horizons have agreed to help with development on FIFE.
Python was chosen as the language for this project because it is the best supported language of FIFE and it guarantees cross-platform compatibility. Furthermore, Python allows for very rapid development.
The models for Unknown Horizons are created using Blender.
Unknown Horizons development currently focuses on having more gameplay features that are known from Anno and are only implemented rudimentary at the moment (e.g. trading with other players, diplomacy and warfare). Next major steps in development are network play and implementation of an AI system. Also the development of all six building classes is highly prioritized to deliver a deeper and much more playable game experience in the near future.