Have You Played… The Settlers?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

The Settlers is one of the games that defined my early years. I was thirteen years old when I first played it and I fell in love with the world as soon as I saw the first lumberjack chopping at a tree. I didn’t realise then, but it’s a simple example of a game’s systems working like a machine: functional, each part reliant on another part, visually cohesive. It’s also a game that doesn’t require conflict to work.

And, yes, I do remember the little fights that take place. I didn’t get involved with that side of the game very often, concentrating on building within my own boundaries rather than expanding, but even when scraps did take place, they were orderly, dignified affairs.

The Settlers is idyllic, the production chains forming a sedate and soothing view of a productive and self-contained community. The series may have lost its way in recent years, but the first couple of entries changed the way I looked at games. Peaceful, contented and calm. I could watch my little lemming-like people going about their business for hours. The antfarm or fishtank of my youth.

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58 Comments

  1. Al__S says:

    It was so lovely. And had a charmingly mistranslated manual (the developers were German)

    • AngoraFish says:

      And yet we’re still waiting for a genuine “spiritual successor”. Where is Kickstarter, or at least paradox, when you need it?

  2. Laini says:

    I’ve never played the original but The Settlers II has been installed on every computer I’ve had since I first played it.

    There’s just something about building up your settlement, slowly expanding and advancing through the tech tree and trying to keep the cogs working.
    Combat was always my least favourite part though.

  3. Ace Rimmer says:

    I have fond if hazy memories of the first one from my childhood (yes, the woodchopping stands out for some reason), never played the later installments. What’s the preferred option were one to revisit – 1, 2, 3, 4? Settlers II got a refurbished edition some years back, is that the one to go with?

    • JonWood says:

      The anniversary edition is great if you can find a copy. An almost exact copy of the Settlers II gameplay, in an even more charming engine, and with support for modern resolutions.

      • Ace Rimmer says:

        Thanks!

        • Sic says:

          I would very much recommend the original (i.e. The Settlers 2: Veni, Vidi, Vici).

          The remake doesn’t look or sound anywhere near as good. It’s rather horrible, really.

    • Neurotic says:

      2 HD, yes. Very much so. It’s full name is The Settlers 2: 10th Anniversary Edition. All the relaxing wonder of the original, with none of the technical hassle playing on a modern system. Check GOG.

    • Sisco says:

      In all honesty, I always liked 3 more than 2.
      It was 2 that got me into the series, my best friend back then and I played it for what seems like an eternity.

      But 3 made more sense in every way. No more roads needed, so very pretty graphics even today and improved gameplay all around.
      One of my all time favorites.
      4 iterates nicely upon 3, but it never had the spark I felt.

    • godunow says:

      Anno 1404.

      I loved Settlers 1-4 back in their time, and I admit S2 HD is the way to go if you want to revisit that experience. For me however same revisit was real disappointment.

    • Vedharta says:

      The series sadly split into 2 very different gamelines, 1 2, and its 2 remakes that at their core revolve around road networks.

      And then the other ones which are each fairly different and dont rely on road networks, i have never been able to warm up to them.

  4. golem09 says:

    I remember playing this a lot on an amiga with a friend back in the day.
    Because this actually had split screen multiplayer with two mice. I tried emulating this a few year back, but windows wouldn’t let me, one player had to use a controller, which suprisingly, didn’t suck as much as I expected.

    • Vacuity729 says:

      I too used to play this in splitscreen two players on my friend’s Atari. Do I know you? If my friend started losing, he’d start hitting keys on the keyboard until it crashed, and then insist that he hadn’t lost because the computer had crashed.

      The joys of playing with your mates.

      • Vacuity729 says:

        Amiga, not Atari. This is what I get for posting in bed at night.

      • klops says:

        :D I laughed a bit there.

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        I used to play this splitscreen with two mice on a PC. I remember being awestruck at the very idea of using two mice at once. I also remember having a lot of hassle finding a DOS mouse driver that had a small enough memory footprint and didn’t interfere with the game’s second mouse handling.

  5. stuw23 says:

    Looking at that little screenshot has hit me right in the nostalgia. I would only have been 9 or 10 when the original came out, but I remember playing the demo that came with an Amiga magazine, and being instantly hooked. It was unlike anything else I’d played up until that point, and it was so charming, and so wonderful to be able to build up my own little kingdoms. I remember being amazed at how I could build a farm, and the farm’s wheat would then go to a windmill to be made in to flour, which a baker would then make bread with, which would feed miners. The way everything linked was so mind-blowing to my young self. By contrast, I never really got in to Settlers 2, but I spent a lot of time with the third game.

