|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blue Byte||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 25, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
The Settlers series of simulations has been around for a long, long time. Some speculate as far back as the Middle Ages. Or perhaps it just seems that long since the series is so realistic. Developers Blue Byte have long been a popular name in Europe. Their games, which typically depict life in the Middle Ages, are renowned for their charm, accuracy, and detail.
These details, for better or worse, can better be translated into the term micromanagement; a word that either causes gamers to shiver or drool, depending on what they want from a game. Blue Byte have sensed that the North American market may open a little wider if they reduced some of the micromanagement, at least what many consider to be the tedious stuff. The result is a game that's fresh and fun, that still provides a challenge to gamers of all levels.
The Settlers: Rise of an Empire, establishes itself once again as taking place in the Middle Ages. The single-player campaign is more economic sim, while the online mode allows for more combat and real time strategy. These two diverse gameplay elements help widen the appeal of this game. It's almost like having two games for the price of one, but there are some technical shortcomings that make me feel as though I would rather have one fully functioning mode than two slightly damaged ones. Despite all recent patches up to the time of this review, I still experienced choppy framerate, glitches, freezing, and crashes. Hopefully, by the time you read this some of these issues will be addressed with patches, especially the crashes. I can live with some of the minor glitches.
Saddled with the task of creating an empire in the single-player mode, you will begin modestly enough by securing some land and populating it. Starting with some huts for your people to live in, you will soon have to find the resources to clothe and feed them. Resource gathering plays a huge role in the gameplay, but it's the way that it's assimilated into the big picture that makes it compelling and convenient.
Resource gathering is done logically. You delegate these tasks to various inhabitants. Whether you need wood, metal, wool, food, or special herbs, all you have to do is construct a simple building close to that specific resource, and it will be harvested. Distribution networks are set up so that all the resources get to the various areas in need. For instance, once your population begins to swell, you will want to protect them from invading hordes such as the Vikings. To do this, you will have to build a wall out of wood. The wood, once harvested from the forested area, will be shipped to the various regions where construction is taking place. You will also want to build a castle to protect the ruler. This will require stonemasons to extract the material from a quarry and have it transported to the castle construction site. This is all done on the map interface, which is relatively easy to access and navigate.
Things work in this sim much like they would in real life with the various people looking after their respective industry. Once resources are harvested and delivered to the appropriate locations, they are further refined and processed for consumers. Wool can be turned into clothing. Herbs can be made into medicine. Animals will be processed into meat. I like the structure of this system. It allows you to oversee the entire operation of your empire without the annoying distractions of tedious micromanagement. You still have to pay attention and make sure that the machine is well lubricated, but it's more realistic to delegate and have others carry out your order. After all, you have more important things to worry about.