Settle An Argument: Settlers Online Opens

By Alec Meer on January 11th, 2012 at 4:52 pm.

The Penny-Pinching Of An Empire

The argument being, of course “are free to play browser games necessarily hateful to traditional gamers?” The Settlers Online is taking a beloved strategy name and affixing all manner of new business models to it, but is the ol’ Blue Byte spirit safe and sound in there or has it entirely gone over to the microtransaction dark side? You can find out right now, as the open beta’s just gone live. Miracle of miracles it doesn’t require a Facebook account, though that is an option. Seems primarily bound to Ubisoft’s UPlay system, which fortunately I was already signed up for or I might have screamed at the sight of yet another registration page. And lo, it loaded in my browser, and it looked quite nice.

As to Settlers Online’s place on good-evil spectrum, it’s too early to say. I’ve been at it about 20 minutes so far, and it’s glacially slow, has quite a few resource types and micromanagent screens, a little overcomplicated and well.. like the Settlers in many respects. Which is good. But…

Well, aside from the fact that loads has changed from the trad. Settlers formula (e.g. roads are purely decorative) it’s hung around XP gain, I’m being given spurious rewards for stuff like logging on, the UI is littered with ways to buy things and add Friends, so I’m guessing I’m going to hit a brick wall of progress and have to either wait or splash out if I want to continue. ‘Building Licenses’ is the most obvious so far, but it isn’t a mad click-fest, it isn’t cursed with the hideous Farmville ‘energy’ system that monstrously curtails how much you can actually do on top of whether you can afford it, plus the buildings don’t all do essentially the same thing as they do in ‘Ville games.

As far as I can tell, you do need to construct a proper working economy and that requires time and planning: it’s just a matter of how much can be done for free, and how obnoxious or understanding the game is encouraging spending. Oh, and there’s an MMO-style general chat, so you’re not locked out from actual communication as in Facebook games.

Short story then: don’t think it’s a catastrophic disservice but it is certainly pursuing stuff we’ve not liked in Facebook games. I’ll play some more and form fuller impressions soon.

, , , , .

36 Comments »

  1. Torgen says:

    I miss the old Settlers games, where the liitle people would squeak out a tiny “yippee!” when they discovered mineral deposits, etc.

    • Squire says:

      …and they’d place a little tiny sign indicating the amount and type of minerals below said sign!

      Back to the old school I say, I would pay 15-20 quid for a 1080p version of the The Settlers, ALL in 2D though, would be so lovely.

    • ObiDamnKenobi says:

      Yeah I miss that too. Which was the last good one? Any of them on gog.com?

    • sokkur says:

      Hve you tried the settlers 2 10th anniversary editon (came out in 2006) or the settlers 2 rise of culture(came out in 2008 but it is only in german)?

    • Khemm says:

      @Kenobi
      The last good one? Settlers 7. No joke, it’s my second favourite game in the series beaten only by Settlers 2. Settlers 3 occupies the 3rd place.

      Yes, Settlers 2 is on GOG. It’s really surprising there aren’t more Settlers games there. I mean, there’s no S1, 3 or 4. Same for the Warlords series. There’s Battelcry 3 on gog, but not Battlecry 1-2 or proper Warlords 1, 2, 3. I wonder why that is.

    • sinister agent says:

      The original (on the amiga, obv) is still my favourite Settlers game by a long way. So lovely, so charming, so compelling and yet relaxing.

    • Vadrigar says:

      They yell out “yippee!” in this browser version too! No sign though. ;o)

    • Premium User Badge

      yhancik says:

      Oh yes, how good was that 10th Anniversary Edition actually? (does it have the yippie? :p) I looooved Settlers II and spent numerous hours playing it.

    • lordhughes says:

      The iPhone version is like Settlers 3 which is my favourite of the series :)

      Gladly pay a price for a HD version of Settlers 3 :)

    • Sic says:

      The last good one is Settlers 2, the gold edition is on GOG.

