by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Economy, trade and science
The most challenging part of Settlers 7, however, can be found in setting up and maintaining a smoothly running economy. The economic system is not as punishing as the earlier Settlers but certainly deep enough to keep you working hard. An example; Food is one of the most important and varied economic branches in the game. There are two flavors of food, namely fancy and simple. Not all workers require food but the ones that do will work harder on fancy food than on simple food. Furthermore, many of your specialized citizens such as Priests and Cavalry also require food when being recruited.
The sources for food are wheat, fish, pork and game meat. Only fish can go straight to workers home to fuel production, all others need to be processed first. Wheat can be used to bake bread but also to feed pigs and horses (for warfare, not food). Pork and game meat needs to be processed by a butcher, who in turn also requires food to be able to work. So far, it sounds fairly straightforward but managing the flow of food between Piggeries, Horse Farms, Bakeries and Butchers – each with their own quantity requirements – can be quite challenging. If you fail to do it well, you may lose the game with your coffers filled with gold and your storage buildings filled with the swords, horses and cartwheels required to recruit new soldiers.
While players cannot trade among themselves, not even in multiplayer games, the game does come with a trade element. After your trade building has been built, you can send out traders to all corners of the world in order to trade goods that will profit your empire. Once a trade center has been explored, the other players can no longer access it. Tenacious traders can even gain victory points and bonuses from reaching certain trade centers.
Science is conducted by clerics and is done in a similar fashion to trading. The world map is replaced by a tech tree and once a particular technology is researched, it is off limits to everyone else. Both traders and clerics come in three different levels and each new level requires an upgrade of your trade building as well as an additional resource to recruit.
Unfortunately my experience with the game was tainted by both start-up problems and problems with the game's DRM servers. The game's first action was to download the latest patch which turned out to have CRC issues and would not work. Without it, though, it would not work either. It took a while before I worked out how to bypass the issue and by the time the patch was installed, the DRM servers had quit working. The day after everything worked just fine again and would continue to do so until two days later they failed yet again. While I have nothing in principle against Ubisoft's permanent internet requirement, the fact that the servers were offline for a long time twice can't be ignored in the game's overall score.
Ubisoft's DRM servers aren't the only show stoppers. I had a go at the game's Empire mode, a fancy name for a simple ladder system on which players compete against each other for lasting glory on Settlers 7's leaderboard. As in any multiplayer game, it is rife with cowardly quitters. This in itself would not be a problem, were it not for the fact that the game tends to freeze when someone leaves. When it does, the game can sometimes remain frozen forever. It is incredibly disheartening to work hard, successfully compete against other players only to see your victory being snatched away by a failure of technology.
A difficult task
When technical issues weren't plaguing my experience with the game, Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom was an absolute pleasure to play. BlueByte did a fantastic job taking the game back to its roots while adding all sorts of features to make it fit in this day and age. I would have liked a more epic sandbox mode to build truly big empires like in the original Settlers games. The pace is also a little faster than I would have liked but I have to admit that the new map sizes and pacing work very well to keep multiplayer sessions to a manageable length.
Yet I cannot ignore the technological failure of the DRM or that of the multiplayer issues. It has been nearly three weeks since the game's release and these issues still persist without so much as an apology to the fans from Ubisoft. Had the game been problem free, I might well have slapped a 9 out of 10 on it. As it stands, I can't even give it an 8. If you are considering purchasing this title, I would recommend you to wait for a couple more weeks and check the official forums for posts about downtime.
Settlers back on the right path again. Lots of replay value.
Frustrating DRM and server issues.