The Settlers 7 review

May 31, 2011

Last week I picked up The Settlers 7 when it was on sale from Steam. I think the sale dropped it down to $25 or so. Right as I hit buy I felt a bit of regret, as I was unsure just how good the game would be (Settlers 6 was pretty terribad), and $25 or so is still enough that loading a game up once and hating it is a waste. I must say I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.

A quick primer on the game: it’s an economy/building sim, with a few minor factors like combat thrown in. You place a cabin near some woods, create a lumberjack, he cuts the trees, the logs go to the sawmill, that turns the logs into boards, the boards are used to build other buildings or items. There are a dozen or more of these chains, some longer than others, some more critical than others. You “win” by getting and holding a certain number of victory points that are awarded for different things (total population, most territory, one-off special events, etc).

One feature that I immediately like about Settlers 7 is that each map is divided into lots of small sectors rather than being one giant area, and each sector has its own resources, size, and features. Some areas are great for farming, some for hunting, and others for mining. They are all large enough to build something, but never big enough to build everything. This forces you to make tough choices and attempt to balance things across each sector, taking travel time and building location into consideration. The name of the game here is efficiency, and the better your planning, the smoother everything runs. Run things smooth-enough, and you win.

The game runs like a dream on my system maxed out, and the graphics look very good. The style is very cartoony, but the detail is there and the animations and humor is pretty spot on. The only complaint I have is the lack of a V-sync option, which occasionally causes some tearing on my screen. It’s not major, but somewhat annoying, especially given how near-universal V-sync is. I’m guessing I can force V-sync through some Nvidia controls?

So far I’ve only completed the basic campaign, with the first 50% of which is a prolonged tutorial that introduces the difference concepts of the game. This is done well considering how deep The Settlers can get, as not only do you have a few dozen different items to manage, but also technology upgrades through the church, through the prestige system, and the expansive trade board. Along with the 10 or so mission campaign, there are numerous one-off missions, along with co-op and vs multiplayer. All in all there is a lot of total content here, whether you go the solo route or jump online (which I have yet to attempt).

There is a pretty deep “build a castle” mode with a silly number of options. You could literally spend an entire day just with that. The cool thing here is that the castle you build is the castle used in-game when you play, and every enemy has a different castle (total fluff, but still). Along with the castle editor, there is a map editor, though I have yet to open that up. Finally the version I got comes with all the DLC included, which is always nice. The game launches through a Ubisoft portal after Steam launches it, but so far I’ve had zero issue with that

I’d recommend the game if you think you might enjoy a different take on the RTS genre (although even calling it an RTS is a stretch, given how truly basic the combat is, but yea, it all happens in real-time) and like the building/economy parts more than the clicky-micro stuff. It very much has that “fun game” feel to it, while maintaining a high level of polish and AAA-ish qualities. I also suspect it would make a great co-op vs AI game for friends to play.

EVE explained, again, this time with vanity items included!

May 31, 2011

I’ll give people that EVE is a complex game compared to other MMOs. But man, is it really that difficult to understand? It might be a game about spaceships, but it appears that some consider the mechanics on par with rocket science given how they talk about it.

I made my short post about the vanity item additions to EVE because, honestly, I assumed it was pretty self-explanatory. Queue the “assumptions” saying.

Let’s go over some basics before we jump into the deep end. The items are vanity-only, so CCP is not adding direct power to the game. We good here?  Not direct power.

Next, the items are not BoP, meaning they can not only be traded to other players, but they also now factor into the economic game. This is one of the +1 reasons for CCP’s shop over MMO X. In MMO X, when you buy a vanity item, the only in-game effect it has is it lets everyone know you enjoy standing in line for a $25 reskins. Helpful, perhaps, but not a huge impact overall. In EVE those who are into the trading game will have something else to factor into the profit equation, and how vanity items trade between the new currency and ISK should be interesting.

Finally, the all-important fact that so many either forget or ignore is that in EVE, items of power are not permanent. This simply can’t be left out when discussing the game, be it balance issues or vanity items. Case in point, this comment from Tobold’s blog (which always does a wonderful job of spreading EVE misconceptions):

on the other hand, there’s bugger-all i can buy in the LOTRO Store that’s going to advantage me with respect to other players – some pots, basically, and yet i honestly don’t know anyone who’s bought them. whereas, i purchase an enormous quantity of PLEX, and i *can* (given scarcity limits, already mentioned) buy my way to end-game Titan happiness.

