Rating: PEGI 7
The Settlers II from Blue Byte originally had a tagline of Veni, Vidi, Vici (that’s Latin for I came, I saw, I conquered). It was released back in 1996 by Blue Byte GmbH and very soon gained comparisons with Civilization.
The Settlers series originally started with Serf City: Life is Feudal, and now with two versions safely justifying the demand for the franchise, it was inevitable that The Settlers III and IV were also released. Unfortunately, III was too repetitive and had peculiar copyright problems (iron smelters producing pigs), while IV tried to up the notch with the introduction of a fourth tribe. Things went downhill when Settlers V – The Heritage of Kings entered the scene.
The Settlers II therefore became the fan favorite for the entire Settlers series. This version had clean and pleasant graphics for it’s time and also featured simple yet addictive game play. I had The Settlers II – Gold Edition box back then which included two campaigns featuring 22 missions. Not forgetting the additional single player maps plus the map editor that helped to extend the life of the game even further.
According to the manual that comes with the The Settlers II – 10th Anniversary (TS2-10), results of surveys conducted by the German Press confirmed that The Settlers II was indeed the most popular of the series. In addition, the time for its re-release would be truly perfect – 2006 was the 10th anniversary of the release of The Settlers II and also the 20th anniversary of Ubisoft.
This new iteration of the game is an incredible 3D version that features cute character animations, stunning building models, beautiful landscape with trees that sway in the wind plus mountains that dominate the lands, and rippling water that is teeming with fish.
|The main menu, 10 years later|
You are treated to an interesting video at the start which depicts life in the world of The Settlers. Apparently, a tragedy has happened – the men wake up to find their women have all vanished. So, they set off on a quest to find them. A simple but really silly premise. Don’t turn away just yet.
The main objective of The Settlers II is to build up a thriving settlement. In addition to that, depending on the map you have chosen and the game mode you are in, you will either have to eliminate enemy settlements, or meet some predetermined target goal such as Destroy all enemies, Conquer three-quarters of the map, and Collect 100 gold coins.
TS2-10 has three game modes when you select the Single Player option from the main menu.
|The introductory video|
First up is the Campaign mode. This mode has a ten chapter campaign that takes you to different islands as you try to figure out what happened to all the missing women in your Roman settlement. Along the way, you will meet two other unfriendly tribes, the Nubians and the Chinese. They are going to make life rather difficult for you, so do watch out for them.
The Tutorial mode is available for those who are new to the game; it’s quite a simple series of four missions and they will teach you the most important concepts in the game, namely: Basic production, Mining, Military, and Seafaring.
And finally, there is the wonderful Freeplay mode that allows you to either play the game solo (like a giant sandbox) or against up to five AI opponents. There are 20 maps for you to choose from, so you can also reap a lot of value from this mode alone.
|The campaign selection screen|
There is a Multiplayer option that must be patched to the latest version (version 9801). This gives you the chance to go up against your friends over a local area network, the Internet through the multiplayer lobby, or Direct IP Address connection. I have tried venturing into multiplayer through the Internet lobby but I usually could not find many players on the server. Even if I did wanted to play with them, I found I could not connect to them at all.
Oh well, let’s concentrate on the Single Player option then.
Whenever you start a mission, be prepared for a long game. I have found myself playing TS2-10 for hours on end as it’s so engaging to build my settlement and watch my little men hustling and bustling about building this and mining that, exploring the unknown, and defending their territory from invasions.
|The tutorial completed in a minute|
A new feature in this iteration of the game is the cycle of night and day. It is very smoothly done and evokes a sense of realism to the game. You can also zoom in until you get to see your little men walking about – up close and personal.
The Headquarters is the central building in your settlement and it is Game Over if it should be destroyed by your enemies, so protect it at all costs. Inside your Headquarters, you will find a list of all goods that it is currently housing, as well as all the men you have available at your disposal.
One thing I cannot fathom is why every level has you restarting with only your Headquarters buildings. This also happens for all the chapters of the Campaign, so be prepared to restart rebuilding your settlement whenever you advance to the next chapter.
|Play with me please|
As in the original game, you will be required to handle the placement of flags and the building of roads in TS2-10. The fundamental rules to the transportation network are few. First, you can only build a road to interconnect two flags on the map, and when the road is built, a single settler hand will be assigned to transport goods between the two flags. Next, you should always erect flags to divide a long stretch of road into two or more parts, this is an important tip to speed up the time taken to transport goods across your settlement. Finally, when you encounter a jam in your transportation network, you will need to access the Global Economy Settings button found at the bottom center of the game interface to either set the priority of goods distribution to various building types, or to determine the priority of goods being transported.
