The Settlers 3
Nothing to do with the popular indigestion treatment - and everything to do with real time strategic simulation in the middle ages - Settlers III is of course the latest instalment of the million-selling series. For newcomers to the wonderful and frightening world of PC games, it's a god sim in which you control the full cycle of your civilisation's evolution, from the initial planning and building of its infrastructure, to the full-blooded conflict of tribe against tribe in the quest to expand your power and domination. A natural progression then, encompassing all facets of human development and naturally leading to bloody conflict. You can't simply take to your neighbours with a blunt stick though, and before starting any warring you'll first need to create a sustainable economy from the interdependent activities of agriculture, industry and trading.
For those who require a story to justify wasting hours of their life, the tale behind Settlers III is clearly the work of a madman, but nevertheless goes thus: The gods Jupiter, Horus and Ch'ih - Yu (of Rome, Egypt and Asia respectively) have unfortunately lost some of their shape, due to the gluttony that comes with centuries of reigning. During one of their parties, the top god orders them to change their ways and grants them one last chance to straighten up. For the very last time, each of them may nominate a member of their race as the leader for a new beginning.
Of course, what this means is that the game features three different campaigns: Roman, Egyptian, and Asian. Naturally, the different races will have varying characteristics and skills, so expect the Romans to be handy at roads, the Egyptians to knock up the odd pyramid and the Asians to be the victims of outdated cheery racism. Due to their unique physical features, clothing, housing and so forth, the existence of distinct races lends itself perfectly to multiplayer tomfoolery, and the game will of course support all manner of Internet-compatible shenanigans.
Torsten Hess, project leader on the game, explains the thinking behind this: The multiplayer and online features are by far the ones that fans of Settlers requested most. And from the very beginning we attached a great deal of importance to the online playability in developing the concept for Settlers III. It's not one of those games where a couple of multiplayer levels are thrown in, regardless of whether or not it fits in with the character of the game. Angry loners need not despair though, as the game still promises plenty of treats for the single player. As Torsten says: Even after weeks and weeks of play there is always something new to discover, not to mention acts of divine intervention which bring a little chaos into the lives of the Settlers now and again. It's really what we've been saying from the very beginning - the Settlers are the same as ever, but everything looks even better and is more exciting than ever.
Download The Settlers 3
Three years in the making, the third instalment of the game referred to universally as Settlers is finally here. So what have Blue Byte been doing since it last reared its head? Considering that the first two games sold in excess of a million copies, there's a high probability that they've been pissing money up the wall in a non-stop orgy of hedonistic delight. Then again, they are German. Whatever, they've somehow managed to create another game capable of sucking your existence away.
But is it any good? Here's a clue: these words are being written at 6.44am in the basement of an office in the West End of London. A cleaner has just offered a nod of acknowledgement, continuing to scoop up coffee cups while the keyboard clatters incessantly to the sound of Primal Scream.
Two cleaners are now circling the immediate area, truffling for debris and emptying bins in an automated, wordless ritual. One of the cleaners is replacing a bin liner, smiling awkwardly at the shoeless, fevered man punching words into his keyboard. The only other sound is an indeterminate chirrup from an adjacent PC, occasional hammering, and what sounds like trees being felled. And still the settlers continue to chop. And build and plant and fish and conquer and worship and sail and trade and fight. And live, basically. Yes, it's that time again. Time to lose your mind overseeing the lives of small pretend people that mean nothing to no one, but for whom you are prepared to give up unhealthily large chunks of your time. Why? Because you've got problems, clearly.
Make A Build
What's the crack, then? Essentially, it's more of the same, the basic mechanics of Settlers III remaining largely unaltered from the previous two efforts. Starting with a small group of followers, the idea is to build a small colony and expand your horizons until you stumble upon another race, at which point you proceed to kick the living shit out of them with whatever comes to hand, specifically weapons that you have built for that very purpose. Alternatively you can try to sell them some goods. It's a bit like living in Liverpool. Except far soldiers soldier, unquestioningly sacrificing themselves at the click of a mouse button.
