I love Settlers, and by that I mean the original PC game released back in the early 1990:s. Since then developer Blue Byte Software has expanded the gameplay in no less than six sequels. Now paired up with iPhone powerhouse publisher Gameloft Blue Byte Software lets us experience the Settlers on our portable devices.
The iPhone version lies closer to the later versions of the Settlers with a heavy focus on resource management in comparison to the early games. When playing the Settlers for iPhone you constantly have to keep track of your resources, and plan several steps ahead all the time. If you make the mistake having your stone resource running out before completing a project it is more or less game over. Too many times I have got myself into build mode, and forgotten about resource management for a while just to find my projects all at a standstill. I hate having to keep track of all the little numbers on the screen. In the original Settlers you also had to plan the paths and roads, and this was something you could do while the settlers built the queued huts. In the iPhone version you instead press the speed up button to have it all ready if you have the required materials. To me this feels a bit disconnected to the game, as the general pace is supposed to be slow and deliberate. You should feel the ominous threat from the opposing force somewhere out there in the fog of war covered map.
Gameplay is simply not fun when it is so easy to mess it all up. There is also too much to keep track off. Not only a vast number of buildings to build, but the game also demands that you manage your work force. You have to train the military men, get priests and hire geologists. In the original settlers you simply opened a military building and choose to occupy it. In the iPhone version you have to recruit them in the barracks, and then go to the tower to fortify and choose to send them over there. Placing geologists is also more cumbersome than in the original. To tell you the truth the entire game feels cumbersome, and it really demands a lot of patience to actually complete a map.
Graphically the Settlers looks quite good even though it could have been simplified. Too much detail tend to make the game feel muddy, and I would have liked to have the cartoony graphics of the earliest games in the series. You can zoom in and out helping to get a overview of the settlement. Numbers are found for all menus, and they are easy to distinguish but I get tired after longer gaming sessions.
The music is very good with some adventure game music suitable to the faction you control. Sound effects are also really good with increasing amount of settlement noise depending on the activity on screen. There is no support for own playlists, which you usually find in games published by Gameloft.
The extensive tutorial is extensive but not nearly as extensive as needed to actually make the game manageable. Newcomers to the series will have a hard time, heck I am a seasoned Settler and still have a hard time. Complaints that games are dumbed down for the iPhone are usual, and I have raised some myself for example against Dungeon Hunter. The Settlers for the iPhone would have been a much more enjoyable game if it had been dumbed down. Focus on either building a settlement or on creating a good defence/attack force. Now there is so much to keep track of that it at times resembled doing my taxes.
You get to play as different tribes in the Settlers, and it brings some graphical differences but I have yet to see if there are different abilities as well. Six missions in the Roman campaign including the tutorial missions that you have to complete to unlock the other tribes. Six Viking missions, three Mayan missions and finally ten missions featuring the Dark Tribe. Depending on your skill level, and patience you will get a minimum of 20 hours of gamelife out of the Settlers, and if you are like me it would probably take me weeks to complete it as my patience is really low for resource management. I would have liked a free play mode, or skirmish mode just letting me play for fun instead of focusing on an attack 30 minutes later.
The Settlers is an ambitious project that works much better on a large screen with a mouse. A massive amount of resource management makes it a game for hardcore strategists, and not for the casual strategist looking for a quick fix. A dumbed down version would have been preferred, and I hope that Blue Byte Software brings the original Settlers to the iPhone. The Settlers for iPhone is still a quality title but I can’t recommend it unless you think that balancing your checking account is exciting.
The Settlers was reviewed using version 1.1.1, 227 MB.