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Posted on Feb 8, 2008 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

The Settlers: Rise of an Empire Game Review

By Mike Tomlin

Passed Inspection: Simple gameplay; excellent graphics; enjoyable and atmospheric

Failed Basic: Could have used more than one campaign

City building and resource management games come in many flavours and styles, from the supposedly historic to the mythical, and offer a wide range of complexities. One of the longest lasting titles in this genre is The Settlers series from Blue Byte, produced under the Ubisoft umbrella. Settlers, which was introduced approximately fifteen years ago is now seeing its sixth incarnation – not counting numerous mission disks and a special anniversary one – in the recently released The Settlers: Rise of an Empire (RoaE) Although based in a mythical world, it has a strong medieval feel and flavour, and is a worthy successor. Based very closely on the Heritage of Kings – version 5 – model it nevertheless has its own distinct feel and enjoyment.

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The game is played either through the campaign module, which is a sequence of 15 missions, or by playing one of the 16 stand alone missions provided. These are played against the computer, but there are also options to play over a LAN or via the Internet with the wide user base. The early campaign missions comprise a simple training module to make you familiar with the game, and controls, and new features and levels of city development appear in succeeding missions. This makes for an easy learning curve and together with the simple manual covers most but not all of what you need. Some aspects just have to come from trial and error!

The missions include a series of quests which have to be completed, varying from production of specified items, delivery of items to a specified location, freeing of hostages, and so forth. These get progressively harder as the game goes on and a certain amount of lateral thinking comes in handy when you’ve tried to do something six times and it just seems impossible. There are ways to achieve everything but not necessarily in the most obvious way. I’m currently on Mission 8 of the campaign, struggling to out produce an evil opponent within strict time deadlines, and confess I’ve had to resort to the excellent user forum for ideas. Each mission requires the player to start a fresh settlement from scratch.

The stand alone missions are a mixture of ones containing quests, and simple free settlement which allows for development without any other concerns.

One complaint I would put forward is that with just the one Campaign provided the game seems a little light, and I cannot help but feel that, as in the past, a Mission disk will be forthcoming shortly from Ubisoft to ensure that devotees part with even more hard earned cash.

In each mission the player must play through a central character. There are six of these in total and the player must choose one at the start of each scenario, except for the first six in the campaign, where a new character is introduced each time. These characters have slightly different qualities such as cheaper building upgrades, healing properties, power of persuasion to subvert enemy troops, etc., so there is a slight advantage to choosing the correct character for the challenge. Unlike the Heritage of Kings game, these characters cannot be killed, and if their energy is depleted to a dangerous level they are immediately transported back to the Castle for regeneration.

RoaE is simpler to play than its predecessor, Heritage of Kings, with an easier resource management system and a territorial base. The map, although hidden to start with, is divided into various territories which can contain one or more of a simple range of resources. These territories may already be occupied by other villages, friendly or not, but if not they can be acquired by the player by means of building an outpost. Once acquired, other buildings can be placed there and resources utilized. To see what is in any other territories on the map, the player has to move his character there, which will result in the territory and all its resources, buildings etc. being visible on the map. Occupied territories will remain visible once the character moves on, but vacant ones will revert to a blanked out view, although their borders and resources will still be visible. The central character also has to travel to other villages each time to buy available goods, although strangely, where goods are to be sold this can be done more simply from the Storehouse menu.

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