Previews// Settlers: Rise of an Empire

Nipping to the pub for a sneaky pint.

Posted 24 Jul 2007 13:01 by
While all the big announcements were being made in Santa Monica (or not, open for debate, that one) I was sitting in a traditional British pub in New Oxford Street sipping a cold beer. ?Yeah, alright Svend, get back to work?, I hear you cry. But aha, this was work! No, honest, it was. It was when I heard the call to head upstairs into a presentation area I thought that more gaming press events should be held in public houses. But the location served a purpose far more fitting than to make game journalists feel at home ? rather, it was a location fitting for a classic series based on medieval town construction.

The Settlers will be a name fondly remembered by the Amiga generation, as the series first hit the home computer in 1993 and steadily became a cult hit for its humorous vibe, immersive strategy play and the characterisation of the village people themselves ? the Settlers. Now the series is approaching its sixth instalment, and Blue Byte producer Benedikt Grindel was present to demonstrate just what was going to make every wannabe King very merry indeed.

For the uninitiated, Settlers: Rise of an Empire looks like a God simulation where you build a little medieval town, set commands and lay buildings down to help your kingdom grow. But, in reality, it carries hallmarks that label it more as a strategy game, as you can focus on every knight and battalion and directly control their movement. Other nearby kingdoms become established while your own town grows as well, so there is an element of battle and tactical play involved too.

Benedikt introduced his latest project by clarifying this last point, saying that Settlers V was ?too combat-oriented ? creation was not the goal, instead it was to beat the other kingdom or opponent. The aim of Settlers VI is to create a big village, in a world worth playing in?.

This was demonstrated by first showcasing various pre-built kingdoms in different ?climate zones?. The first was in a mild climate akin to Britain or Central Europe, and detailed lush green forests and lakes, with frolicking deer and rabbits all over the place. Within this Eden-esque utopia was a bustling city with many villagers running around doing errands or day-to-day tasks. Each ?Settler? is actually doing something in real time, we were told, and is not just a random model milling about looking like they?re doing something. Woodcutters will happily chop down trees and provide resources for buildings, but sometimes they might just nip to the butchers for some sausages or to the pub for a sneaky pint.

I was experiencing this first hand on the set of demo PCs that were running the game in its latest build, only quite the other way round. My butcher, dairyman and baker had no resources with which to make food, so my woodcutter got hungry and refused to work. Cheers mate. During campaign missions, you can assign a knight with special attributes that can aid your progress throughout the game. Benedikt used a knight who could sing in his presentation to perform a classic bard?s song to quell a group of entertainment-starved Settlers on strike.
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