    • hoho0482 says:

      Spent so long playing the amiga demo by time finally got the full game was bored with it. Odd ass sure the demo was limited to thirty minutes…

      • Mezz says:

        The Amiga demo I remember wasn’t time limited but you couldn’t save. I had my A500+ running 24/7 for days, even ended up buying a 512KB memory upgrade (I think it was about £75) so I could play on the bigger maps.

        I also remember the split screen mouse along with promises of not building up military on your friends border only to be broken at the first opportunity of an easy land grab.

  6. Detocroix says:

    Settlers I is the first game I bought, and with my own money to boot.

    I had to order it by phone, wait for weeks for the post to deliver it and then cycle several kilometers in rain to go fetch it. Back then (oh the nostalgia mode, duh) we only had one or two post offices in my home city… :D

    But oh boy did I love the game. The manual, the box, the intro, everything was so damn nice.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Now you only have two post offices in the entire county.

  7. Sin Vega says:

    Still one of my favourite games ever. Even more so than ICFTD, this was vastly better on the Amiga, not least thanks to the wonderful full orchestration on the music instead of the PC’s horrible warbling: link to youtube.com

    I whiled away hours on it. So pretty, so relaxing, such lovely sound, and wonderfully comprehensible despite its complexity. And the (as far as I know) unique co-op mode with both players controlling the same kingdom was the source of a game played over many months with a friend in school. We communicated poorly and somehow ended up setting down 3 of the largest, most expensive buildings (fort/garrison) in the centre of our land, and once we realised, instead of sensibly razing one, we resolved to grind our empire into the ground for as long as was needed to get them finished. He wasted dozens of carriers making a map of Africa using roads, I built a fleet of largely useless boats, we attempted to flood the world with adorably snorty pig farms.

    Just a lovely, excellent game all round. I never got on with the sequels, the Roman theme of Settlers 2 kind of spoiled it for me, and it felt oddly cold in that 90s Windows-y way many strategy games did. And after that they were all shit, obv.

    • Grim Rainbow says:

      As a PC owner with a Sound Blaster 2.0 or Pro, I remember my friend’s Amiga beating it a lot of the time. Theme Park and Cannon Fodder spring to mind.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      In case anyone else was wondering what about “ICFTD,” it’s the International Conference on Frontotemporal Dementias.

      Hope this helps!

  8. rapchee says:

    i’m still waiting for “openSettlers” or something like that to happen. they re-made all the stu … other old games, just not this one? wth

  9. Georgi Trenev says:

    Speaking of tranquil building, Lethis – Path of Progress is a recent example of a game that really managed to strike a similar chord with me. It’s also super pretty :)

  10. Boronian says:

    Yes, I played it. I only had the demo version on some shareware cd which was limited to 30min playtime. Oh how often I restarted and played the same first 30 minutes again and again…
    But my favourite one is Settlers II. Always installed, always ready to be played.
    The third Settlers removed the need to build roads and with that they lost me. Building a good network of roads was half the fun in the game! Oh I have a traffic jam somewhere? Hmm…how to solve that…

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Oh I have a traffic jam somewhere? Hmm…how to solve that…

      Hmm, ok, if I add an extra route here, that’ll get the wheat past that point without getting in the way of the ore going the other way…then if I move this woodcutter…and then build a new warehouse here

      And before you know it you’ve spent two hours and your tweaking has taken you to the other side of your empire.
      Great fun :)

  11. Doubler says:

    The Settlers II was the first game I ever owned. Played the demo so much my parents went out and bought it for me. That was about 20 years ago now.

  12. lglethal says:

    I’m going to admit it, I never understood Settlers. OK I was like 8 or 9 i guess (maybe younger but I’m not sure), and I some how ended up with a copy but with absolutely no documentation, and so apart from some of the very obvious things – wheat goes to the baker, wood goes to the sawmill, I never could really work out what was happening, but I still absolutely loved it. Played it a ton. But never understood what the hell was going on. I guess I was dumb. :P

    But I dont think I’ll ever go back, it sits in a nice place in my memory – before I began to really develop an understanding for game systems, but when I could still get enjoyment watching things tick along. It was just a lovely time… :)

  13. Konservenknilch says:

    1 and 2 are still some of the best games around, period. The rest were rather blah, but 7 was one of the biggest comebacks in gaming history, IMO. Amazingly beautiful, great soundtrack, suprisingly bord-gamey mechanics.

