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Strategy Game Review Strategy Game Review Strategy Game Review

 

Many thanks to The GamesMan for his review on Settlers 3.

Settlers 3

Settlers 3Once upon a time, before the Pentium, even before Playstation, was a computer called "Amiga". Now, kiddies, this magical computer didn't need lots of RAM (mine had 512K) or tons of hard drive space (40MB was considered excessive), yet it had special powers, the ability to play the most amazing and original games. It was on this computer so long ago, that I was able to play a mystical game called "The Settlers".

Your people in the game (half human, half lemming) worked in a fairly complex economy of your creation. Farms, Bakeries, Weapons Shops and Guard Towers of your making littered the landscape. Dozens of peasants carried goods back and forth, and you could influence your subjects behaviours in many different ways with a simple click of your mouse. I, and thousands like me, spent many a sleepless night building kingdoms and guiding our subjects to victory.

In the movie industry, sequels are rarely as good as the original. Not so with computer games. Better graphics, interface, and sound effects are sure to be found, but it is the game play that we most anticipate and scrutinise. And so, as the release of Settlers III neared, I licked my chops and widened my eyes in anticipation. Would it be better, were more sleepless nights in store for me? Read on and see...

As in the original, you start with several peasants for carrying goods where needed, diggers to level land you wish to build on, and several builders to construct your buildings. All buildings need wood and stone (in different combinations) to construct, and so require the familiar Wood Choppers hut, Sawmill, and Stone cutters hut to begin your economy. Farms, Bakeries, Pig Farms, and Fishing huts still must be built to feed miners, and Coal, Iron, and Gold mines are needed to begin building your armies. As before, Iron and Gold smelters convert these metals into a useable form, as Weapons Shops and Tool Shops use them to produce items of war and economy (such as swords or saws). As you construct military buildings (such as Guards Huts, Guard Towers, or Strongholds) your soldiers enter them, and cause the borders of your territory near them to expand. Eventually, your borders meet up the with borders of your foes, and war is sure to follow. During this Real-Time game play, you can change the priorities of what your subjects transport or produce by adjusting several charts, sliders, and buttons in the game menus. Players of the previous games in this series will recognise much in this current title, but a lot has been added or changed (for better or worse), as will be told below.

In the Beginning

Settlers3First, the story line is much stronger. Three of the lesser Gods have become lazy and neglectful, and the "Almighty God" is not happy. He assigns each god a different race (Roman, Egyptian, and Asian) to manage. The God who eventually uses his race to dominate the other two will once again gain favour (the other two will be forced to "repaint" the universe). The story and cut scenes are shown in an animated fashion, which is cute and a bit silly at the same time. Each of the three races in Settlers III differs in the resources they use to make their buildings (Egyptians use more stone, Asians use more wood, Romans are the norm) and the spells they can cast. Yes, there are now spells! Building large temples slowly produces priests. As your race gains manna from your god, your priests may cast a wide variety of spells (such as causing more trees to grow, or reducing the resources in your enemies mines). I found the spell casting interface to be a bit confusing and just plain clunky at times. More than once I found my priests wandering into the middle of a group of enemy soldiers instead of casting a spell on them. In addition, there are no visual cues as to the range of each spell (such as a circle or shaded area) making casting spells even more confusing.

More Changes

Settlers 3Another change in the game deals with the peasants or "carriers". You no longer need to build roads! Carriers know where they need to go, go there, and deliver the item they are carrying directly to the building that needs it. Although paths or "roads" appear as carriers travel the same route over and over again, this seems to have no affect on the game play itself. In order to produce the people of your realm, housing must now be built. After it is built, a number of people come out (depending on the size of the residence) and begin to work. The "job" each person takes on is dependent on the settings you specified in the menus. New "jobs" for your people include Spies and Pioneers (along with the familiar Geologist). Spies may be sent to scout out enemy territory, and will look just like another one of their carriers to them. Pioneers may be used to expand your territorial boarders in any area they can walk to, although they do this slowly, over time. Each type of Miner (Iron, Gold, or Coal) now prefers a different type of food (Bread, Fish, or Meat). If they don't get their favourite "Happy Meal", they work at a MUCH slower pace. Two new ships/docks are now available; Transport ships, which allow you to move small groups of troops, and Trade ships, which allow you to move large quantities of goods across the water to other colonies. Some of the more important and disappointing changes are with combat...

 

Settlers 3 Menu Settlers 3 Menu


Fighting Change

Settlers 3There are 3 types of Soldiers in Settlers III, your average hand-to-hand Swordsman, Spearmen (which do less damage than Swordsmen, but have a short ranged attack), and Bowmen (able to attack at long ranges, but are pitiful in hand-to-hand combat). Catapults may also now be made, and do a lot of damage to buildings. All troops do full damage when defending their territory, but only do half damage when in an enemies territory. As before, the more gold you mine and smelter into bars, the higher your troops damage gets when attacking enemy territory. Since there are no roads necessary, all combat units can now move freely anywhere. Mass numbers of troops may be "roped" using the mouse, and moved anywhere on the map. This may, at first, seem like a great improvement, but in this gamers opinion, is the downfall of the game. Throwing one massive army at any point in the enemies territory is a common tactic now. Moving your one massive army to defend any one of you guard posts or buildings is just as common. Add to that no real way to keep formations, and you've got a recipe for "Battle-Boredom". As for upgrading your troops, this too has changed for the worse. In previous versions, you had a decision; keep your fighters at the Castle to train and increase their fighting ability (making them unavailable for combat) or place them on duty in your guard posts (where they can fight, but can't train/upgrade). Now, you build a rice/barley farm. The farm makes wine/beer, your god "drinks" the offering, and when his blood alcohol gets high enough, he grants you one upgrade. You pick one of the three troop types to upgrade, and Shazzam, all of those units become more efficient in one swoop. Yawn.

Settling for Third

In short, Settlers III is far from original in it's third incarnation. It's attempt to convert battle into another real-time strategy clone is it's biggest flaw. The spell implementation, while new, feels "stapled" on, and is not user friendly. Kids, who may find games like StarCraft or Master of Orion II too complex and overwhelming may love this game, but this adult was a bit disappointed with it.

 

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Reviewed by The GamesMan
Review Date 21st January 1998
Copyright Rick/GamesMan 1998

 

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