The Settlers IV
The Settlers IV puts real weight on the phrase “if you build it, they will come.”
This here’s an economy simulation first and foremost. The Settlers III veered somewhat from the series hallmarks by placing emphasis on combat, military buildup, and conquest. While it enjoyed success in Europe, the third version garnered mixed reactions in the US. The primary complaint was that the game didn’t give enough time to the economic “buildup” phase, and instead catapulted the player into military expansion mode. The fourth iteration returns the series to its “settling” roots, with a few extras to round things out.
Land of the little people
You can play as one of three tribes in The Settlers IV: Romans, Mayans, or Vikings. Your goals vary depending on the campaign you choose to play, and include the standard “build and conquer,” but also some new features, like the dark tribe campaign as well as “free settling” mode, in which the goal is simply to build as rich an economy as possible in the absence of other tribes, resulting in cathartic SimCity-style expansionism (once you get a hang of the game mechanics, at least).
There are roughly 21 missions in all (3 for each of the Settler tribes with 3 maps each, 12 for the campaign against the dark tribe) not counting the 12 tutorials. General goals are the same throughout: occupy and expand your lands, provide raw resources to your tribe for weapons, tools, and refined products to construct more complex structures, and create a military capable of protecting or expanding your tribe.
What’s interesting about the Settlers series isn’t so much the economy aspect itself, but the way the developers make inter-dependencies such a crucial aspect of creating a thriving colony. Think of it like the economy system in a real-time strategy game (take your pick) but with all the much finer points filled in. While other games move you along a series of ages, or make higher end technology available only through the production of advanced units, TS4 requires you to manage the entire chain throughout the game from the raw resources to the ships and weapons you’ll eventually be able to produce with the refined material and special units. It’s a little like watching an ant farm, as your little trains of settlers make their way back and forth between duties and knit your economy together.
For example, let’s say you want to build a house (houses in the game allow for the production of additional settlers). You click on the construction menu, choose the appropriate house size, then click on the map where you want it built. A handful of your little red-shirted guys with shovels in hand will go to the building site to dig the foundation. These guys are (surprise surprise) the diggers. Next, a few settlers designated carriers will take the materials needed to build the house to the site. And we’re not talking spontaneous material that’s magically transformed from the number in your “goods” queue to a finished product, but actual piles of wood, stone, etc. depicted to quantity on-screen, that your settlers will walk over to and select from.
Finally, the builders will show up with their hammers, and polish off the job. The entire process can take several minutes. All the time, your woodcutters and stone miners are doing their thing in the background, ensuring the raw resources are there to be refined and used in the evolution and sustaining of your economy. The entire game is mostly about establishing this kind of harmonious symmetry between building, settling, and eventually, military conquering. Figuring out how this system works and achieving said harmony takes a lot of work, even with the impressive quantity of provided tutorials. But once mastered it’s a fun endeavor which city-building enthusiasts oughta check out.
System Requirements: Pentium 200 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 4 MB Video, Win 95/98/2000/ME/NT