Tech News on G4
Fans will enjoy 'Settlers' sequel
May 3, 2010
By Donna Whitney - G4 Canada
'The Settlers' is a game cut straight from the cloth of the classic strategy genre. If you're a fan of previous games in the series, you won't be disappointed.
Set in the era of the early Renaissance, you are surrounded by raw materials needed to build, maintain and conquer. Whatever your preference, whether it be a story-based campaign, skirmishes, or multiplayer empire creations, 'Settlers 7' has something for you.
Upon starting the game, I was struck by the exceptional choice of an ethereal, almost medieval music which really set a nice tone. However, the average play time (at least for slow gamers like me) is about an hour and a half… and that's a long time to be listening to the same melodies. Although there is little variability in the tunes, it really is a fitting sound.
'Settlers' features a helpful 360? scrolling camera option and intuitive zoom and scrolling features. These are critical, as you'll need multiple angles and a keen eye in order to search out materials and determine the optimal places to design and build your cities.
The game is simple to learn and quick to master. In no time, you'll be harvesting materials, producing goods, and managing your population. It's really easy to get a sense of supply-and-demand. The learning curve is short and you'll feel right at home in no time.
The "victory point" system showcases an added spark of creativity on the part of the creators, and it also really helps move the game along. Achieving a level of success in various aspects of earns you "victory points" that unlock the ability to acquire sorely needed materials. For example, if you achieve a certain population size, you will earn "victory points". The choice of whether you spend those points on gold, tools or wood planks is up to you.
Despite the comfort and user-friendliness of the game, I still found it lacking something and I've struggled to pinpoint what that is. Perhaps it's the weak graphics? When playing on my laptop, the visual experience seemed acceptable but when docked to my large-screen monitor, the detail was a bit disappointing. It sort of reminded of when those lights come on at closing time and you suddenly realize just how ugly the person you've been dancing with truly is.
It could have been the game's lack of depth too. From the moment you start a campaign to the time of its completion, you're pretty much repeating the same basic tasks. The only real challenges to encounter as you go deeper into a campaign is the risk of depleting raw materials, or the stress of bringing all your work efforts together for some massive military campaign, export venture, or technological advancement.
The campaign mode is frustrating. You must follow steps in a very formulaic manner in order to advance the plot. If you don't, you might as well hang yourself in your own castle because you will have to start the entire map over again.
Perhaps the lack of a fully developed online community or some other missing element of more vibrant interaction, has left me with a sense of dissatisfaction? Much may be said of this game's online underdevelopment. The game tried to introduce a traditional online game function, as well as a points-based system. The box warns you that a "permanent" internet connection is needed in order to play the game – a requirement that is essentially meaningless if you're not going into "empire mode" to seek others to play with online. That option is an environment where you are matched against other online gamers.
I struggled to succeed in, or enjoy, the empire campaign. The first problem is that other players must be willing to start a campaign with you at exactly the same time you desire. Secondly, it required that I commit to the hour-and-a-half it takes to get through a tour without getting distracted by anything else, such as living my life.
Another online aspect is the ability to purchase items with the coins you earned from playing the game. This creative spin is a great concept, but it failed to offer anything actually interesting to purchase. I was left with a sense of frustration... wanting in some way to use the meagre coins that I earned from hours of game-play, hoping to find some motivation or worthwhile in the online experience, or even in the game itself.
Instead, all of my hard work earned me nothing but a chance to buy flower boxes or window upgrades for my castle. These items did no good. Remember the graphics shortcomings? I couldn't zoom in close enough to appreciate the upgrades that I purchased.
'The Settlers' features an option to customize your castle, and someone could spend hours tinkering with their ballasts but the castle appears so small on the screen that I don't know why anyone would waste their time. Ultimately, the castle doesn't factor into game play in any way… so it's just another useless feature.
All and all, it would be unfair to be too critical of this game. It was entertaining and it managed to devour several hours of my time. There are better games, to be sure, but there are certainly worse – and sometimes it's nice to wear a comfy pair of slippers, no matter how bad they look.
The Settlers 7 - Paths to A Kingdom
Rating: 7 / 10
About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.