If I actually count the titles that have taken the successful leap to the online gaming model, it would be few. The Settlers Online wasn’t part of the count. The game, brought to you by the same publishers of the original Settlers series, BlueByte, puts you in the middle of it all and places you on a fictional island where you need to explore and claim land for your own and entice other settlers that this is where they belong.
The Settlers Online is a browser based game that uses Flash to explore this new world. Fans of the original settlers games (at least Settlers 1-3) will more or less feel a bit nostalgic as it does bring back some of the classic gameplay we’ve come to love. To be honest, I am not a big fan of the latter games in the Settler series because I think they really revamped the gameplay to something more attune to current RTS games abandoning the old model which obviously what made me fall in love with the series anyway.
Since the game is free to play, it’s very easy to sign up and get started right away. Simply go to the game’s website and you will have the option to register either by giving your details or simply using Facebook to connect to the game. You will then find yourself on an island with just the Mayor’s house built there. The nice thing about the game is that it doesn’t leave you guessing what to do. It comes with a tutorial that will show you the basics of island life in the form of quests. I rather appreciate this approach of tutorials as it does give you a sense of achievement and you don’t aimlessly build stuff for no reason.
Just like in the original Settlers game, this game is a resource game and requires you to harvest resources before you can build new structures. But as you would expect with Settlers, there are a ton of resources and materials to be had. Some need multiple structures before you can start building what you really need.
You will first be instructed to produce pinewood planks as they are your basic building materials. You will need to build a wood cutter’s hut, then you need to process the lumber into planks so you’ll need a sawmill. But what do you do if you run out of trees to cut? There are also forester huts whose main job is just to replant the trees.
The game has a good emphasis on economy and you can’t just blatantly use all the resources on the island without repercussions. Resources can run out if you’re not careful. But the tutorial quests allow you to get a hang of balancing your resources. In fact, there’s a special “Economy” tab that will let you see how much your buildings are producing and how much resources are being consumed. The data is so specific that you can literally track the progress of consumption versus production. You can even make it that you are always at a surplus ensuring the growth of your burgeoning empire.
But wait, you’ve only just started. You now need stone to build further structures. Well there are mountains on the island but where do you harvest stone. Now you have to hire specialists. Funny enough you have to build a tavern and hire them there. For some reason, specialists can all be found drunk in the tavern, and that’s when you actually can hire them for your group of settlers. You’ll probably want a geologist to search for stone deposits. Later on, the geologist can also search for ore and marble deposits as well.
Once you have some stone to harvest and a continuous wood supply, you’ll probably start needing to expand your town by building some residences and maybe a few farms and fisheries. Residences allow for a bigger population, farms allow you to make flour which in turn is made into bread which is important for attracting new settlers, while fisheries allow you to get fish which is used to buff buildings in order for them to produce faster.
Eventually, you are going to run out of place in your current territory, so you need to hire a new specialist, the explorer, to lift the fog of war around your town. But then, all is not peaceful on your island as it is also settled by bandits. This means you need an army.
Combat in this game is simplified as it is not the main focus of the game. But of course, if you need to get rid of the bandits and claim more land, you will need to build an army and hire a general. Guess where you hire your general. If you said tavern, then you’re correct (lol). Armies, however, need weapons and the cheapest weapons you can build are bronze swords. And to produce those, you’ll need to start mining for copper to smelt into bronze. And to get bronze deposits, you need your geologist.
It’s amazing that this game has everything tied together that a lot of the materials and resources are all tied together. However, if you’re not careful, one mistake can halt the production of a lot of things in your empire so it’s best that you are always taking a look at the economy of your town.
Now, since this is an online game, there is a social aspect to it. One thing I appreciate though, is that it does not require you to actually interact with others or get something from other players to progress but it does add an additional dimension to your gaming as your friends can help you out if you need buffs or resources. One important aspect is the ability to trade for resources. For example, I need wood, I can always buy wood in exchange for other resources or for gold coins. Any excess resources that I have can also be bartered for coin or other resources. This becomes essential especially if you need resources that you currently do not have or may take time to harvest.
Despite that the game is online, it does not require a lot of bandwidth especially since it’s a browser game. No need to download a client so you can play right away. And for a Flash game, it’s not slow or laggy so you can enjoy the game without those small annoyances. It’s not a very graphic intensive game but it is still visually beautiful and the ambient sounds add to the feel of island life.
If you’re like me who enjoy city building strategy games, then definitely this game is one that will pull you in and let you play hours and hours on end. I would go far as to say that this is what SimCity done right.Related: Browser, Review, RTS, The Settlers Online