The Settlers Online Beta Preview – Evony and Ivory

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The Settlers series  consists of seven titles, the latest of which was apparently plagued with DRM issues. Generally a pretty good city builder with a bit of combat and some hero units (with rather woeful voice acting), The Settlers has now moved into the realm of online browser based games. I’ve played The Settlers 5 and 6, as well as many other city building games over the years, but I’ve never attempted any of the browser based games that have become popular over the last while.

I understand that this type of game is meant to be played while you’re doing something else (probably working, I guess). So actions such as building and resource gathering now take minutes instead of seconds. The idea is that you can give a few commands and then go back to what you were doing. The browser doesn’t even have to be open; the game world carries on without you.

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However, your settlement is not in any danger while you’re away. You are alone on your island, which is divided into smaller territories. There are bandit camps waiting to be conquered, but they will passively wait for you to attack. The cartoon-like graphics are rather good, and look much like previous Settlers titles. There are even animations as your settlers go about their tasks.

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Even though the game is still in the beta phase, there are plenty of players trying it out, as evidenced by the flurry of chatter on the various channels. You start the game by choosing an avatar for yourself, and embark on the tutorial, which is a series of quests designed to help you through the first 17 levels and all the basics. Unfortunately, because of the pace of the game (the Settlers has always been a bit of a slow game in terms of gathering resources; now it is almost excruciatingly so), it may take you several days to reach this point. Fortunately, there are small rewards for logging in every day over a week.

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As you level up, you’ll unlock new buildings and abilities. Like any city builder, you collect resources and convert them into something useful. You can also obtain special units, like an explorer who discovers new areas for you, and a general, who will lead your armies into combat with the bandits and gains experience for you. You can replay the battle with the handy battle log; unfortunately you can only see this after the battle.

The game itself is free to play, but like so many ‘free’ games, you can also purchase gems, which allow you to buy many useful in-game items that you will no doubt want at some point or another. There are other nice features, like creating buffs to temporarily improve your buildings, and various adventures you can undertake at higher levels, as well as trade and the formation of guilds with other players.

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Many of the game features have not yet been implemented, for instance, you can build roads but they currently serve no function besides decoration, but for the most part, the game seems solid, if a bit slow. Leaving it overnight should yield a fair amount of resources to keep you going, however. I look forward to seeing what the final product looks like. If you’ve enjoyed other browser based games like Evony, or are a Settlers fan, this is something to look out for.

Last Updated: January 24, 2012

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