5Cutesy vikings in micromanagement hell.

Cultures owes a lot of its style and gameplay to The Settlers series of city building and resource management games, setting the stage in a cutesy Viking theme. But Cultures goes one step further than The Settlers in that it gives you a closer relationship with your populace, and hands you direct control over their lives. Adding this aspect alongside the traditional city building phase gives the game that much-needed identity to differentiate it from its source material.

If you enjoy The Settlers and its intrinsic and at times confounding complexity then you will likely approach Cultures with an equal amount of patience. Let’s look at the typical life of one of your characters. He can first start off as a wheat farmer, learning to plant and harvest his crops. He can eventually build himself a mill, which he can use to produce flower, and eventually bread. This work chain applies to other professions as well, and part of the challenge is setting up a network of workers that will ensure the thriving of your community. The other side of this, of course, is that you have to keep your work force content by seeing to their needs.

All Vikings fulfill different roles in their society. Men are the builders and workers, while women keep house, feed their men, and produce children. Like in The Sims, each Viking has needs, and they fall under four categories: food, sleep, conversation, and religion. To accommodate the units, you have to build tents and houses for the people to sleep in, make food-producing structures and units to run them, act as matchmaker by arranging marriages, and create druids and houses of worship.

7Unlike other RTS offerings, in Cultures structures themselves don’t create resources; they need to be manned by worker units. Workers begin new professions poorly, but get better over time There are some 30 professions – fisherman, scout, woodcutter, huntsman, farmer, and many more. Some jobs can branch into more advanced positions: master farmers can become millers, master millers can become bakers, and master bakers can become brewers. To help make the “mastering” process more efficient for your people, players can build schools.

It’s a nice, complex and intriguing concept for sure, but it translates to annoyingly slow gameplay – this is, as is The Settlers, a very niche product that most strategy gamers won’t have the patience to suffer throough. By default, the action moves in an extremely slow pace – just telling a character to walk from one end of the village to the other seems to take forever. Thank goodness you can speed up time. Also, if you like intricate micromanagement, then this is the game for you.

In most RTS offerings, you build a structure to start churning out units or unlock features that other units can use. In Cultures, you have to first have a trained worker in a specific field before you can even consider building a particular workplace. After then, you have to send builders to the site, and wait for them to bring the necessary resources (such as wood, clay, and stone). Not only does the construction process take time, but the workers also must have their needs met during work, otherwise they may decide to stop and take a nap. Very benevolent in theory, but quite time consuming and burdensome in practice.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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