Same Meat, Different Gravy
A graphical facelift wouldn't really be enough to justify a sequel though, and thankfully there are some more fundamental changes. Unlike the previous games, Settlers III has three different civilisations: the Romans, Asians, and Egyptians. A lot of the prepublicity has harked on about this feature, but to some extent it is a red herring. The logistics are essentially the same, regardless of which bunch you decide to play as, it's just that each race has slightly different needs and structures. For instance.
Egyptians use more stone in their buildings, whereas Asians must build rice farms to make alcohol, required to keep military morale high. Each civilisation also has its own god, which it must placate with temples, priests and sacrifices. Pleasing the gods is an important strategic goal, because if you treat them well they will punish your enemies with plagues and so forth. The combat system has also been updated, giving you more control over your troops and their positions. Soldiers can gain experience and promotions, and the game incorporates sea battles, with a variety of warships at your disposal. Settlers III is a complex web of dependencies and production lines, and one misjudgement can lead to your city grinding to a halt. Whatever happens though, it's your fault, and if you try harder you can eventually unblock the bottleneck, even if it means destroying buildings in order to re-use their raw materials - the equivalent of getting a mortgage in Monopoly. Of course, by the time you've worked out what's wrong, the enemy are swarming all over you like flies round shit, firing gigantic catapults at your settlement while you're still trying to work out which end of the spade to use. A fine balance is required between keeping your people fed, watered and armed. Invading the enemy's territory is also crucial, as capturing buildings enables you to steal resources from the surrounding area. Although they're doing exactly the same to you, and the game is constantly ebbing and flowing, with numerous battles shaping the landscape.
Chronic addiction is the order of the day, then, as the London traffic outside would appear to confirm. This is Class A gaming, and not to be messed with by the inexperienced. But if you can handle the pace, it could feasibly see you through another British Winter. Settlers 3 it's the next best thing to hibernation.
No matter which race you choose, be it Romans, Egyptians or Asians, Settlers III is a very complex and challenging game to master. You certainly won't get far by rushing in and making hasty decisions; careful planning and patience is the key to a thriving economy, which then enables you to expand and produce loads of troops to defend your territory. If you can get your basic industry working as fast as possible you can expand and mine minerals, and eventually produce iron bars, weapons, gold and tools. And don't worry about starting with plenty of weak soldiers, because when you've expanded you can build temples to upgrade them. So let's start with the first steps to getting your settlement on the right track.
It's Off To Work We Go
Your economy is based on constructing the right buildings to produce the right products in the right quantities. It's about balancing what buildings to construct, and when and where to build them. There are tour main types of building: resource, food, military and miscellaneous. You must keep in mind that the various races need wood and stone in different proportions as they have different architectural styles. For example, the Romans are well-balanced and need stone and wood in roughly equal amounts, whereas the Asians need considerably more wood than stone. Top tip: to speed up building construction, press F12.
Always build a woodcutter next to the trees, then construct a sawmill nearby. It's wise to build two woodcutters and a forester together to ensure you never run out of trees for your woodcutters. For a successful community you need lots of trees, so make sure you have multiples of these building groups (two woodcutters and one forester) all over your land. For every three of these groups you need a sawmill.
Next, look for grey rocks standing inside your borders and build one or two quarry huts near them; you can also change its working space with the multi-coloured sphere. Be careful though: once the rocks are gone from around the huts, your workers become idle and you run out of stone. Finally, make sure that you build additional quarry huts in other rock-infested areas when you expand your borders. It's advisable to send some soldiers out to scout for the best place to expand. Also, areas need to be flattened for such purposes as grain farms.
It's worth remembering that you can demolish a settler's residence when it's empty; you lose half the material, but it gives you another place to build if things are getting tight in terms of how much land you have left.
