Settlers III & Settlers III Mission Pack
It’s a small world, and you NEED more than your fair share (hey, who doesn’t want more?). This is your chance -- and the game -- to get it all, or have it all taken away. Throughout the game you have a third person view of your world. You will have to expand your holdings or run out of room to build, but watch out because everyone else is doing the same. This process reminds me of the late 1800s Oklahoma land grab. Get your claims staked, then use any and all force necessary to hold your claims, and then take more. Whether you build small guard towers or large castles you will see your staked claims move out and the fog will lift. If you want to see beyond your boundaries you can build more or you can use a network of spies. Spies help you keep up with your neighbors. Make sure you know what your neighbors are doing or your land will soon become their new annex, and you will only be a memory.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
You can play as three different civilizations -- Roman, Asian, and Egyptian. Each seems to play a little differently, so try them all. Blue Byte announced at E3 in May that there will soon be a fourth race of Amazons (all women), which should make the game even more interesting. The Mission Pack adds eight huge missions, along with a level editor so you can make your own levels and worlds, this allows the serious game player to expand on the game and keep things fresh. These can also be shared with your friends or over the Internet. The options are limitless with the addition of the mission pack. While there is plenty to keep you occupied in the standard package (I have not even finished all the original missions that came with Settlers III), the mission CD will really test your skills and creativity.
Deciding what, when, and where to build is the hardest part of the game. I recommend playing the tutorial multiple times to get used to this process. You don’t have to leave the tutorial mode when the formalized tutorial is over -- you can stay on, experimenting with different types of buildings without having to worry about foes (who all died during the tutorial). There is a lot to be said for where you build and how close the building is to essential complementary buildings. This aspect of gameplay is much improved over Settlers II and the detail in the graphics allows you to track your needs and helps you make decisions. The game pace is slow to start, but this changes once the fighting begins. At first I was concerned with how slowly I was building up, but everyone else is going at the same speed, so not to worry.
There is a very nice graphic interface and it is all point-and-click. The complexity of this game stretches your abilities to keep track of it all. Each menu allows you to build any building or track your population. You will want to spend some time working with the menus to become quick and proficient in using all the options available. You do not want to be looking for an option in the heat of battle, so be prepared.
One thing I learned the hard way is that if you lose control of the towers that protect your town you lose all the buildings that the tower protects. Go after the towers around your opponent’s mines and food production and you will cripple him/her very quickly. One of my favorite features is the ability to garrison your towers with additional men, which makes the fortifications easier to defend. Redundant towers close together are very effective in protecting each other.
This is the area where this game excels. There is so much to talk about, I do not know where to start. Let me hit the highlights and leave the rest to your imagination or playing the game yourself. Each type of villager/worker has a unique look. At first glance this is a little confusing but as you get used to the differences you will find this aids you in maintaining your settlement’s productivity. The buildings built by each race have an authentic look. I liked all three and find it difficult to pick a favorite, but I lean a little more toward the Egyptian since I have always been fascinated with pyramids and the culture. There is unique animation for each type of building, which is fun to watch even when you are not actively doing anything. The whole look has a cartoon quality that both my 6-year-old and I enjoyed. The battle scenes have no blood and no bodies left over. There is a nice effect with a little ghost rising up; the color of the ghost indicates whether it was your man lost or your opponent’s that was lost.
I like the sounds a lot. Each building and process has a different sound. This allows you to keep track of what is going on without having to watch everything so closely. I found this helpful especially when the battles begin. Once you start into battle everything escalates. If you play this game without a sound card you will be at a real disadvantage (although a sound card is not required, why would you want to play this or any game without one).
Relation To Previous Games In The Series
This is a big improvement over Settlers II. I borrowed Settlers II from a friend so I could compare them and they are very different; Settlers III is much better. They do not seem to be the same game other than sharing the name. The control interface and the graphics have drastic changes. If you played Settlers II and did not care for it, give Settlers III a chance. If you liked Settlers II, then you will love this game. If unsure, try out the demo, it is worth the download time.
Room For Improvement
There was a lot of attention to detail in the buildings and the types of different villagers. However, the fighting interface needs improvement. I wanted to be able to pick and choose whom my archers fired at and whom the spear and sword men went after first. Right now it is just the hoard mentality -- if you have the most men you should win providing you have enough morale outside your own boundaries.
My review edition came with an older build than I expected. But there were several patches out on the web that fixed every problem I ran into and there were several reported problems that I did not find during my game play. The patches can be found at http://www.settlers3.com/gindex.htm. You will want to look at your version and then check this location for any updates. The patches were quite small -- between 1 and 2 MB.
Gameplay is supported over a LAN, modem, or Internet. I did not try this option, but in surfing, found that there is quite an online game community. Blue Byte has even been running a level design contest on their website to encourage the expansion of the game. This will give you the assurance that this game and additions will be coming for a long time. I like to see this in a game and more companies should follow Blue Byte’s lead in developing online game communities where like-minded gamers can interact.
Minimum: 100 MHz Pentium, 32 MB RAM, 2 MB graphics card (DirectX-compatible), 250 MB free hard disk space, 4X CD-ROM drive, Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0, DirectX 6.0 included with the game
Recommended: 166 MHz Pentium, sound card, and for modem and Internet play 28.8 modem or faster
Settlers III is a fun game to play and there is a lot of strategy involved. This is a real improvement over Settlers II and the additions available and to come will keep this game fresh. To succeed you will need to know what to build and when. The battles are a little hard to control and the computer did not seem to make the same choices in the battles that I would have. I wanted more control over who and where my forces attacked in the battles. The control over your villagers and construction is very good. The cartoon quality of the game adds to the charm and enjoyment. I am looking forward to the addition of the Amazon race that was announced at E3 this year. I had the pleasure of seeing the early works and I am looking forward to what they will add to the game. Well done, Blue Byte; let me know when the Amazons arrive.