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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

Resources are simple and basic, including such things as trees for lumber, stone quarries, iron mines, hunting, herbs, and such, and specialized buildings are required to exploit each. A variety of other resources are developed from building grain, sheep and dairy farms, although in the case of the latter two, the nearby presence of wild sheep or cattle, or the ability to purchase them from a trading partner, is necessary to stock them. In addition, one or more town buildings are required to further exploit most of these, such as a butcher for meat and a tanner for leather jerkins, cheese maker for the dairy produce, weaver for woollen clothes and so on. It is often preferable to build more than one of each type to exploit your resources quicker, particularly in view of the time constraints in much of the game.


All buildings are capable of upgrading several times, which will increase productivity, although there is a cost to this, usually of available lumber. The three major buildings are the Storehouse, the Cathedral, and the Castle. Upgrading these is essential and opens up new types of buildings and activities as the settlement develops. These upgrades are expensive, in terms of gold and stone, and rely on a thriving economy to finance. Successfully upgrading these and other buildings, together with passing certain targets in production of various items will result in your central character being promoted, which again opens up further facilities and options.

It is important also not to forget, in those missions which include an active enemy, that your settlement needs defending and the simplest step here is to surround your key buildings with a palisade or city wall. This together with the production of soldiers will allow for an active defence, and then later the possibility of going onto the offensive. Combat is fairly simplistic and relies on basically outnumbering your opponent by producing the maximum number of units and attacking smaller enemy forces. Buildings can be attacked, provided your swordsmen are supplied with torches, and also some siege equipment can also be produced. By destroying an enemy outpost, or capturing it, the territory can be made available for your own side, although all other buildings will be destroyed and have to be replaced. It should be stressed that combat is only a small element in the game, and those players looking for a more warlike experience would be better served looking elsewhere.

The graphics are excellent, depending on the capabilities of your graphics card, and can be zoomed in to a level very personal to the action. Weather is also included with winter forming a key element in production with fields covered in snow and fishing grounds frozen solid. This can be quite useful in that all waterways freeze over and become highways for movement, which assists in getting into previously unreachable locations.

Looking on the user forum there were many complaints about bugs and other problems, and also difficulties encountered with upgrades and the like. Let me say that I experienced nothing of this kind at all. My version 1.0 on the DVD loaded without problems, immediately logged onto the website and downloaded and installed version 1.1 without any intervention from me, and ran like a dream. Version 1.2 is out within the last few days, and its major new component is a free Mission Editor – I have to date had no chance to test this out, but have high hopes that new maps and missions will shortly be available through the various user sites.

The Settlers games have never been main stream hits, during their fifteen years or so, and maybe do not offer quite the complexity and involvement of some other games in the genre, but they have always had a dedicated following. What I can say is that over the years I have personally bought every game, and mission disk in the series and enjoyed them thoroughly. In fact I’m currently reliving Settlers 2 by means of the excellent special 10th Anniversary Edition. I confess to preferring the earlier more classic and cartoon-like versions – 1 through 4 – and found Heritage of Kings my least favourite, although still enjoyable. RoaE, which is superficially very much like the latter, does however have a much better feel and atmosphere, and I’ve found it quite compulsive – much to the chagrin, I have to say, of both my long suffering wife, and my Editor who has been waiting for this review.

There is a charm and simplicity to these games which you either love or you hate. Many will find they are looking for more complexity and control, but for me and many other Settlers fans, this is a really good game with lots of pluses, and I look forward playing it further, and acquiring a hopefully cheap Mission Disk in due course!

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