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%% UseNet Review - The Settlers                           by James Tee %%
%%                                                      JTEE@ac.dal.ca %%            
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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 64000 
0settlers 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, 
forester, 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.

	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 jump 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 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.


COPYRIGHT NOTICE

	This review is freely distributable.

	James Tee		    Dalhousie University
	JTEE@ac.dal.ca     Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
				    February 11, 1994