The Settlers 7 – Paths to a Kingdom: review

The Settlers series of games have been around since the age of the Amiga in 1993. The strategy saga was conceived by Blue Byte Software, and was a technical marvel at the time. Is this new game King of the genre, or is it more akin to a humble serf?

The basic premise of the game is the building up of your small village to that of an all powerful kingdom. This includes mining for gold and coal to build your economy, foresting for timber to build structures, fishing to feed your people etc. You then start to build an army to aid you in your expansion. There are three general routes you can take in the game: Military, Trade and Science. The military route obviously sees you building your army to crush the enemy. Trade sees you building the best trade routes on the map, and building your economy more rapidly. Finally Science makes you focus on increasing your technological capacity. All three paths have different units to utilise, and you collect Victory points throughout the game in order to beat your opponent. You collect these by amassing the most coins, biggest army etc. Players battle for these points on a sliding scale, which ebbs and flows as the game continues, until a player reaches the points target.

Settlers 7 is thankfully quite easy to get into, and the game gradually eases you in, without bamboozling you with hundreds of options, which would put off any fresh faced players. Options are added gradually so you learn how things function as the game goes on, which works extremely well. Graphics are of a slightly cartoony style and are stunning to behold as you can zoom right in, and watch your Settlers go about their daily chores. The game is set in the early Renaissance period, and the houses and castles all have a really quaint appearance. It’s akin to the fairytale world of the film Shrek, which is enhanced by the storybook style plot; and the slow pace of the game means you can sit back and enjoy what’s happening in your own little fantasy world.

The story uses 'Shrek' style cutscenes to further the plot.

Once you get your village up and running, you can start to build an army by going down to the local boozer, and recruiting and training the drunken locals in the way of armed combat. We wonder if the MOD are taking notes?! These soldiers are under the command of generals, and later in the game you can send out different platoons to catch the enemy unawares. Once you have amassed enough men, you can go and start conquering the world around you. You start by taking over neutral settlements which can give you, say, a meat source or a mine of coal or gold, to kick start your economy. These battles are non-interactive, as you just click to where you want your army to attack, and that is it. It’s only when you come across fortified enemies that actually attack you, that things get a little bit harder and more interesting. For these fights you need to employ the correct faction of soldier, or your battle could be in vain.

One thing to watch is your use of resources. At one point we had built up a whole battalion of soldiers, but in our haste, we failed to notice that we needed musketeers to attack an enemy fort; and then noticed that we had emptied the gold mine, and so couldn’t afford to recruit the musketeers. So we had to start again from scratch, which was a bit of a pain considering how well we had advanced our settlement. We think the megalomaniac in us was taking over, and we got a bit carried away creating an all conquering army. You also have to be careful where you build structures, as things can get pretty messy – and your budding kingdom can sometimes resemble an African shanty town if you’re not careful. This can lead to you missing vital resources, and eventually your civilisation grinds to a halt, which can also be slightly frustrating when you can’t figure out where your supply chain has broken down.

Things can get a bit messy if you're not careful about placing your structures.

There are some online modes to the game as well as single player, with ladder and unranked games available to take on budding Caesars. There aren’t a great deal of maps on offer, but you can adjust them slightly to keep things fresh. These games can take a fair while to finish, and requires both players to have the patience and time to finish the game. We did struggle to find a game though, and we’re sure this game won’t be as popular online as, say, the COD series. If you have a friend with a copy of the game though we’re sure you’ll have an absolute blast, as it does play well online if/when you can find a game. For those that prefer to take on the computer there is the skirmish mode, which does offer a good challenge as the computer does a grand job at adapting to your strategic moves.

Now, there has been a lot of press about Ubisoft’s decision to use an online DRM system in this game. The whole idea is that you need to have internet access, and an Ubisoft ID (which is much the same as PSN or Xbox Live IDs) to be able to play the game. For anyone who lives in remote areas and can’t get broadband, then I’m afraid you’ll not be able to play this game full stop. For those that do have broadband, the DRM is not a major problem, and doesn’t take anything away from the game at all.

If you’ve never tried a Settlers game before, we urge you to give this a go. It’s a welcome change to the deluge of first person shooters out there, and is very addictive once you get to grips with it. It’s easy to get into, and there is enough depth to keep seasoned players happy as well. This is one settlement that we’ll keep coming back to.


8/10

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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