Ubisoft's The Settlers full review
Ubisoft are rebooting The Settlers series of games this year with a surprise announcement at Gamescom 2018. We were given a sneak peak behind closed doors and got to watch a live demo of the upcoming town/city management sim.
The Settlers first released back in 1993 and saw repeated instalments all the way up to 2010. As is the case with so many old classics, we're getting a brand new reboot to restart the adventure all over again and update the series for a modern audience. While we didn't get our hands on the game ourselves, we were shown a detailed demo with a developer playing and showing us the ropes.
Be sure to take a look at all of our Gamescom 2018 coverage.
The Settlers sees the player take control of a group of explorers that arrive in a new land. You'll be set to work building a small village for your people to live and work in and carefully shepherd their transition from a humble collection of buildings, to a bustling market town and finally all the way to a thriving metropolis.
The more modern style of city management simulator is played at more of a macro level with Sim City and Cities: Skylines springing to mind as the obvious examples. The Settlers is played at a much more granular height as you will be able to select each individual citizen to see what exactly they're up to. You will upgrade buildings and place them manually, decide where to expand to next, choose which members of your growing community will be soldiers or smiths.
This makes the game feel quite a lot like an RTS which is by no means a bad thing. The closest parallel to this game in my mind is the Stronghold series which seem to play in a largely similar way.
The game looks great and is very detailed both in the gameplay and environment. We were shown an example of a kitchen steadily churning out meals for the lumberjacks enthusiastically chopping down trees just outside the village for the shiny new town hall that was planned. A worker from the kitchen carried a plate of food hot from the ovens over to the lumber mill where a particular Lumberjack was stationed. The lumberjack returned from his work to take a seat and rapidly consume the food, before heading back out again with stamina replenished.
These interactions mean that every person wondering around your village has a purpose. Everyone has their role to play, and clicking on an individual citizen will show you where they're going, what they're up to and how they're feeling at that particular moment. This gets very immersive when roads begin to form and your village becomes a hub of life, as the traffic moving back and forth has a direct purpose and is not just for show.
As your community grows you'll start to encounter more varied resources, unlock more buildings and level up your current ones. These produce interesting effects on the game world, as upgrading the lumber mill means that lumberjacks will work in pairs to cut down trees rather than going it alone, for example.
You will also encounter some other factions an they may not share in your expansionist ideals. They might not want to be liberated from their clearly inferior leadership, the poor fools. They might even dare to attack you,and that you will not stand for.
You'll need to start to think about some fortifications and an army of your own, and the army will require training and weapons to fight with.
The game is currently more than a year away, but it already looks fantastic and runs very well too. In the current build of the game your community can grow to 3000 individual citizens, and there is a plan for more in the future.
We were also shown some advanced features for situations that can arise further towards the end game. A gladiator arena was shown, with champions for two different factions going at it in the ring. One champion defeated another claiming the title as the more honourable faction.
The population of the losing faction didn't like this. Didn't like this at all. It was made clear that there were ways to correct this up coming situation but the next screen showed the losing faction rioting in their town. We're talking full on torches and pitchforks, jumping up and down in the street
The ringleader of this marched his way to the town hall and pulled down the faction's flag, overthrowing the leadership to join the faction that defeated them in single combat.
This was an example of alternative victory conditions that the game has in store, other than just hitting the enemy with pointy sticks until they give up or they don't have any buildings left. However, that is always going to be an option and the fight between two armies that we saw looked great, and included a commander that could give orders and buffs to his troops.
Multiplayer has been confirmed although its planned existence is all we know at this stage.