Format: Amiga Genre: RTS Released: 1993 Developer: Blue Byte
The Settlers has to be one of my favourite games of all time. If you’ve never heard of it, think Age of Empires but with more personality and a lot less fighting – unlike most RTS games, in The Settlers waging war generally takes a back seat to gathering corn and chopping wood (it’s called ‘The Settlers’ after all, not ‘The Warmongers’).
Perhaps the key to this game’s appeal is the graphics. It looked astonishingly beautiful at the time, and even today the game’s looks stand up well under scrutiny, exuding a sort of timeless charm. The tiny people who made up your kingdom were wonderfully animated – as they baked bread, harvested corn, went to work in the mines or even just sauntered along the roads you developed a real affection for them, and this made you all the more determined to protect them from the enemies massing at your country’s borders.
Losing land in The Settlers was heartbreaking. If enemy soldiers captured one of your guard huts, the front line would change, and any of your buildings immediately around the hut would burst into flames, leaving the occupants to hotfoot it back across the newly realigned border. The sight of homeless woodcutters, bakers and sawmill workers flooding over your border from their freshly razed places of work was enough to bring a tear to the eye. Watching the tiny refugees make their way back to the home castle would make me thirst for revenge, stirring me to gather a mighty army and cast down doom upon those cowardly enemies who would commit such a treacherous act, never resting until I had slaked my thirst with the taste of my enemies’ blood. Or something like that anyway. Without the slaking.
However, the best bit about The Settlers was the two-player mode. Perhaps uniquely for an RTS game, you could play split-screen head-to-head, although of course this carries the obvious disadvantage that your opponent can see exactly what you’re up to. Still, having the option to play on one computer was a nice touch, although it was definitely worth the extra effort to link two Amigas together for full-screen play.
Ah, those were the days! Alex from round the corner would lug his Amiga over to mine and I’d struggle downstairs with the spare bedroom telly so we could play Settlers head to head. We’d sit there in a state of rapt concentration, the only sound the frantic clicking of mouse buttons as we sought to strengthen and expand our settlers’ empires. Mum would occasionally pop her head round the door to check we hadn’t died of an embolism, usually bringing with her a plate of Penguins, Viscounts or, if we were particularly lucky, raisin Clubs. Ah, Club bars! Whatever happened to them? “If you like a lotta chocolate on your biscuit…” [Coughs] Hold on, I’ve come over all nostalgia TV clip show… just give me a second here.
Right, I’m back. OK, so the thing about playing against Alex was that after a while the heartbreaking intensity of burning down each others’ buildings just got too much. I don’t know, perhaps we were both too young to face up to the horrors of war, but in the end we decided to make a truce, of sorts. I mean, after the 100th border-realignment-triggered bakery conflagration there comes a point when you just have to say: “Enough! Do you not care about the little people? Let’s stop this senseless waste! Hey guys, why can’t we all just work together to build a better world?”
And so rather than fight against each other to dominate the whole world map, we decided to limit our sessions to a time limit and decide who won by comparing the stats for land gained, wealth, corn production, wood production, and so on. OK, reading that back it sounds incredibly – for want of a better word – lame, but it certainly kept us happy. And if you’d only seen all those tiny helpless people fleeing from burning buildings, I think you’d agree with me that it was A BETTER WAY.
[Looks up to heaven as God rays filter through the ceiling, accompanied by angelic singing.]
(Screenshots from http://www.lemonamiga.com/)