Ubisoft The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom review
The latest instalment of Ubisoft's popular Settlers strategy series has polished graphics, a lovely original soundtrack and gameplay with a heavy emphasis on resource management. Unfortunately, the game has generated controversy by requiring a permanent internet connection even during single-player play.
A well designed introductory campaign helps you get to grips with the game's units. These are introduced gradually; it starts simply as you learn to create workshops, exploit your resources and use military force against your enemies.
Then you are introduced to the three key strategies. Build a massive army to crush your opponent by force of arms, earn great wealth through trade routes and buy off the opposition with generous bribes, or using a combination of technology and religion to cow and convert your neutral neighbours. You'll also need to gain Prestige Points by beautifying your Settlers' town; this in turn gives you more advanced buildings and upgrades.
In practice, once you've got past the training levels, you'll need to use a combination of all three to win. Using technology to improve your industrial and military prowess and gaining money through trade, while you build up an army to make a decisive push against your enemies. You can win a campaign by defeating all your enemies or obtaining a required number of Victory Points - earned by controlling more wealth, land or technology than your opponents. These points become particularly important in multiplayer or Skirmish games against an AI.
Settlers 7 requires careful play, particularly early in a campaign, when you have only the limited resources of your starting area to draw on. It's also slow; a campaign against a single opponent can take upwards of three hours (as long as your connection to Ubisoft's servers holds up). If you want extended, thoughtful gameplay and have the time to devote to it, Settlers 7 can be a rewarding and absorbing experience, but its steep difficulty curve makes it an unappealing choice for casual RTS fans.
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