  14. madcat01 says:

    Loved this game when I was a kid – many afternoons spent with a friend playing co-op on the Amiga…

    I always thought that a modern version with the same sedate play style and economy but with the ability to have your settlers mold the landscape would be awesome. If they it had flowing rivers (with modern physics) that could be dammed for industry, layers of soil and rock that could be dug up and advance quarrying it would be amazing. You could even have your settlers wellbeing linked to the impact your settlement has on the environment. Also weather conditions and seasons that affect production. Someone please make this game!!!

  15. Jabberslops says:

    In all honesty I actually preferred Settlers 6 the most of the whole series, and I think it’s because I first got hooked on the Anno series starting with the 1701 Demo. Settlers 6 was just simple enough to get into and complex enough to scratch the same itch as Anno. I lost my Copy in a move and only just recently rebought Anno 1701 on GoG.

  16. C0llic says:

    I remember settlers II fondly. I disliked the art style in the 3rd game. I don’t think I really played this one, but I really loved settlers II, and its a very similar game in most respects.

  17. piphil says:

    I’ve been playing a lot of Banished recently, which scratches the sane itch and has literally no combat. It’s a little limited in professions and items in the vanilla game, but there’s plenty of mods which expand it significantly. Colonial Charter is my current favourite.

  18. Carra says:

    I remember playing Knights and Merchants which was made by some of the same guys. Fun game but way too hard for me back then.

  19. Lukasz says:

    Ah settlers. Game of my early childhood. Played a lot of it on my sisters Amiga. Just constantly expanding without enemies.
    Wonderful game. A gaming magazine used to have ranking of best games by genre and I was always angry when settlers dropped a spot. It would often climb back up though when a hype over new games died out.

    Replayed settlers 2 anniversary two years ago and while wonderful in every regards the game is very time consuming. Each mission there are long down times when you just wait for solders to level up. For buildings finish being constructed. Those can last hours. and that’s the modern weakness of the concept.

  20. MajorFordson says:

    The “Anno” games might scratch this itch for some people. 8 odd years ago I tried the 3D Settlers game of the time and it was garbage. Then I picked up Anno 1701 from the shelf, in a full box and on sale no less, and my jaw hit the floor when I first played it. Phenomenal graphics, sound design and classic production-chain city building. I don’t think ANY game has blown away my expectations that hard ever since.

  21. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    I have played so much of Settlers II, so fun and incredibly charming as well <3

  22. SomeDuder says:

    Only really played number 7 (the horrible one). And it IS horrible. It’s just a weird game that just feels so restrictive, where only 1 strategy is valid, at least in the singleplayer campaign. Didn’t even touch MP.

  23. Heliocentric says:

    Those pixels are burned into my brain. The Settlers 2:10th Anniversary game is the premier game in the field of the roads and goods settlers games, it’s on GoG and the campaign is rubbish, as it ever is in logistics games.

  24. Veles says:

    Settlers II was one of those games that for me is a major landmark in my gaming history.

    I think this was the first time I properly experienced PC gaming. I played it round a friends house for hours on end and was desperate for my family to get a PC so I could play it at home.

    To begin with I barely understood how it worked; I was about 9 I believe so pretty young. I loved the theme so it kept drawing me back and eventually I figured out how all the pieces fit together. This is probably the first point in my life that I would say I was a proper gamer.

    I still really enjoyed Settlers III even though it was quite different to the first two games. After S3 though, I think, the series went downhill.

  25. Damien_The_Unbeliever says:

    One of my fondest memories was the flag/road exploit. You could plant a flag close to a road and then (can’t remember the exact mechanism) “pull” the road to connect to your flag.

    For whatever reason, there were no border checks that stopped you pulling an enemies road onto your territory. You could then set up all kinds of building initiatives that pulled enemy people/building materials across into your territory.

    Sooner or later, the game would get confused, but it never stopped me from doing so and being amused by it.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Ah yes. Especially fun when you cut off part of an enemies territory, and with the flag glitch you could exploit it for your own :)

  26. KaptainKartWheel says:

    Amiga + Settlers (+ Civilisation) = no need for friends.

    I loved this game. Still do and would snap up a proper spiritual successor. Tried some of the later versions, but the supply chain planning and road linking bits were missing so it became more like all the other games.

  27. Alistair Hutton says:

    I love Settlers.