Any seasoned real-time strategy (RTS) gamer will be able to tell that “The Settlers 7” is a whole new experience the minute they start playing.
Most other RTS games on the market are all about building up the biggest, strongest armyyou possibly can, then marching it all over your enemy.
This isn’t the case in “The Settlers 7.” Not only is the military combat not the most prominent part of the game, but it actually takes a backseat to gameplay geared more around building up your economy and expanding your kingdom.
The game boasts the unique quality that a player can potentially win the game by eithertraditional military might or by earning victory points through trading or research. The ideathat a player can sit around in their base with virtually no army and still manage to win thegame may seem silly to some, but the game actually manages to balance the three possible paths of military, trade or research development quite nicely.
Every player will need a basic army to capture territories and provide defense. However, playerstaking the military path can choose to unlock and train much more powerful units thatwill give them a distinct advantage against enemy units and fortifications in the late game.
Players taking the trading route will eschew military might in favor of carefully managingthe collection and production of the game’s many different resources. They will send trading units all over the globe to unlock newer, more favorable exchanges, collect rewards, and be the first to earn the relevant victory points scattered in the far reaches of the map.
For those disinclined to micromanage resources or field an army, there is always the researchoption. Once a church is built, you can train clerics that spend their days studying and unlockingimprovements for your kingdom. Some are practical, like increasing the rates of gathering orimproving fortifications. Some are strategic and like trading, involve rewards and victory points.
You can mix and match the different play styles to your particular taste. The gameplay canfluctuate wildly as you try to adapt your kingdom to employ different strategies. However, one thing every player will have in common will be the need for space.
The playable maps are divided into smaller regions, each one representing a province of yourever-expanding kingdom. Once your troops have booted out the current inhabitants (which is why everyone needs at least a small army), the area becomes yours to build up and collectresources from.
You will desperately need to expand. Not every resource is available in every regionand all resources on the map can be depleted without the proper research. On top of that, theregions are small for an RTS game, forcing players to manage their building space carefullyand constantly look for opportunities to nab some more prime land. Neglect either of these necessities for too long and your economy is going to tank faster than you can say “nationaldebt.”
All this can seem daunting to someone new to the game, and to tell the truth, there is a lot to wrap your head around. Trying to manage the collection, production, and refinement of so manygoods and materials, all while worrying about maintaining a military presence and pursuing yourintended strategy, is a healthy challenge at best and a monstrous task at worst.
Despite this, the game delivers an experience that is more complete than other RTS gamesout there. Other games will have you pour 100% of your resources and manpower into some huge war machine like you’re an extremist that believes battle is the only path to greatness. “The Settlers 7” feels more graceful–like the kingdom you’re controlling is actually a kingdom with realistic and varying needs.
Even though the entire game isn’t punctuated with canon fire, I still believe that “The Settlers 7” is one of the most riveting strategy games I’ve ever played.