    • Lukasz says:

      10th Anniversary I believe had ‘Yipee’ but I am not 100% sure. What I am sure it played EXACTLY like Settlers 2. It was really the same game but with better graphics.
      If you loved S2 and would like to play it again, do give it a chance. I don’t recall any changes to the game but the graphics.

    • FionaSarah says:

      I play 10th Anniverary all the time.

      It’s pretty much a 3D remake of Settlers 2. They changed very little, it’s probably the best 3D remake I’ve ever seen. They didn’t fuck with much, made it absolutely beautiful, the engine is really fast and they removed a couple of ridiculous annoyances. (For instance, you no longer have to prospect for water.)

      Yes the “YIPPIE” is still in there, but it’s slightly different I’m afraid. It doesn’t have the same oomph as the “YIPPIE” in Settlers 2, but at least they say it!

      Multiplayer works brilliantly too, it’s the main reason I wanted it. Settlers 2 is one of my favourite games and 10th Anniversary pretty much replaced it.

      I have two major gripes though – The first is that they removed the serious intro and story that I so loved from my childhood and replaced it with this bizarre story with odd mysoginistic undertones. I can only conclude that something was lost in translation.
      The second is a pretty big one, and that’s that the multiplayer has no save games. Yep. Your computer crashes or you lose connection during a 5 hour long game and you’re scuppered. It’s something that’s caused more than one frustrated howl in my household. But if you can accept that eventuality then it’s easily looked over.

      So in conclusion, if you liked Settlers 2, go buy Settlers 2 10th Anniversary now. Do it now, you will not be disappointed, the fact that hardly anyone even knows it exists is a great travesty.

    • Premium User Badge

      P7uen says:

      Don’t tell anyone, but my Settlers fix actually comes from the iPad Settlers, perfect hark back to the old days if you have The Hankering.

    • Borengar says:

      If you have Settlers 2 and want a version with higher resolution, here you can find a project that is exactly doing that. Just download it and put the DATA and GFX folder of the original game in this.

    • Thorpheus says:

      Crud nevermind! See the post above someone already made my point.

      I gotta add that it supports HD resolutions and has a stable online (Depending on your connection speed)

  2. mmalove says:

    I miss the original settlers (serf city). Tried to get into a number of the sequels, and they just didn’t hit the same spot as the original.

    • spell says:

      Oh God, the days lost in front of the amiga with my friend. We never have finished a single game but it was still great.

  3. Was Neurotic says:

    For a browser-based job, it’s pretty decent. I wouldn’t go comparing it to F2P games in general, i.e. those that have separate donwloadable clients. But again, as far as clicking a bookmark in your web browser and getting some Settlers action a few minutes later goes, then yes, it’s a win (so far)!

  4. stiill says:

    “are free to play games necessarily hateful to traditional gamers?”

    Funny, I thought League of Legends already settled that.

  5. HexagonalBolts says:

    I think the problem for us here is that this really isn’t a ‘new game’ but, as you put it Alec, a ‘new business model’.

    • Chandos says:

      I am really starting to hate the whole F2P business model. Aside from LoL I haven’t seen a single game where it doesn’t screw up the competitive side of the game.

      Would it be so hard to have a single subscription-only server on the side, where I have to pay $5 a month or something, and can play without fear in-game purchases screwing up the competitive balance? Why does it have to be a single business model? Why are we being force fed F2P games?

      :(

  6. sokkur says:

    I hope they are working on the settlers 8.

    • Khemm says:

      You and me both. With no always-online this time, because while I LOVE Settlers 7 like a madman, I understand people who aren’t happy with that requirement. Still, that’s no reason to miss out on such a good game, I didn’t.

  7. Red_Avatar says:

    Frankly, Settlers was all about watching your buildings get built and settlers shuffling back and forward while thinking of how to improve the process. You could visually SEE if you made a mistake as goods were piling up at some junction in the road and weren’t getting to the right place. This here has NOTHING of what made the first two games so great except it also lets you build stuff and it involves an economy. I wish they’d stop ruining the game name of classics – they did it with Ultima too, the bastards.