There are three tiers of buildings that you can build in the game. In the early stages of the game, you should be concentrating on two things. The most important thing to do is to build a quarry near some rocks so that you can get stones to build more advanced buildings in the next two tiers. The next is to start up a building industry with a woodcutter’s hut, a forester’s hut, and a sawmill. With just these three buildings, you will be able to get yourself an endless supply of planks.
Almost all of the buildings in the first tier only requires planks to build, so it unlikely that you will ever run out of this resource. If you unfortunately run into such a situation (like due to a lack of stone), you can always tear down buildings and re-use the resources returned to you. Watch out though, demolishing buildings only give you half the original amount of resources used to build them.
The second tier involves mining. Before you can build mines, you have to deploy geologists to a mountainous area. Once at the flag, the geologist will start trying to find a vein of minerals in the surrounding area. If he finds something, he places a sign telling you what he finds. There are four possible mineral resources that you will uncover in TS2-10, they are coal, iron, gold and stone. You need to build the appropriate Mine to excavate the resource that your geologist has identified.
Coal is rather important as it used directly in mints (to mint gold to promote your army to higher ranks), smithies (to forge weapons and armor), and iron smelting works (to get iron ingots). Iron ingots are also used by smithies and and the metalworker. The metalworker manufactures additional tools that your settlement needs as it grows into a sprawling metropolis. Stone is used to supply your catapults and is used during war.
All this digging in the mine makes miners really hungry. So, you must set up a pretty extensive food supply chain to supply the miners with ham, fish, and bread. Ham can be obtained through building a pig farm and butcher, while fish comes directly from the fisherman’s hut. Bread is obtained from a well supplying a farm, and a miller to grind all the wheat from the farm. A baker then uses the flour to bake the bread that your miners covet.
|My village grows|
The military aspect of TS2-10 is pretty straightforward. Your settlement border is marked by a series of blue markers. To expand this, you need to either build barracks, guard houses, watch towers or a stronghold close to the blue markers. Once built, your territory expands in a hexagonal area around the completed building. To conscript your men, you will need weapons and armors, beer, and gold coins. Don’t forget about catapults, they are quite handy in destroying enemy buildings.
The enemy AI in TS2-10 is pretty average. You must remember to send out scouts first to find where your enemies are skulking. Attacking your enemies is very straightforward and to succeed in winning battles – the mightier your army is, the higher your chance of victory. Once your men win a battle, they will enter and occupy the enemy’s military building. This act reduces their border and usually causes a few of their buildings to be destroyed.
|Smelt me an iPad please|
There are a few other special buildings like the donkey farm breeder, the brewery, the shipyard, and harbor that you will just have to discover by yourself.
The map editor allows you to create your very own maps or to edit any of the maps from the game – that also includes the ability of editing the maps from the campaign. This map editor is a much more complicated piece of software as compared to the classic editor, so be prepared to put some effort into learning the art of making your own maps. If you have the original version of The Settlers II – Veni, Vidi, Vici, you will be glad to know you can import and edit maps from it, however be prepared for some work as the conversion is not perfect.
|My Nubian enemies|
The music featured in TS2-10 is a joint effort by Aaron Marks and Nugel Bros Music. I thought the music score was appropriate with rather nice and soothing chinese pieces as well as cool military style african beats all thrown into the mix. The sound work was also pretty decent with a lot of variety (such as sounds that you may hear in a smelting plant or in a sawmill). I thought that the voice work narration by Matthias Haase was superb.
Wow… it’s obvious that there is a lot to see and do in The Settlers II – 10th Anniversary. The game is a good upgrade of the classic 1996 version into a modern 3D game with bells and whistles that really astounded me. You should get this game if you don’t mind micromanaging your settlement and guiding what your people must build and where they should expand their territory.
|I came, I dreamt, I created|
There were a few negative points like the weaker AI, and the fact that I couldn’t get multiplayer to work for me, but all this are minor gripes in my opinion. One final point would be the fact that the Campaign only has 10 chapters, I kind of miss the campaigns from The Mission CD and that the game was not equipped with a random map generator.
PS – Obviously Ubisoft heard the wishes of The Settlers fans in Europe, for they released a Vikings Expansion a few short months later on 22 Feb 2007.