The little guys in the first settler bustled into the hearts of millions of players all over the world and shaped the cozy gaming experience of building games, the joy of seeing the working settlers became known as the aquarium effect. Since we lost a few disks from the original over the years, we just got the hardly changed ones History-Edition of the game and show you in our retro special what made The Settlers so special back then. Also exciting: Our review of the first four parts of The Settlers.
A deserted area full of mountains, meadows and forests greets us when we start a new game. In the first settler, the cards are randomly generated by a seed, but we determine the location for our castle as headquarters ourselves. You can already guess the distribution of mineral resources and thus choose the ideal starting point. The computer opponent also sets up accordingly, and not infrequently quite close to us.
Quelle: PC Games
Now it is time to build the first loggers’ huts so that we can supply our sawmills so that we can continue to build houses diligently in the future. The paths between the houses and the castle have to be set by hand and their course is of great importance for the productivity of our settlement! If there are bottlenecks or traffic jams on the goods highway, the whole economy quickly comes to a standstill.
After a few minutes, the aquarium effect already sets in. We have distributed enough construction contracts, a few buildings are up and the goods transport begins. Now you can lean back and watch the hustle and bustle. The animations are very lovingly designed, we see how the baker stirs the dough or pigs wallowing in the mud. It is fun to closely follow the extraction of resources, their transport, their further processing and ultimately their consumption.
An important aspect is the so-called ripple factor. It arises from the fact that the player only gives impulses and does not control the playing pieces directly. The settlers (buy now 59,99 € ) take care of the execution of the orders independently. However, since this usually does not only affect one settler, but rather several and different impulses run in parallel, there is a hustle and bustle on the screen. And like at an ant farm, you like to just watch it for hours. If you don’t want to play yourself and want to pass the time by a settler screen saver, you can watch the computer settle in demo mode. An element that was never taken up again in later parts.
A special feature of the game design is also beneficial to the bustle factor: All manufactured goods exist in the world and are not just mere numbers, as was and is often handled in other economic simulations. There are also paths in the world and must be covered. Intelligent planning can make transport more effective, but dragging goods over a mountain still takes time and cannot be accelerated by any tricks. If you choose the direct route up the slope, the route is steep and strenuous and the poor settler assigned to transport it takes longer.
This often results in organic paths that lead to a winding road network that looks very natural. That goes well with the medieval setting, where streets drawn with a ruler, such as those in the Anno series, are rarely seen. In contrast to Anno, which uses rectangular fields, the settlers also use hex fields, which automatically creates a more playful look.
Quelle: PC Games
The chains of goods, which were complex for the time, ultimately lead to one goal: to be prepared for war. The aim of the game is always to train as many well-trained knights as possible and thus to flatten the opponent. To get that far, however, a farmer first has to grow grain, which is then ground into flour in a mill. The flour is baked into bread in the bakery, which the miners use as a meal. The miners in turn mine raw materials for iron and gold smelting, which then provide the basis for tools and swords. So you see, it takes time for the simple field product from the farm to become a knight’s weapon. And between all these stations, the transport is in the road network.
However, little actually works without the printed instructions.
The special click, for example, in which both mouse buttons have to be pressed at the same time, is a relatively important part of the gameplay. It can be used to display construction sites and to do a few other things comfortably. However, you can only find out about him in the instructions. A tutorial that explains such subtleties is missing. There are training missions that are supposed to bring the mechanics closer to the player, but how to do them is only clear from the instructions. Likewise, buildings and professions of the settlers in the game are only represented by icons. Which of the log cabins is the forester’s house and what the dwelling of the woodcutter is, you have to find out by trial and error, or you just look at the instructions. This was even accompanied by a reference card for buildings, professions, raw materials and tools, so the problem was well known.
The various computer opponents also appear in the description. There you learn that the AI can play different ways, which allows you to determine the level of difficulty. If you choose the Viking Homen Doppelhorn as your opponent at the beginning because he wears such a funny helmet, you and the settlement will soon be in the dust. Homen is extremely aggressive and attacks everything that is in his field of vision. We prefer to settle for the moment with Lady Amalie, who acts cautiously and lets us build first. Other opponents concentrate on accumulating as much gold as possible, while others try to sabotage the player’s food production. Computers really have some nice facets to their personalities.
Quelle: PC Games
So that you don’t become a single settler, there is also a pretty smart multiplayer mode that is still unique today. You can connect a second mouse to the computer, with which you can happily settle together. Either you play cooperatively and share a people, so that, for example, one player takes care of the economy while the other attacks the neighbors with the military. Or war is declared between the players and you settle against each other on the same computer.
Different countries, different settlers
Incidentally, in the USA the settlers first came onto the market under the name “Serf City: Life is Feudal”. Americans tend to associate the term “settlers” with cowboys, Indians and the colonization of the wild west. A game of this name, in which you build a medieval city, would have only led to confusion, according to American PR.
Later, and also in the new release in the “History Collection”, the game was renamed “The Settlers”.
Quelle: PC Games
Volker Wertich originally programmed Die Siedler in the assembler programming language of the Amiga. As he told us in an interview, Wertich achieved an incredible speed compared to basic programming thanks to the direct machine language. “Like switching from crutches to a jet.” But he also needed this computing speed, because he wrote the main work of the program all by himself. The optics are also the work of a single man, namely a graphic artist with whom Wertich was in contact mainly by telephone and with whom he occasionally exchanged files. A kind of forerunner of the modern home office principle. For his next game in the settlers universe, the third part of the series, Wertich got a bigger team, two people programmed in the main phase for Die Siedler 3. This is almost unimaginable in today’s world, with gigantic development studios and huge teams.
Wertich finally turned his back on the Siedler series and founded Phenomic in 1997, with which he created the SpellForce series. He has since returned to Blue Byte as Creative Director for the new Settlers section, which is now part of Ubisoft. We hope that he can build on old successes with the reboot, which is simply called The Settlers.
Have you been a settler fan from the start? Which part did you get into the series with? Let us know in the comments!
The Settlers: A Legend Was Born – Retro-Special for the first part of the series (1) [Quelle: PC Games]
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