Settlers III

Welcome to the RTSC Settlers III page!

No guesses as to what happens next

The Settlers is an ongoing strategy series by German publisher Blue Byte. It sports one of the most detailed real time economies you'll find in a computer game. Populated by several ancient civilizations, the games are set in little Technicolor worlds of bright Claymation trees, sparkling blue lakes and rolling green hills. Like many European games, Settlers assume a little more sophistication from its players, so don't be fooled by the cutesy facade: its a very complex game with a substantial learning curve. Its relatively slow paced, a nice bit of relaxation watching the cartoon universe going through its paces, and a rather engaging mental exercise in the process. Some essential accessories for Settlers are a dose of dismal weather, a mug of hot cocoa, some toast and somewhere to put your feet up...

The Settlers combines many of the conventions of the simulation and the God Game. There's a fully fledged economy with supply and demand, one hundred different types of building (shared between several races) and over thirty occupations driving it. You plonk down new building positions and change global settings, and a population of professional munchkins buckles down to work while you plan the groundwork for a military economy that will sweep the opposition off the map.

The most notable thing in any Settlers game is how the economy works and just how deep it is. In many real time strategy games resources are stashed at your HQ or Town Hall like money in a bank. When a worker builds or repairs, those banked resources are magicked out of thin air regardless of their position on the map. But in The Settlers economy, everything has to be carried by porters and delivered before anything can happen: distance, topography and building placement is critical. At every step in the economic ladder, materials and goods have to be delivered and removed on foot for everything to run smoothly. Smelters should be close to mines; lumber yards should be close to loggers. Its all too easy to have your economy stall because of only one building or resource being absent or taking too long to arrive when its urgently needed. It takes time for the repercussions of any command decision to become visible; you're not likely to notice anything wrong until the queues get too long and the evidence of your throttled economy becomes glaring. Any fixes to your stalled economy take time to unkink as freshly minted goods are trucked around. Its the antithesis of many fast and furious game designs.

While many games have only one type of worker and dozens of types of armed units, the Settlers has dozens of different workers, but only three or four military units. In Settlers III, there are only Swordsman, Spearman and Bowmen, each rank countering the other. In Settlers IV, you get Swordsmen Archers and a special unit unique to the ancient civilisation you play. Each race has its own special heavy weapon, Cannons for the Chinese, Roman Catapults and so on, but these contraptions require special buildings, a special resource and stores of ammunition that you have to manufacture.

Everything must be carted and builtTo actually produce troops, you need to build weapons, which is the ultimate aim for the Settler's economy. Elaborate lines of food production must be established to feed your miners, who in turn make available ores that are smelted into ingots; the ingots in turn form the raw material for making tools and weapons. You'll need to make sure there's enough coal to keep all this industry running, enough food to keep the miners happy, and enough stone and wood to keep the building industry sufficiently stocked so that it can build all the necessary infrastructure when you need it.

For example, to make Bread, you must grow Wheat on a Wheat Farm, have it processed into Flour at a Windmill and then, combined with Water at a Bakery, be baked into Bread. Once fed, miners extract ores and coal from specialised mines. The ores are consumed at specialised smelters to produce steel and gold ingots. In turn the steel is used to produce weapons and tools, while the gold is used to improve the effectiveness of your military forces. At every stage of the process, there are porters carting resources and goods from one step of the process to the next.

To get troops, a Barracks must be built to recruit any unemployed settlers. To ensure you have a growing population surplus, Residences must be built. Residences are buildings that magically disgorge a preset number of fresh settlers, almost like another resource. As characters, the settlers are simply mindless automatons, albeit cute ones, that are inserted into the economy to make it work. Each unassigned settler transforms into the occupation they represent, pick up a tool and take up station in the appropriate building. From then on, they mechanically work through whatever supplies are sent to them without any thought. Much of the economy's behaviour is reflexive - stick something in front of a building, and it will be automatically process unless its storage capacity is exceeded.

To actually build anything, you need to keep your building industry working efficiently at all times. Woodcutters chop down trees, lumber yards turn the wood into lumber, stonemasons carve out blocks of stone from outcrops of rock, and teams of "levelers" (guys with shovels that prepare building foundations) and builders actually construct all the necessary buildings to make all this madness work. You can over cut your forests, so in wonderfully green fashion you need to maintain your forest resources with Rangers!

Most of these professions will require tools from your Tool Builder. And if it wasn't complicated enough, there is shipping and sea docks for transport and sea trade, and Donkey Trains for land trade.

And, as mentioned before, at every step of the way, there must be someone to carry every last good and resource to each and every building that requires or else your economy basically grinds to a halt. Even just missing one little thing can bring about paralysing delays!

There's also a religious component, although this too is slotted into the regular economy like another material resource. Building Temples allows you to produce Priests. You build up a supply of "mana", a reservoir of magical energy that is used to bestow miracles to the population, impart divinely inspired promotions or brown pants the enemy. Mana is generated by producing a suitably alcoholic religious beverage and offering it at a Temple.

Combat in Settlers is limited - this is primarily a economic game, after all. Players can sort of gravitate towards a full working economy and then suddenly hit "critical mass" with hundreds of troops obliterating the rest of the field in one giant wave. Losing in Settlers is a bit like losing in Monopoly - once you start dropping behind, that's it!

To expand your territory watch towers and other fortifications have to be built and manned. As you build military structures, your territory is expanded, represented by a line of colour coded markers. Settlers is interesting in that no civilians are ever involved in actual fighting, unless one of the specialized occupations strays into enemy territory. Military actions are waged entirely against military units and towers only. As you take each one, the boundary between you and the enemy changes; any civilian buildings caught outside a border change are automatically destroyed.

Whew! Got all that? Most lizard brain shooter fans will be reaching for the rocket launcher after all this. Settlers IV has been out for a while now, adding more complexity and an evil Dark Tribe who corrupt and despoil the happy green hills. The franchise is still going strong. There may not be much of a presence in the English speaking world, but Settlers V is well and truly on its way. Settlers can be quite an involved and tricky game to get into, but unlike most frenzied RTS experiences, its indirect nature can be a laid back netgaming experience too. Just the thing for a lazy Sunday with friends, but you'll need to get a lot of single player training in first.

Settlers III Overview

Take the money and run!

Last modified Sat, Dec 21 2002 by Lindsay Fleay