Komoda & Amiga plus
Commodore computers users’ magazine

The Settlers – the praise of medieval life

This article was published in issue 13 of Komoda & Amiga Plus.

Beyond the seven mountains, beyond the seven forests, lived king Radoslav with his beloved, queen Sabina. They had two sons, older Thomas, and younger David. One day, king Radoslav summoned David and sat with him, between the rose bushes within the royal garden. In his hand was a rolled up map.
– Son – said the king – my time will soon come. With accordance to our tradition, your brother Thomas will succeed me and take the kingdom as his own. But I wish for you, too, to become a king. You will travel west, beyond the ocean, reaching virgin lands untouched by men – there, you will settle your own kingdom. You will receive men and everything you might need. Yours will be a self-sufficient kingdom, for your resources will quickly dwindle. Lead your people to greatness and your legacy will be great. Be wise and just in your judgments. Long ago I, too, stood where you stand; I received this map from my father, but my older brother, destined to be the successor, fell ill and my expedition was no more. Today, I give this map to you.
Prince David looked upon his father and understood a new chapter just opened in his life. The prince’s ships started the voyage the next morning, in search of new lands. Weeks passed before a mysterious land was finally seen upon the horizon, and Prince David sighed with relief – content that he found the way. The expedition settled. Prince David with princess Elizabeth took towards the valley on horseback, a valley at the feet of a great mountain range. Upon arrival, they stood within the plains, lakes sparkling between the trees, a dense forest rustled in the distance.
– Here – said the prince – we shall build our castle; this shall be the heart of our kingdom.
With haste, a palace was erected, not at all a war ready, a citadel meant to ward off threats and wall off its populace. A few days passed. Prince David decided to raise buildings on his new land, expressing to his advisors what he wished to be done: – That forest is where we’ll get our lumber; rally the lumberjacks and prepare the lumber mills. We’ll need to replenish the trees; make the foresters plant new ones for posterity. Store the planks in a warehouse between the forest and the castle. Send the prospectors to the mountains, we’ll need the coal and maybe we’ll find ores, too.
The advisors brought the prince’s proposals to life. The sounds of hammers and saws filled the small kingdom, wooden structures quickly reaching for the skies. Mines and warehouses were built. Paths became roads, used to store excess materials in the castle. Coal, iron and even gold were discovered in the mountains.
Soon, however, a problem arose: food shortage within the kingdom. David released an edict, to build fishing huts by the seaside and on the lakes. Shipyards were soon built, providing boats for fishermen. But that wasn’t enough, as the population grew rapidly. Then the prince asked for farms to be built, so pigs could be raised and wheat and corn could be grown. And so, soon the kingdom was filled with farms, windmills, bakeries, tool forges, blacksmith workshops, and jewelers. Once again, the kingdom blossomed.
Prince David married princess Elizabeth earning his crown, becoming a king of his own land. But like all good things, so did this time of plenty came to an end. One day, on the hills beyond the forest, an unknown explorer was spotted. An alarm was raised and the king was notified. David understood that he must now focus on the protection of his people. He ordered to build garrisons by the castle, have watch posts by the warehouses and guard towers by the borders.
Beyond the forest was a new, unknown kingdom, one growing rapidly towards David’s lands. A conflict arose. Although David successfully defended his lands, he knew he couldn’t solve the conflict with defense alone. Ordering increased production of armaments, he prepared for a counterattack. Alas, the soldiers preferred food to fight, unless they were paid for their service with gold. Reluctantly, the king agreed and paid the soldiers their due to ensure prosperity and peace within his land once more. Recruitment and training took off right away. Soon, an army, under the banners of King David, stood at the border of the enemy kingdom. The first guard tower fell, then the next, and another one after. The enemy lost much. Weakened by superior forces, the enemy king hid uselessly within his castle, where he died under the siege of David’s forces. The hostile king was no more. David’s kingdom once again knew peace and grew within the new lands and with the populace. Prosperous years passed; the royal pair had two sons and lived happily ever after.

Upon launching The Settlers we’ll see a beautiful, hand-drawn intro (we don’t have to watch it every time, we can skip it by launching floppy disc #3 directly). The game welcomes us with a pleasant ambiance and music setting up a friendly atmosphere to follow. First, we chose the game mode:
Missions – campaign made up of thirty maps,
Tutorial – six prepared maps,
Skirmish – best choice to learn the game by far; we choose if we want to play against enemies (and how many, maximum of three), or without enemies, as well as the starting resource allocation,
Multiplayer – two-player option, also including enemies and resources choice,
Demo – computer plays alone.

In each mission, the goal is the same: defeat the enemies and dominate the world map. After choosing the game mode, we move onto the gameplay. The next step is finding a spot to settle. It’s an important choice since that’s where we begin our adventure and it’s crucial to have easy access to as many resources as possible: trees (for lumber), mountains (to mine coal, granite, iron ore, and gold) and water (for fishing). Starting the first buildings quickly follows; choices are numerous, as long as your warehouses are stocked up with all the necessary resources. Control over the populace isn’t direct – you pick a spot for a building and connect it with roads to the central castle, which allows workers to complete the construction.

