|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blue Byte||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 25, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
There isn't much in the way of combat in the single-player mode. You will take defensive, precautionary measures to ensure that your inhabitants are well protected by building a wall, castle, fortresses, and fortifying your army to act as a deterrent. Much of your correspondence with other empires will be diplomatic. A trusted knight will be able to turn even the most hostile of enemies into an ally. You will trade goods with other territories in an effort to obtain money which you can use to build more structures or procure more army units. You can also obtain resources that are rare in your territory. Of course, there is also the possibility of just taking some of these resources by force. You don't have to play fair all of the time. If you have the army, the strategy, and the need, then go and invade another faction's territory.
Knights are playable characters that give a face to your empire. They act on your behalf, but impart some of their own personality. They aren't just mere figureheads. There are six knights in all, each with some different qualities which will affect a particular mission. Some of these attributes could be more accurately defined as revenue generators. One knight is able to recruit soldiers at a bargain, while another is able to squeeze more coin out of churchgoers by entertaining them. Another of the knights is able to heal, while another can feed the hungry. Frankly, none of these knights will help make or break each campaign; they just add a little flair and flavor to the mix, something which many such sims overlook.
I experienced some problems with the online mode. Just getting into a game was a chore. Once in, I found that the maps were huge. Maybe that's part of the problem. You will experience some lag, framerate problems, and error messages. If you know the single-player mode well enough you should be able to guess your way through the online mode. The focus is more on real time strategy than city building, although the core concept is the same. It's here that you'll really appreciate the streamlined micromanagement. Decisions that you make will have immediate results. Fortunately, most of those decisions will be on the battlefield.
The Settlers: Rise of an Empire has a rather lighthearted look and feel to it. The graphics are a combination of art and cartoon. There's lots of detail on the map and in the buildings. The characters look like caricatures. The voiceovers are also playful, although things can get pretty intense at times. Even the soundtrack is fitting. It's lighthearted, haunting, soothing, and frenetic. It's too bad that this game is plagued by poor mechanics. The production values are there, but they just can't seem to rise above the glitches. The good news is that this is a PC game and there is hope for it yet. Hopefully some new patches will surface to make this game more playable.
CCC Senior Writer