Construct your barracks as soon as possible so that you're prepared for any sudden attacks - remember that it's much easier to defend rather than launch an assault. Build an ore smelter, weaponry and then a barracks. Place them close together and near a mountain to gain extra coal and iron.
Next, get your geologists to explore the mountain regions. The information they come up with tells you exactly where you should build your mines. Even though you start with some coal and iron, you soon need more, and the location of your mines can win or lose you the game. Geologists put up signs showing one, two or three 'balls' - the more the better. A high-yield mine means that not only do you need less of them, you also don't have to produce as much food for the miners. It also gives you the luxury of producing minerals at a faster rate. Make sure that you cover as many 'three-ball' sites as possible when you place a mine, as there's no point in placing an iron mine on a coal deposit if you haven't found any iron yet. There are five kinds of mine in the game, most of which are self-explanatory. However, if it's a gold mine, remember that you need another coal mine to feed the smelter, as well as a storage bin to stockpile the gold. Each piece of gold adds a percentage to your strength, as do gems and sulphur, depending on the race you have chosen. If you want to have unlimited space for your resources, transport them to a second island. You can then save your gold on the beach.
Letthe Battle Commence
And finally, keep an eye on your economy at all times - it helps you predict what you need next, so build accordingly. And make sure that you have a steady stream of soldiers coming out of the barracks for when the inevitable attack comes. It means spending a couple of hours on town planning and financial management, but at least you'll be ready to participate in all-out war.
Each race has its own way of producing alcohol: Egyptian breweries use more grain, while Roman wineries must be planted on a hill. Asian distilleries are trickier as you need both rice farms and distillery coal. Place rice farms in swampy areas and erect charcoal huts to produce more coal.
Once alcohol production has started, create a large temple and several small ones, all of which must be located close to the source of the alcohol. Once you begin sending the gods' favourite brew to the temple, the mana you receive in return can be used to either cast spells or promote soldiers, thus enabling you to upgrade your fighting skills.
1 promotion: 10 offerings of alcohol
2 promotions: 25 offerings of alcohol
3 promotions: 50 offerings of alcohol
4 promotions: 100 offerings of alcohol
5 promotions: 200 offerings of alcohol
6 promotions: 300 offerings of alcohol
Remember that when casting spells, the best - and only universal - spell is Gifts From The Heavens, which gives you an assortment of goodies In return for sacrifices. The return you receive is always greater than the cost, so make use of It.
Having expan ded your borders, And room for a bakery, a waterworks, a grain farm and a grain mill to produce food to feed your miners.
Fish is tbe quickest food to obtain if your race is situated near the coast, in which case it's often a good idea to build a toolsmith and make a few extra fishing poles. As soon as the hut is built and populated, he should start fishing. If you can't build a hut close to water he'll sit there until you set a new area for him.
Bread takes slightly longer to make and you have to wait for your first grain harvest, after which you need a bakery, waterworks and a grain mill. Place the grain mill near your farm, the waterworks near a stream, and the bakery in the middle, as it needs both grain and water.
Ham also takes a while to produce, as you often need a second grain farm, a pig farm and then a slaughterhouse. Note: if the woodcutters have taken all your axes, you may need the assistance of the toolmaker to make you some more.
Castles are extremely hard to build but make Ideal defence systems - but don't build them too early on as they use up too many resources. Make sure you fill your towers with your strongest troops, as losing one is not only frustrating but also dangerous for your race. Place the healers near your castles or towers and send any red or yellow soldiers close by to restore their health.
It pays to have a few scouts roaming around. It's also a good idea not to attack the enemy until you've seen inside their camp (look at their buildings, towers and, most of all, their barracks and weaponry), as you never know how powerful they are. Enemy soldiers can see spies if they get too close, so be careful. Finally, you need a couple of healer's huts and a cannon, ballista or catapult hail (depending on which race you are). While these weapons are lethal against towers, they are slow-moving and vulnerable to enemy infantry. They can also be a strain on resources.