Having not played a Settlers game for a good 10 or so years I was surprised and excited to see that there was an online version in development by Ubisoft and had to get into the beta to see what it was all about. See my thoughts and reactions after the jump.
The Settlers Online is a free to play, RTS game taking from the popular PC series that started in 1993. It is browser based which means no downloads are required and even the oldest of PC’s can handle this with no problems. TSO is following in the footsteps of the recently popular revival of Age of the Empires Online and is currently in beta testing.
After taking over the publishing side of things for Heritage of kings (aka Settlers V) this is now Ubisoft’s fifth original Settlers game and Blue Byte Software’s eighth. It has a very familiar feel and even though I had not played a game in this series for just a few years, I found it easy to jump straight back into the mix of things, building my city from the very basics up to the more visually impressive and battle worthy city that I was hoping for. As with other Settlers games this is not a speedy affair. You find yourself taking time to gather resources, build houses, mines and barracks and wage war against the enemy.
As a flash based browser game goes the graphics are average, but usually players of such games are not so demanding in this respect, but I find it a bit disappointing that after Settlers 7, which was also developed by Ubisoft, the graphics in TSO seem to have taken a large backwards step. Gameplay is very simple and anyone who has played any basic browser based RTS like Tribal Wars or indeed any of the hundreds of Facebook games will feel at home with the pace, feel and look of the game. Taking further leads from Facebook, TSO has implemented a fast track system allowing you to earn gems through gameplay or purchase them with real money, these gems then let you boost a number of aspects like productivity building speed and purchase of resources.
This game will demand your time as the world runs even when you are not active meaning that timing your log-ons could mean the difference between progressing that extra level before anyone else or having more or less success with your attacking prospects. It also takes a lot of trial and error to get your production line running well enough to get the end products like armies and building upgrades as fast as possible.
Overall this feels like it would be a good game to start off your RTS experience if you don‘t mind the slow pace, with plenty of tutorial missions and guidance from other players available. Taking on the players at the top will take a lot of time however and it’s a shame they have not included any PVP aspects as of yet.