Title The Settlers (Third Review) Game Type Management Sim Players 1-2 Company Blue Byte Compatibility All Submission by James Tee (TEE@ac.dal.ca) This Amiga Report review appears here by courtesy of Jason Compton Review PRODUCT NAME The Settlers BRIEF DESCRIPTION A strategic "world construction set" where the player's goal is to colonize land and develop a thriving community. For 1 or 2 players. AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION Name: Blue Byte Software GmbH Address: Aktienstrabe 62 D-45473 Mulheim Germany LIST PRICE List Price: $49.95 (US) I paid $54 Canadian for it -- about $40 (US). SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS HARDWARE Works on any Amiga 500, 600, 1000, 1200, 2000, 3000, 4000. 1 MB RAM is required. 512K Chip RAM required for PAL users. 1 MB Chip RAM required for NTSC users. Depending on how much RAM your computer has, different game options are enabled. 1 MB Chip RAM and 4 MB Fast RAM allows all sound effects and in-game music, size 1-8 worlds (1200 screens big), and all missions. With 512K Chip RAM and 512K Fast RAM, you get about 25% of the sound effects, no in-game music, a choice of size 1-3 worlds (up to 37 screens big), and all missions. A second mouse is required to play in two-player mode. SOFTWARE Supports Kickstart 1.2, 1.3, 2.0, and higher. Comes on three 880K floppy disks. COPY PROTECTION Look up a set of symbols in the manual. This is a one time lookup every time you load up the game. The symbols are very easy to find in the manual. All three floppy disks are copyable. The program installs on a hard drive. Booting from the original disk is not required. A long intro sequence on disk 1, once seen, can be bypassed by loading off disk 3 (for disk-based users) or selecting the appropriate icon for hard-drive users. Once the game is loaded, the game disks/hard drive is not accessed again because the game is saved into Fast RAM (unless user has only chip ram). I rate the copy protection as "acceptable." MACHINE USED FOR TESTING Amiga 2000, 68000 CPU 1MB Chip RAM, 2MB Fast RAM 30MB Hard Drive AmigaDOS 1.3 REVIEW The Settlers is based on the "play god" genre of games like Civilization. The Settlers begins with a charming intro and then the password screen. At the first menu screen, players may choose among 30 missions (which must be passed one at a time before the password to the next mission level is given), 5 tutorials, a demo mode, and normal "design-your-world" gameplay. In "normal" gameplay, action takes place on one of 270 billion worlds chosen by the player with a 16-number combination. There are 10 computer-controlled competitors to choose from. Players can choose from various sized worlds depending on amount of computer memory. After making these choices, a mouseclick on START begins the game. The beginning screen displays a small section of the world. There are mountains, deserts, lakes, hills, and prairie land. Moving around the world is accomplished by moving the mouse while holding down the right mouse button. The Settlers is entirely mouse-driven. Your first task is to find a suitable plot of land (with the help of your land appraiser) to set up your main castle. Opposing computer players do the same; and from then on, it is a race to conquer all of the land. The game is intensely involving. Roads are built leading to proposed buildings the player wishes to be erected. Soon, small settlers come pouring out of the castle to carry out your directions. These are no normal settlers; these small fellows walk around, scratch their heads, carry supplies, and lead simply fascinating lives! So absorbing are the actions of these settlers that I often find myself watching them carry gold or bread from one building to the next, or watching a woodcutter chop down a tree. There can be anywhere from 500 to 640000 settlers depending on the size of the world. The player is in full control of everything that is built. Supplies may be limited, so the settlers will need to be instructed how to make their own supplies. There is a different settler for every job; for example, there are carriers, ferrymen, construction workers, bakers, farmers, miners, foresters, and butchers, to name just a few. Guard-rooms are built to expand the boundaries of the players land, as well as serving as the source of an attack on neighboring rivals. One may choose between 23 buildings to erect and 26 resources/tools to produce. Winning is based on good strategic placement of buildings and road networks. ARMS As in any "land-conquering" game, there are soldiers. They may have 5 different ranks, and the player can control where the best fighters go. OPTIONS There are options enough to satisfy even the most neurotic game player. There is a global map that the player can look at, indicating the presence of roads, the landscape, and the areas occupied by each player. Here the player will notice that the game world is overlapping - that is, a player can proceed in any one direction and he/she will come back to his original location. Other options in the game include many data graphs indicating the success rate of the player versus his opponents in terms of land ownership, fighting success, and total housing assets. Players can choose which resources have precedence and which buildings should be built first. Some of the added options include switching from the in-game music (with half the sound effects as well) to full sound effects, special mouseclick options, and even volume control from the screen. TWO-PLAYER MODE Two players can play The Settlers, either in competition against each other (in combination with other computer players if desired) or as a team working for the same goal. In two-player mode, the main game screen will split in half, giving each player control of his/her half of the screen. Necessary