The Settlers: New Allies

The Settlers: New Allies Review

The Settlers: New Allies Review

need to know

what is it? An RTS/city builder hybrid with the title of a once beloved franchise.
release date February 17, 2023
expect to pay $60/£50
developer Ubisoft Bluebyte
publisher Ubisoft
Reviewed on Core i7 9700K, RTX 2080 TI, 16GB RAM
steam deck not applicable
associate Official Website(opens in a new tab)

Settler’s reason for existence, harking back to the series’ 90s sera days, is about making building cities and armies fun and accessible. In an age where Command & Conquer is as ubiquitous as COD is today, and Age of Empires is a life in itself, it makes sense to see lovable characters in Chocolate Box towns offering alternative options for younger or less experienced strategy players. I’m one of them – gleefully building Roman cities in 1998’s Settlers III, but knowing nothing about supply chains or damage stats. This is the gateway to something harder and more thoughtful.

Unfortunately for The Settlers: New Allies in 2023, once you’ve walked through that door and spent a lot of time on the harder, more thoughtful stuff, there’s really no going back. Thirteen years after the last The Settlers release, Ubisoft Bluebyte, a talented studio with many well-crafted Anno games, can’t seem to find a way to make the cute aesthetics, paper-thin combat mechanics, and city-building all come together. approach together in a modern context.

(Image source: Ubisoft)

I spent a long time lamenting that this game doesn’t have a fast forward button. This is a puzzling omission as the previous Settlers did allow the player to speed up time as much as they wanted, perhaps the intent behind it was to force you to focus on your production chain rather than noticing that your sawmill was out of wood The case is happily velvet for days on end. But if that’s the case, it’s a design that’s gone astray.

Watching everything move at the pace of tectonic plates, rather than paying greater attention to detail, only leads to increased resentment. The production chain from raw resources to units and items should be the best part of this game, the chance to carefully plan the placement of all the beautifully styled buildings, and look mercifully at their role in turning e.g. stone blocks into an engineer’s hammer. Or turn iron ore into iron ingots to make axes for soldiers to use. As you get deeper into the campaign and your settlements become more complex, this is where you can have fun building small groups of efficient buildings and watching people run resources between them in a disciplined manner.

In these moments, when everything works, The Settlers: New Allies makes a convincing impression, and it’s a game newcomers to strategy and city-building will love. Bright colors and a string section in the soundtrack will relax you. When you place dwellings, they’re cobbled together in small terraces with bridges over the roads, making you crave order and even eccentricity in this cynical, chaotic world. It’s wholesome. friendly. easy to read.

(Image source: Ubisoft)

After six hours, however, “easy to read” turns into “frustratingly shallow.” When logistics in your town go awry, the root cause is almost always that the quarry or lumber mill has run out of harvestable stone or wood. One definite solution is to place a quarry or lumber mill near more stones or trees. But, from the moment you realize you’ve run out of iron to the moment the fighters start coming out of your barracks again, several eternities feel like they’ve passed. It’s not a onerous logistical challenge to solve, just a lengthy one.

It would be acceptable if the RTS portion of the game was deep and engaging. But that’s the thing about The Settlers — even in MS-DOS grandeur, all you had to do to achieve military supremacy was recruit a group of warriors and right-click on an enemy tower. So here it is also proven. You can now zoom in on the brawl and watch every ax swing in greater detail, but there’s very little all-out war happening there. Health bar consumption takes little or no account of side angles, unit fatigue, or altitude advantage. The tactical element of combat only affects your army composition – high health, low DPS guardians, high DPS warriors and ranged archers and crossbowmen units – but even then I doubt that simply having an overall numerical advantage is enough’ Tactics’ you need to win most battles.

There’s even worse news on the tech front: it’s not a strong fortress. Latency issues are the worst enemy in multiplayer skirmishes, causing settlers to stand still and refuse to be picked outright. It’s smoother in single player, but I still had loading screen freezes a few times, and only a couple of crashes to the desktop after loading a save.

(Image source: Ubisoft)

There’s no redemption to be found in the campaign’s surprisingly dialogue-filled story, either. You travel between islands in a beautiful tropical archipelago, fending off bandits and searching for stolen treasure and artifacts, but doing so looks a lot like repeatedly building settlements and then tapping the cutscene icon above the base headquarters after reaching certain goals . Like everything else here, the characters and dialogue are innocent and wholesome, like a European chocolate ad dubbed in English, but it’s not enough to invest you in your people’s plight.

A good RTS campaign should present a very specific challenge in each mission, much like the original StarCraft II campaign. You tear up your old script and stroke your jaw on how to deal with new environmental obstacles or resource constraints. Not enough here. The size of the business you manage continues to grow, but getting from one act to the next is nothing new.

However, you can enjoy this game under very specific terms. Every fiber of it seems designed to relax and comfort you, from the paintings and bucolic scenes conjured up by Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine, to the utterly haunting but still peaceful campaign plot arc. For a game where you routinely send large numbers of humans to their doom or slaughter dozens of enemies, it’s surprisingly calm.

(Image source: Ubisoft)

There’s also some value for genre newcomers and younger players. What seems overly simple to one player may be a convenient entry point for another, although the aforementioned technical issues will not differ by experience level.

Maybe I’m just trying so hard to find the positives because it’s so hard to play a game that looks so serious and so eager to make you like it. It felt like getting rid of a clumsy, misbehaving but very cute puppy. Longtime Settlers fans may be better served by the upcoming Pagonia Pioneers, whose developer Envision Entertainment includes the creators of the original Settlers game. But for the novice strategy player who doesn’t want to be tied down by complicated mechanics, or the nostalgic armchair general who just desperately needs to unwind, there’s something here. If you are patient.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.