By Daniel Lipscombe
The Settlers 7 is a game about waiting, well; actually it’s a game about settling your people in a comfortable town and protecting them. But mostly it’s a game about waiting. I found myself waiting for much of my time with The Settlers 7. I started by waiting for hours while the game tried to install onto my PC.
Then once I’d installed the game I had to create an Ubisoft account and only then could I actually see the title screen. It’s a wistful one at that, full of hope and prosperity. Venturing forth from this moment I grinned from ear to ear at the wonderful character design and animations. Everything about the visual style of the game oozed charm, from the colourful cut scenes to the portly little men scurrying around town.
The same can be said for the games aural standing. The lilting bird call is only interrupted by the tutorial style voiceovers or occasional sounds emanating from your villagers. It’s all very pleasant, exactly what you want from an RTS style game. Although here’s where The Settlers differs so wildly from a game such as Age of Empires. There’s a lot of waiting around.
In a standard RTS you would have to monitor each of your villagers and make sure they stay on their path. If you point a citizen at a berry bush they will stay until there are no more berries, then you can point them elsewhere. In The Settlers they just sort of, well, get on with their lives. Which is great but it leaves you just watching.
If you want to build something that requires ten pieces of stone and you don’t have enough, you wait. But not just for a few minutes, for some time. Watching as the stone pile slowly increases and then you wait as the constructer waddles his way to the building site. Granted once he’s finished you have a lovely export office, but during those ten minutes, there is little else to do but watch and drum those little fingers on the desk.
There is a way to make them move and build faster, by giving them a better quality of food. To be honest I didn’t notice a vast difference and I learnt to watch snatches of DVDs whilst I waited. The overarching issue with the game is that, whilst it’s all very entertaining actually building these villages, once you’ve built what you want they just get on with things.
In a world with games such as The Sims, The Settlers flaws stand out far too well. These moments of down time could have been solved with a speed up button. Zipping through these waiting sections could have kept my attention for a lot longer. Another want would have been direct control over some of the people.
In one instance I found myself literally screaming at the monitor as the constructor stood outside his shack tapping his foot rather than working on the buildings I wanted. And it wasn’t even a lack of resources; he just stood there looking all smug.
When everything is running smoothly, The Settlers ticks along nicely with achievements popping up and the game congratulating you when you do something well. The mechanics of the game are deep and inspiring. It’s exciting to look through the build menu and see what will be coming up soon. It may be quite sad but I was genuinely excited to see that I could raise sheep, farm their wool and tailor clothes for trading overseas. But even when you open up more options later in the game, there’s more waiting and toe tapping than ever.
It’s only in skirmish mode that the waiting ends as you can move at more of a pace that you choose rather than one the computer dictates. And seemingly skirmish mode is a little more fun than the campaign. Given an expanse of land opponents of your choice and plenty of time, you can create lovely battles or devastating wars.
I could have enjoyed my time with The Settlers 7 a lot more if some mechanics had been implemented, but I was still blown away by how cute and approachable the game was on the whole. So would I recommend it? I’m torn by this game very much, whilst on one hand The Settlers is a solid game that is deserving of your time, on the other hand we have Ubisofts new DRM plan.
Now this is not the place to debate about such issues, but it needs to be considered. Playing on a desktop I only lost my internet connection once. The game froze and asked if I wanted to save the game in case the connection didn’t re-establish. Once the broadband had come back to life, the game continued. Now this isn’t an issue to me but a laptop user may struggle, Wi-Fi signals aren’t the best and constant drops in connection will hinder your progress.
This without even mentioning the Ubisoft servers going down leaving you with nothing more than a shiny coaster for your tea whilst you, once again, wait for the servers to reignite. Be aware of this when you approach this charming little game; remember that you can never play this game without your internet connection. But whilst the technology obeys, you can experience a gem of a strategy game.