The Settlers: Rise of an Empire PC DVD
Published by: Focus Multimedia
Developed by: Blue Byte
My first contact with The Settlers was The Settlers 2: Gold Edition. I couldn’t have picked a better game to start with. The game was both addictive and relaxing at the same time. It was also unique and quite unlike any other strategy game out there. Since then of course some of the developers left Blue Byte to form their own development team called Funatics and from that point forward The Settlers series never felt the same. That’s not to say the sequels (and I’m not counting the remake of The Settlers 2) have been bad games but they have failed to capture the unique experience that the series once offered.
Rather than even attempting to capture the classic feel of the series, Rise of an Empire attempts to create a new and, in many ways, simplified experience. You can upgrade various city and resource buildings too, which is a nice touch and means you won’t have to build quite so many of the same facilities in order to get the output you require as the upgrades can improve the production rate of a resource building. The game has four climate zones (Cold, Mild, Warm and Hot) and these have an effect on various aspects of the game. Your settlers can even get married if they happen to find a member of the opposite sex that they care enough about.
The game offers a single-player campaign, a free-play mode, a map editor and a multiplayer mode which allows for both LAN and online play for up to four players. The single-player campaign is set in the aftermath of the crumbling of the Darion Empire. All that remains now is a collection of warring provinces but with the aid of your knights there is hope that peace can once again be restored. Prior to the start of a campaign scenario you’ll get to choose which of the knights you want to be present in the scenario. Initially you’ll have a choice of Lord Marcus and Lady Alandra but more will join you as you progress through the campaign. The knights have passive and active abilities which you can use to assist you in a scenario.
Rise of an Empire is certainly not without charm and it’s certainly a respectable and enjoyable game. The problem is that once you’ve set your lines of production up the game can feel like it is on automatic pilot as there is very little to do once you’ve managed to get your productions lines running smoothly. Whilst combat has been present in The Settlers series as a whole, it’s never been a major element of the game and that’s exactly the same in Rise of an Empire. Earlier games posed a challenge in the micromanagement, the creation of your settlements and keeping them running well. Rise of an Empire fails to create that addictive fine balancing act that most of the games in this genre do and as such some will be disappointed. Those wanting a more relaxed experience may appreciate the sedate pace however and there’s no denying that it can be enjoyable if you’re looking for something a little less hectic.
When the game was originally released, around three years ago, it was a fine looking RTS and even by today’s standards the game looks more than good enough if you have a good enough graphics card to have the game running with the maximum details. You’ll see the weather change to reflect the seasons and this certainly adds to the visual charm of the game. Rise of an Empire does need a decent PC specification to have the game looking its best however and it’s one of those games where you need to comfortably exceed the system requirements if you intend the running of the game to be smooth.
Rise of an Empire is subtitled and you’ll be able to enjoy the bulk of the dialogue that’s present in the game. The game’s cut scenes and mission briefings are subtitled so you’ll be aware of what needs to be done in each of the game’s scenarios. There are no character names to accompany the dialogue but it’s usually obvious who is speaking. Tutorial messages are subtitled too. Comments made when you give your units orders are not subtitled. Your settlers will make a comment when you click on them and these comments are also not subtitled. However, you are given a summary of your chosen settler’s thoughts in text and these are actually more useful than what is spoken. The game makes good use of icons to convey information. In short the game is fine for deaf gamers despite a few omissions.
The Settlers: Rise of an Empire is a good strategy title and it’s one that is definitely worth considering if you like real-time strategy games that focus on resource management and production chains in addition to combat. Series veterans will lament the fact that the series has strayed so far from what it originally was but at this point it’s hardly likely to return to its original formula and Rise of an Empire is certainly an enjoyable game in its own right and newcomers to the genre will certainly find it a welcoming experience. However, long-standing fans of the genre will probably find the game a little over simplified for their tastes.