  8. TheBauer says:

    You sound kind of harsh. It is quite okay, no spending is necessary to continue. After some point you get ingame currency for level-ups to buy stuff you think you need. There is a longer gap around level 17 but no money can solve that.
    The game is mostly focused on economy. Combat is pve only. Although there is strategy involved the combat system is a huge grind at higher levels. Get ressources, train soldiers, let soldier die for experience, repeat. So now i feel it is rather pointless because the combat isnt very interesting but i guess most browser games are.

  9. Cooper says:

    It’s basically settlers set on ‘slow’ mode. Everything takes an inordinate amount of time to build / process.

    So, yeah. Fine top have on in the background whilst working or doing -anything- else. But hardly something to sit in front of for long.

    • MattM says:

      Is being tolerable (with distractions) good enough? Sure its free but a game still needs to be pretty fun before I am going to take the time to play it. Not actively bad just isn’t enough.

  10. Bill says:

    Well, I tried it for a few minutes, then got banned from chat because my name was too similar to a moderator (Calren, his was MOD_Calen).

    So yeah, great first impression from their customer support. There are better things to run in the background.

    Why does everything have to have quests.

  11. frenchy2k1 says:

    I have joined the beta when you linked to the possibility a few weeks ago and got accepted.
    The game is glacially slow, but do go back to the settlers’ roots.
    Some of my thoughts on it and differences from settlers 1 or 2 (only ones I played):
    – all routes are building to depot, so the way to build your depots near your resources is critical. No need to build your chains (wood chop to sawmill to tools), just each as close to both its resource AND a depot. Routes are automatic. You see the characters walk. No gridlock, ever.
    – depots share resources so wood deposited in one depot is magically available to any other. Makes things easier but destroy some of the interest
    – the beta lack the very useful balance tool, so you have to find manually how to balance your economy (how many sawmills for how many wood cutters for how many planters….). Each building comes with associated times per action (ex: wood chop is 1 trunk/level in 90s+walks from hut to wood and hut to depot, but planter is 1 plant/level per 135 seconds+walks)
    – combat is a grind as most enemies will have the same initiative as the units you can currently produce, so all combats will result in high losses and there is no way around it. To compensate those losses requires time alone (more settlers, at the rate of 1/15mins and more weapons depending on your economy)
    – most critical resource becomes quickly building licenses: as you only gain 10 per conquered land, so you must balance building new (takes licenses) and upgrading (takes resources). Destroying buildings happen often. Resource requirements change along the way too (from bronze weapons to iron to steel), shaping your economy.

    So, overall a highly addictive game (you’re only ever a few minutes away from something happening, the amount of minutes growing with time played and resource needed), but rather empty. Challenge is more to have the patience to wait. You can of course buy resources (including building licenses) or time accelerator, which is where their money will come from.

    I probably won’t stick around, as I really feel I’m wasting my time, but as it only requires a few minutes at a time a few times per day, it’s just like an addiction…

  12. andyhavens says:

    I totally read:

    “…run a sweepstake on which RTS will go F2P next!”

    As:

    “… run a sweepstake on when RPS will go F2P.”

    And for a moment I was transported into a world where I could pay you guys money and level up dumb-ass comments to be first on the list, or have big flashing fontszs or include pics of my bum or whatever.

  13. DigitalSignalX says:

    I’ll wait for unrav to weigh in on it, I think she’s our resident settlers expert (=

  14. Jajusha says:

    11.01.2012 The Settlers Online is now in Open Beta!

    11.01.2012 Maintenance Thursday 11/01/2012!

    What a great marketing move.

  15. Gvaz says:

    I tried this in closed beta, and I got to a point where I was going to fight the last boss on the island and gave up because it required way too much micromanagement and effort