The Settlers II requires players to lead a group of pilgrims to prosperity in a new land. Gamers may represent the Roman, Asian, or Nubian culture and settle in environments that include lava, mountains, swamps, and forests. To advance both economically and socially, players must collect resources and use them to create 31 different kinds of goods by creating community members who are skilled in 25 occupations, and constructing 31 different buildings to produce, refine, and store products. Occasionally, players must defend their territory against invading neighbors by recruiting and training five types of military units. Gamers may build an empire in one story-based campaign or randomly generate a map and spend some time in the "Free Play" mode creating a utopian society.
I first encountered The Settlers on an Amiga in the early 90's, it was pretty much love at first sight. With the decline of Commodore and its Amiga, the series moved successfully to the PC where it has enjoyed a chequered past, the second and third games in particular are very well thought of by fans to this day while only the fifth game (Heritage of Kings) isn't held in such high regard. So, with the tenth anniversary of the release of The Settlers 2 approaching, BlueByte and Funatics decided to release a remake, quite why I don't know. Perhaps to reconnect fans to the series, perhaps to attract new fans, who can tell; either way I'm not complaining.
Those of you who know the series well, can probably skip a few paragraphs now, it's time to give a rundown of the game features to the un-initiated. For all intents and purposes, Settlers is a bit of a cross between a city builder and a resource collecting real time strategy title. Starting with little more than a headquarters, some settlers and a few piles of wood in your stores, the aim is to expand your territory by both colonization and military conquest. Eventually building an army powerful enough to brutally crush all your opponents, and of course to be cute in the process. There are three tribes or factions represented in this Settlers game; The Romans, The Nubians and The Asians. Each has slight differences but nothing major other than the way they look of course.
Territory is controlled by military buildings which range in size from a two soldier barracks to a nine unit stronghold, the larger the military building, the more territory it commands and on which you can build. There are no tech trees so all building are available from the get-go, you'll want to concentrate on construction material related buildings to begin with though. Almost all the buildings in the game do require another different building to function correctly. For example, your miller will need a farmer to grow the wheat before he can grind it into flour for your bakers, who will also need water to bake bread. It's sensible to group these functional units together to reduce transport time and congestion on your roads. The food your bakers and indeed other buildings produce is all needed to feed your miners, whose ores all have to be processed in turn to create both weapons and gold for your soldiers. Whilst this economic model may sound simple, it will take great skill to manage it effectively.
Roads are of vital importance, as you might expect as you spend the entire single player campaign controlling a Roman tribe. Constructing your road network is probably the single most important factor to creating an efficient war mongering society. Each road need not be too long and goods should wherever possible not have to travel too far, numerous store houses are also vital to help stop your roads looking like the M25 in rush hour. The problem here is that while your road is a dirt track it is manned by a single carrier and each junction can hold a maximum of 6 items waiting to be transported, busy roads do get automatically upgraded and at this point they can also have a donkey to aid in the carrying, provided you've bred enough of them on a farm.
Controlling your soldiers is quite easy too but there are a number of options which decide which soldiers do the fighting in both attack and defensive situations, the soldiers themselves come in a number of levels from pretty useless little privates all the way up to very powerful generals, the difference being how much gold they've been paid. Of course you'll have to mine and mint all this gold into coins yourself. Other than simply attacking an enemies military buildings, the other military option is to build and operate a catapult. These lob huge pieces of stone at the enemy, killing an entrenched soldier if they hit, kill the last one and the building will be destroyed. It's circle of influence will disappear and the border will be re-drawn, possibly giving you more space in which to build.
Until the most recent Settlers game, the series has had a very cute, almost cartoon like look. Very popular amongst fans it has also no doubt put a lot of people off, it really shouldn't. The games' ultimate aim is to brutally crush your opponents, and while the violence is cartoony in nature, it's still violence and soldiers do clearly die, hardly that cute. As you might expect, The Settlers II: 10th Anniversary Edition sticks very much to its roots, it recaptures the artistic style of the original almost perfectly while obviously hugely improving the quality. Your little settler folk waddle along their paths and roads in just as comic a fashion as ever, doing headstands or bird impressions when idle.
Sound has only ever added to the cuteness in this particular series, move in close to any of the buildings and characteristic noises emanate, wood cutters chop away, pigs grunt and snort in their sty's and smithy's hammer away at the anvil. Of course our cute little Settlers never actually say a word, only the odd yippee from a prospecting geologist when he finds some resources or a grunt here or there.
10 Years ago, multiplayer gaming was very much in its infancy and The Settlers 2 had only split screen multiplayer options using two mice on the same machine. The remake is a fully enabled modern multiplayer game with up-to six player on either LAN or on the internet, as yet I haven't had awful lot of luck finding games, but given the limited availability of the game and strange lack of PR material available, that's not too surprising. Indeed, I know several Settlers fans who didn't even know it was out yet until I told them I'd bought a copy. Still, what few multiplayer games I have managed were great fun if a little slow, my advice would be choose small maps if you are in a hurry. But then, you wouldn't be playing a Settlers game if you were in a hurry.
Of course you can play the AI in a skirmish game if you'd prefer, it's by no means terrible and usually does put up a reasonable challenge. You don't even have to play an opponent if you prefer the cuteness never to get violent; you can just play in sandbox mode, building for ever on the map of your choice. There's even an included map editor which as ever, is quite easy to use but quite time consuming if you want to produce something that looks good.
The Settlers 2 is just as addictive as it ever was, the spanking new fully 3d graphics engine hasn't changed what was so great about the game 10 years ago, however it has made a classic strategy title accessible to a whole new generation of gamers. This particular remake has been a roaring success in my opinion; I'm already thinking about other old games that would benefit from a similar treatment. For fans of the series this is a must download, for strategy fans in general I would definitely recommend you give Settlers a try, and there's no better place to start than this.
People who downloaded Settlers II, The: 10th Anniversary have also downloaded:
Settlers 3, The, Settlers 4, The, Settlers II Gold Edition, The, Heritage of Kings: The Settlers, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends, Settlers, The (a.k.a. Serf City: Life is Feudal), Rise of Nations
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