Yes, last week both Alberto Pastor and I we were locked in a dirty and smelly trench for the analysis of Company of Heroes 3, this time I have had to visit a more lively and colorful place; a world of medieval fantasy where I have built my castle and brought my kingdom to glory. And it is that we have finally been able to enjoy The Settlers: New Alliesthe eleventh installment of the saga of Ubisoft and Blue Byte that, against all oddshas finally gone on sale —and almost by surprise— before the end of February.
The IP was at stake a lot after no less than 10 years since that The Settlers 7: The Ways of the Kingdom and The Settlers Onlinetwo games that they marked the “enough is enough” of the community before the trajectory of the license. For this reason, the Germans settled in Düsseldorf have searched for this New Allies reset licensewith all that this entails, and with an added problem: Blue Byte wants to return to its origins, but not to those of the first game, but to The Settlers V and that somewhat decaffeinated and even more “casualized” RTS management.
Simple and on-rails medieval fantasy, the main difference
Imagine that, by chance, you and a small portion of what used to be your kingdom are there, alone and stripped of everything in a cold and hopeless wasteland. What will become of you? If your option is far from curling up on the ground and crying until everything is resolved, and you are looking for build the greatest empire the planet has ever seen, this is your game. Here is the premise of The Settlers: New Allies, one that is repeated with each installment, with each project within the enormous world of city buildersthat not to do so would be almost ungenre.
With this in mind, the first jug of cold water arrives: the 3 pillars of experience The Settlers —and, without going any further, of almost any game of the genre—, have seen important changes based on The Settlers V and its sequels. This translates into that somewhat more thoughtful management of the original games; that which forced us to carry out a meticulous juggling between resources, our citizens and the expansion of the territory, has been reduced to a minimum.
There is no need to watch over the villagers, so no more thinking about their safety, food, house or entertainment. They are the most exact definition of an NPC: a few pixels that neither feel nor suffer, and whose attitudes are predefined based on what the player decides. You may not have a single slice of turkey to share among your hundreds of villagers. Even if an enemy attack kills half. There will be no reflection on morale of the village or the performance of the nation. everything will not matterThey will just keep coming to build whatever you command and will respawn from the houses you build almost like a production factory.
That social simulator spirit has been lost that gave us so much joy at the beginning, and that it has given such good results in games like frostpunk. There is no conversation between the game and the player, so you can start building “like crazy” and without having much idea what you are doing, that sooner or later you will build a spectacular empire, at least in size.
A very basic RTS with its eyes set on Age of Empires
The same goes for combat or city building and management. The buildings are finished in just seconds and with the minimum, so it is not uncommon to start cutting down a couple of trees and have a somewhat prominent village and capable of giving war to your neighbors. maybe the only requirement is to have a road so that the supplies and resources arrive from the building to the warehouse, but even without it, the villagers will continue producing waiting for someone to arrive and take them away.
Playable is not bad. It is effective and its simplicity requires little of us
playable not bad. It is effective and its simplicity little is required of us. His shortcomings go in other directions. For all practical purposes, it’s an incredibly basic RTS in form and substance. There are only a few units. Some of them will have something like “special abilities” —The Settlers are no strangers to flirting with fantasy, so I don’t see any problem—as empowered arrows that become one and obliterate everything in their path; or defense towers that shoot fire in a perfect 360 degree circle around you. At least it’s supported by snowdropthe graphic engine of The Division 2so that every confrontation is showy.
Of course, most of the combats are only activated by responding to only two triggers: either you enter enemy territory and the AI sees you, or you decide to attack. No siege options, catapults, stairs either any war machine to control crowds or overwhelm defenses. Likewise, the combats are not designed based on squads as in total war, which could give a much more streamlined experience, but for individual units. This means that moving each soldier is done independently, so either you make a particular click to select the target to beat, or you bet on chaos and select that the entire army go for an enemy; and thus, they will kill each other en masse, until ending up victorious or dead, one of two.
Little modes for such a competitive genre
As a regular strategy player I have to say it: the fan of the genre is difficult to please and very exquisite. Betting on the casual in a genre that hardly moves beyond a pre-established circle of players is difficult, and even more so if you offer so little. That being said, I was surprised to see that even in a genre like this, where you’ve seen wonders like Total War: Warhammer 3 or the most recent Company of Heroes 3Blue Byte bets all its playable experience to only two modalities of game: Campaign mode and Skirmish mode.
While one will take us by the hand and give a reason for the objectives that are entrusted to us; the other removes any type of narrative in search of an experience without ties. This latest playable experience is by far the most worrying because it does not offer us the possibility of playing offline. DebWe must always be connected to the network. Even if we want to compete with the AI, we will go through the tedium of a matchmaking that, in case of not finding a player, will now allow us to play alone.
The campaign mode, yes, will give us around 12 hours of history and at least here the Germans move easily. There isn’t much variety in the missions and they seem to be cut from the same pattern, but they are such simple objectives that I find it hard to deny that the Germans are doing a bad job. Even here there are important and dangerous seams with a plot that revolves around the need for colonialism while hovering over the “drop everything when things are going wrong” message. Maybe it’s not the best script for such a game.
Although homogeneity in a genre means its end in the long term, and that looking for different approaches and proposals is always welcome, I am concerned about what New Allies is looking for if I take into account the future of the saga. Blue Byte seems confused with The Settlers. It’s not just that it struggles to find its own identity among the huge number of similar offerings, but despite dedicating their entire life to the PC, they don’t seem to understand how difficult it is for a casual strategy game to lay a solid foundation.
Buy The Settlers: New Allies
It supposes the restart of a saga with 30 years of life.
Halfway between a city builder and an RTS.
He has Age of Empires as a reference for his combat.
It simplifies the pillars of the series to the extreme.
It moves with the graphics engine of The Division and The Division 2.
Language: Texts in Spanish or Spanish voices
Duration: 20-30 hours
See system requirements
See file of The Settlers: New Allies