icons are all still there, just squeezed together more to fit in the smaller width. The split screens are a little cramped, though acceptable, myself being used to the nice wide view during one-player mode. DEMO ON AMINET There is a fully playable demo on the Aminet ftp sites, available to users with ftp access. I strongly suggest anyone considering this game to try out the demo first if possible. The demo is similar to the version being sold, except it lacks many of the options, music, some added graphics, any tutorials, any missions (and any documentation for that matter), and of course, any ability to save games. That's the general gist of the game. Hours and hours of absorbing gameplay. There are literally a hundred other touches to the game that I have not discussed here, but I will leave that to the joy of the buyer to explore. DOCUMENTATION The Settlers comes with a full-color reference card depicting all the possible buildings, jobs, resources, and tools. It also comes with a very useful, 135-page instruction booklet. The documentation is of good quality, with helpful icon pictures from the computer screen throughout the booklet, and it also gives a lot of useful strategic hints for how to do well in the game. There is information on how to install the game onto the hard disk. There is a table of contents. I personally found the instructions regarding the second knight menu (displaying morale) to be lacking, leaving me unsure as to which icons on the screen the booklet was referring to. The documentation includes notes for beginners who have never heard of the terms "Chip RAM" or "Fast RAM", and for experts of the CLI-Workbench interface. LIKES AND DISLIKES/BUGS Ah - this is my favorite (and most important, IMHO) part - my impression of the game. First, I should note that the game is fully playable without reading the instruction book at all. The game is quite enjoyable when the player jumps in and experiments with all the different icons and tools (of course, after having backed up the game). This is a big plus. The fact that the game can hold your attention for months on end is also a big plus (I guess that's one reason why Role Playing Games are so popular). I also like the multitude of options the game offers, the charming in-game music (that repeats every 20 minutes or so), the sheer size of the game, the beautiful graphics, and, most awe-inspiring, the settler-people. I am still in awe over how my 7-year old Amiga can keep track of 8000 little settlers all doing their own thing. Flags wave, water sloshes, and the swoosh of a light breeze can be heard. The sound is excellent (there's simply no end to it). Now the parts that I didn't like. Well, let's just say that Blue Byte never made a true NTSC version of The Settlers (not yet, anyway). Yes, that means that if your video output is normally NTSC, you're going to have to boot into PAL mode using "palboot" (and to do that, you are going to need at least a 1MB Fat Agnus chip). That isn't such a big problem, however. Secondly, when running off floppy disks, the game simply won't recognize disk 2 in drive df1:, not being able to validate the disk. That basically nullifies the need for 2 disk drives. That isn't a problem if you have any Fast RAM in which to save the game program; but if you don't, then you may have to do some disk-swapping. Otherwise, not a problem. I also have a slight disaffection for the game's saving method. The game does not allow previously saved games to be deleted. This becomes a larger problem when you realize that the game also fails to indicate whether there is enough room on the storage device for the game being saved. Often, I have tried to save the game, only to be told halfway through that there is insufficient room. Then, I scramble to find more empty disks (yes, I play off the floppy disks despite having a hard drive), because the game doesn't allow for the initializing of disks. My suggestion: definitely make sure you have room for a saved game before playing (i.e., 880K will be more than enough for any size 5 world game). My suggestions to the developers of Blue Byte GmbH are favorable: Correct the game-saving concerns, perhaps make an NTSC version, and maybe throw in some female settlers. After all, it is hard to imagine a stork arriving at the home castle every 2 seconds in the game :) Overall, an excellent game. A sequel is inevitable, like Psygnosis' Lemmings series. Perhaps a "year 2010" setting? Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be excellent. COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS The only other program I have had contact with similar to The Settlers is Civilization by Microprose. Both games are examples of the conquest and world domination form of gaming, and fine examples are they both. However, Civilization's icon system has been replaced by real-time horde of moving, acting, workers in The Settlers. Civilization, however, plays further ahead into time (the space age). Nevertheless, The Settlers scores higher in my book. I just have to add in a quick note about The Settlers and Hired Guns by Psygnosis just because they are both excellent examples of their respective genres. CONCLUSIONS Overall, I'd have to give The Settlers a 96% rating out of 100 (see DISLIKES/BUGS). It is the best game of its class in the Amiga market right now. As an infrequent software consumer, I would certainly consider further similar products from this German company. If you like Civilization, or have any hidden urges to dominate and control, you'll love The Settlers for its influence power. If you like to knit (no offence) or play with Play-Doh, then you'll love The Settlers because it's so cute. I can't think of many who would not like The Settlers. In no way am I affiliated with Blue Byte GmbH. I am solely a satisfied customer.