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.