In LotRO, or just about any other MMO, once you buy something from the cash shop you own it (or own it until the game takes it away, with things like temporary power boosts). It does not matter how many times you die, or how often you play poorly, once you buy that power item from the shop, you have that power forever (or until the company looks to cash in again by selling something even better). To make things worse, often that power is ONLY available in the cash shop, so not only is it permanent, it’s a simple choice of “buy or stay under-powered” (the degree of UP is another issue here, but lets ignore it for now). Even if CCP turns the vanity items into +stat items, players would still have the choice of paying cash or playing to earn them. That is a very, very important difference.

But going back to the quote above, it again highlights a major misconception that non-EVE players have about the game and just how PLEX/ISK works. Buying a Titan with PLEX is not only foolish, it would not get the player what they are looking for. You would NOT have end-game Titan happiness. What you would have is an expensive wreck shortly after you complete the purchase. Congrats, you paid a ton of money to play the role of a temporary loot piñata for some Corp in 0.0. Thank you, come again!

On a lesser scale, the same applies to quickly jumping into high-level missions in Empire, or going deep-end with the market. Simply put, the game will eat you alive before you even realize it, and all that “power” you buy goes poof until, wait for it, you L2P. And once you do, you start to realize just how much impact PLEX really has.

Two for two, yet another “How to” with F2P

May 30, 2011

This time with League of Legends being the second biggest online game in the west.

Now granted, WoW might be down to like 1m accounts at this point, but assuming the bleed is not happening quite so fast, LoL likely has a whole lot of players. And considering Riot is attempting to hire half of CA right now, I’d say some of them (myself included) are spending some cash on fluff. Since you know, you can’t buy power here.

Who could have predicted, a PvP twitch game where you can’t buy power is #2 (for now). Shocking…

Quick note about Raptr’s new site

May 27, 2011

I was part of a super secret beta project for Raptr’s new gaming site. That beta is now over, the site is live, and the NDA is down.

I’ll post more about all of this once I spend more time with the site myself, but basically, I hope the site can be what I always hoped VirginWorlds would become; a one-stop website to see all the news/posts that might interest me. We’ll see if the Raptr site achieves this, but if they do, I think it would be a huge boost to the somewhat “in crowd” nature of the MMO blog-o-sphere.

CCP does something better than the rest of the genre, again

May 27, 2011

This time showing everyone how to do a cash shop right.

As someone who can relate, it’s tough always being right.

LoL Tribunal – Who are these ‘people’?

May 26, 2011

Aria and I have done more than two dozen Tribunal reviews now, and not a single one was even borderline. Every. Single. One. was a clear demonstration that natural selection has failed us and that human stupidity knows no bounds.

The worst part of it all is that, presumable, the people we are reviewing are NOT the people who get insta-banned by Riot themselves. I’m actually having a tough time imagining what one would have to do to get that kind of attention. Clearly calling everyone on both teams bleep bleep bleeps in all caps, over and over, across ten games (and probably more, but the Tribunal only shows you ten) is not enough. Nor is going 0-19 while calling out the position of your teammates, over and over and over again. Or… well you get the point.

The funny thing is, 9/10 of my games these days are actually decent. Sure, I still get bads (hi Aria, get juked on), but bads balance out other bads and you can still have a decent game. At my ELO I can’t remember the last time I had someone who was truly out to ruin a game, or felt the need to exercise his capslock key in All chat. So clearly SOMETHING is working, as just a few months ago this was not the case.

But man, I log into the Tribunal and just witness horror show after horror show.

Fun with lists

May 26, 2011

What do the games listed below all have in common?

  • Age of Conan
  • All Points Bulletin
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Global Agenda
  • Ragnarok Online
  • Champions Online
  • Everquest 2 Extended

If you answered “failed to meet expectations”, you are correct! (For the LotRO fans, go look at their ads in 2007, telling me to pre-order so I can join the “millions” of players. Oops.)

Another list, same question.

  • World of Warcraft
  • EVE Online
  • Rift
  • City of Heroes
  • DarkFall

If you answered “met or exceeded expectations” you are again correct!

Swing and a miss MMOadCrunch (nice layout…). Story stays the same, if you have a solid product, you go P2P. If your game is average at best, F2P all the way! If you are about to shut the servers off, hey, generate some buzz and go F2P for the quick cash grab. If you hate gamers, F2P is an excellent way to screw them (Hi Allods).

Worst part of it all is, short of a F2P model like LoL’s, the ones getting screwed most by F2P are those who play more, yet it’s those very people cheering the “opportunity” to pay more for less. Good job people.


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