Tristan Kalogeropoulos
19 Aug, 2007

The Settlers Review

DS Review | The tiny Romans get tinier.
Looking like the chromatic mirror image of Smurfs, Blue Byte’s Settlers have been traversing the globe for some years now. From having their ships dashed against the rocks of unknown lands to having all of their women stolen – truly a fate worse than death itself – the pint sized Romans have been placed in some fairly challenging circumstances, but have always come out on top. However their biggest, and also smallest, test to date has just emerged – a port to the DS.

Settlers DS is essentially a port of the game that appeared on the PC in the 90’s. Never really making a huge splash, the series has instead managed to slowly, yet steadily grow its fanbase, making it somewhat of a cult title. There have been over ten sequels, remakes and expansions of the game proving that this series is more than a proverbial flash in the pan.

Settler’s gameplay is more akin to that of Sim City than Command and Conquer, with the game focusing on resource management rather than heated combat with enemy forces. In many ways this makes the title an ideal one for conversion to the DS, a system on which a more overly complicated, ‘busy’ title may suffer as a result its limited processing power and small screens.

If we were your father we'd say that it looks like these guys have got the 'blues'.

If we were your father we'd say that it looks like these guys have got the 'blues'.
The reason behind the little Romans requiring your assistance this time is that they have found themselves stranded on some strange and foreign shore after having their ship sunk in a storm. The player is tasked with growing the settler’s empire as they attempt to figure out where it is that they’ve wound up. Each stage involves expanding the diminutive conqueror’s territories towards a portal to the next area (just like the way the real Roman Empire was built).

You’ll start each level with just your headquarters and a few essential supplies to get your settling started. As you begin to select sites on which to build wood cutters huts, sawmills, farms, mines and wells, among a myriad of other building types, all with their own vocational offerings to the empire, areas will be reserved for the erection of these structures. There is an in-game tool that presents you with what type of buildings you can build, and where, in order to ease confusion. As roads are connected to these areas awaiting construction tiny Roman citizens will emerge from your headquarters, ready to transport raw materials and goods for building and sustaining the growth of your society.

All of the commodities of your settlement must be monitored in order to determine what it is they are being used for. For example you must decide whether you want coal to go towards the manufacture of weapons, which creates more troops, or towards the production of gold coins, which is used to pay your existing garrisons, converting them into improved fighters. A menu in which you can coordinate this is available via an icon on the main gameplay screen. Almost each resource has multiple uses and it is up to you to decide what is best for your society at any given moment.

There are never really any moments in Settlers when you’ll be directly controlling individuals. Instead the focus is on building places to create resources and expanding your territories by building guard houses which, once populated by soldiers, will push your borders further onwards.

Dont let the Goa'uld get through the stargate... oops, sorry wrong game.

Dont let the Goa'uld get through the stargate... oops, sorry wrong game.
Direct control of troops may not be possible in the game, but there are battles that must be waged against the other inhabitants of the island - for what colonization would be complete without some kind of skirmish with the prior owners of the lands. In order to attack enemies, your opposing side’s guard towers must be selected which offers up a menu letting you choose how many soldiers to send and the quality of these troops. A little one on one fight then pursues and if victorious your soldier will enter the target guard post and take over the surrounding area, instantly levelling any non-military enemy structures within a small radius.

There are a few options from which to pick when it comes to styles of play. These include the 'Roman Campaign' story mode, 'World Campaign', a mode in which you are challenged to conquer the globe, going head to head with different civilizations, and a 'Freeplay' mode that offers up single, customizable levels. All of these extend the amount of gameplay that the tiny DS cartridge holds.

With the focus on resource management and expansion of your cities the Settler’s slow paced style of gameplay is reasonably well suited to the DS. The controls are well implemented and are almost entirely stylus based. Each tap of the screen is as if it were a mouse click, with all onscreen items having their own windows that open on the top screen when selected. In order to interact with the opening window that these taps solicit, the left shoulder button is used to swap top and bottom screens. This works incredibly well and once you get used to it you’ll be flipping between areas of interaction like a Settlers DS pro. If at any stage you’re unsure about what the purpose of the menu you’ve just opened is, each holds an icon within that explains its purpose. Your current view of your empire can be scrolled around using the directional pad, and is another simple and well implemented tool for interaction. Along with the well designed control scheme there is the option to save at any point, an important addition to this style of game.

The world is your colonialistic oyster.

The world is your colonialistic oyster.
Despite its well constructed interface, Settlers DS will not appeal to everyone. The long times between interacting with the game and waiting for things to get built, or just simply occur, has its positives and negatives. If you’re looking for a game that you can be in the midst of and put down without fear of being reprimanded by in-game enemies then this is a great title for your library. However the resulting side effect of this is that, despite having an option to speed up time on-the-fly, there are many moments in which it can feel like you’re quite disconnected from the game, simply waiting for something interesting to happen, without much chance of interaction. On the PC this doesn’t feel as pronounced, but as a result of the ‘short burst’ way in which players partake in their handheld games there may be times when you load up your game play for 5 minutes and get almost no reward for having done so. Settlers is definitely a title that requires long periods interacting with it to get much enjoyment.

With Settlers DS Blue Byte have shown that a non turn-based RTS style of game can be successfully implemented on Nintendo’s portable console. The developers have managed to shoehorn what is ostensibly a PC title onto the DS with great success. Its interface works beautifully. However, anyone looking for the traditional pick up and play style of game and the instant gratification that is doled out by many handheld titles need to be aware that this is not present here. However, if it’s patience you’ve got then Settlers DS may just be a good pick for you.
The Score
Whilst Settlers does its job reasonably well, the fact that there are so many occasions in which little occurs within the game is a little disappointing. However, if you have a great deal of patience Settlers is a relatively rewarding game. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
so, the question is, this or anno??
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  9/08/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
  UBI Soft
Year Made:

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