Peaceful utopia, or warlike empire? The player is free to determine the course of history in The Settlers.
Many look at the DS as the perfect handheld platform for many of gaming's favorite genres. Whether it was when someone was ranting about the DS's prospects as an adventure game machine or for an RTS, everyone has had those moments where they wonder why no one is putting out games that seem intuitive to the DS's unique controls. Ubisoft hopes to change at least the way that some feel with their upcoming release of The Settlers.
The Settlers is being developed by the original company, Blue Byte Software, and published by Ubisoft. Though Settlers DS is based off the original PC release which came out in 1994, the game wants to bring something new to the DS: a proper touchscreen controlled RTS.
Settlers won't be a simple game where players mass units and just attack, it requires more finesse. The way the player balances the economic system behind the game is where a lot of the strategy lies. If the game proves to be anything like its PC counterpart then the player will have to strategically plan an entire colony. Players have to dedicate certain workers to do specific jobs (forever, there is no changing them). Moreover, players have to strategically dedicate peasants to do jobs that benefit the jobs of others. For instance a miner will mine ore that another peasant can develop, but in turn requires food that has to be farmed by a farmer, and baked by a baker. The game is all about maintaining a delicate balance.
Resources are another part of the game that require great strategy. In the PC game there were three resources, all of which could be used to exhaustion, if they player did not use them with restraint. However, in the case that a player does exhaust a resource, there is often alternate ways to get them; such as stone mining after you use the surface stone.
What makes this game so packed with potential is that it combines elements of both SimCity and your favorite RTS. While the pacing is certainly more in line with SimCity, and will probably put Starcraft players to sleep, it seems to be something this game might require. Players could quickly become overwhelmed during the early stages of colony building if they had to do everything at the speed of light. The slow pace allows the player to develop a city that will eventually feel as if it is running itself.
Should players decide that they want to do more than just build up a city, there are also military options in the game. Like Black & White, players appear to have the choice to choose to be a peaceful society or one that engages its neighbors with shows of force. It would be highly unlikely that through the campaign players wouldn't have to do both.
Though The Settlers does not sound like a game for everyone, it has the potential to fill that deep desire in many a DS owner that yearns for an intense RTS game. The city planning combined with all the military options in the game could make this a sleeper hit.