Building the road goes as follows: the player plants a flag, then picks one of several options to direct which way the road will be continued from that point. To maximize and streamline resource distribution, the player must place as many flags on the road as he can. They function as resource rallying points of sorts and can be placed within a specific distance of one another; a settler will grab resources, walk and drop them off at the next flag in sequence, where the next settler will pick them up and move them to the next one. This frees up the first settler to return and pick up more items at the previous flag.

Therefore, the more flags a player owns, the more settlers will help, reducing transport times and congestion at hotspots. If there’s more than one item placed at a flag, the game prioritizes their importance, which affects the order in which they’re transported. Waterways can also be built on small water reservoirs like lakes, but settlers need boats to operate those.

When a building is complete, a settler will automatically take residence within and pick up a relevant job. The lodge will be inhabited by a forester, planting new trees. Lumberjack’s house will allow a settler to chop these trees down and make them into logs, which the settler at the lumber mill will turn into planks. Each time a resource is required anywhere specific, settlers will transport the items from storage towards the place where it’s needed and soon, close placement of related buildings becomes paramount, since the game plays in real time and a well-designed kingdom will operate smoothly. It’s well worth to place the grain mill near the farm, to ensure quick processing of grain into flour, which in turn needs to be brought to a bakery, for all your bread needs. Another example is a pig farm near a butcher, all of which provides precious food for our populace. The aforementioned forester, lumberjack, and lumber mill worker are also an important combination to keep relatively close. Prospectors, in turn, are sent to the mountains, where they search for valuable resources we can build mines on top of and exploit – a step necessary for further progress.
There are more than twenty different buildings, each with their own specific role and requirements for proper functioning. You can build as many of them as you wish, but be mindful of resource management. It’s a good idea to build at a slower pace since resources are quite precious and one could easily stunt or even halt the expansion when they run out. Careful planning is of utmost importance. The game takes time. It’s not a five-minutes of fun type game. Each level can take many hours (saving often on a separate floppy is a good idea here). Observing the population going through their daily routine, moving plank after plank is very relaxing and accompanied by pleasant ambiance related to the task at hand, such as the sound of a hammering during construction.

The population grows relative to the number of buildings available in the kingdom. A500 could support a maximum of eight thousand settlers, A600 over twice that many, while A1200 with expanded memory – up to 64 thousand in total across all four kingdoms. The strategic significance of the game encompasses the buildings’ relation to one another – everything works, brings profit, increase in production and resources, but run out of wood and suddenly construction pauses. Not enough food? Your population will slow down or reduce goods production. Shortage of iron ore or coal will halt the smeltery which in turn leads to a lack of tools for your armorsmith and – you guessed it – shortage of armors. It’s all a self-balancing act, described by a series of indicators and charts used to determine supply and demand and any bottlenecks within your kingdom’s infrastructure.

Graphics are amazing, each building designed and animated with fidelity and care. Sound effects accompany each building you’re focusing on. Select the blacksmith and you’ll hear the beating of an anvil. Lumber mill reverberates with sawing wood. Pig farm? Oinking. Lumberjack working? You can hear chopping thuds, falling trees, and log processing. Everything’s animated and has its own sound, which makes you want to follow all of your workers’ progress, immersing you within your kingdom, surrounded by medieval melodies that never grow old or irritating. The overall atmosphere of the game is phenomenal and astounding.

Sooner or later the time comes, when you have to expand your territory, to support new construction. For that purpose, you must place guard houses at your borders which, as soon as they’re manned by a soldier, will extend the reach of your kingdom. If the soldier is missing, the building will be useless. As your knights go through training and are paid their due, they gain experience and combat proficiency. Then, when they’re strong enough, you can send them to battle, which occurs upon choosing an enemy guard house or stronghold and deciding how many units you wish to send to attack. The soldiers are honorable and duke it out in duels, one on one; it doesn’t matter that the enemy has one knight and you have ten swordsmen, numbers don’t matter and individual fighting happens one-on-one. You win the battle if you beat all enemy units within certain border dwelling. After taking it over, enemy buildings are set ablaze and their populace flees the scene. After taking over all enemy guard dwellings on the way, we can finally assault the enemy castle and seal our victory.

The Settlers is an economic real-time strategy, made by Volker Wertich and released on Amiga in June 1993 by Blue Byte Software, later Ubisoft (which took over Blue Byte). In Germany, the game was titled Die Siedler, in the USA – Serf City: Life is Feudal, but failed to gain much attention on that market.

The Settlers gained a critical reputation among the world- wide press (with the exception of USA ‘PC Gamer’ rating the game as slightly above average). It was praised for its administrative complexity and interconnectedness, beautiful graphics, animations, and sounds. In 1994, the game received the Amiga Joker award for ‘The Best Game’ and ‘The Best Strategy Game’, ‘Reader’s Choice Awards’, ‘Gamer Gold’ from Amiga Computing, ‘Amiga Format Gold’ from Amiga Format and ‘Amiga Screen Star’ from CU Amiga.
The game was also a commercial success. By May 1998, around half a million copies sold worldwide (far more than Blue Byte expected), which led to the continuation of The Settlers series.

Originally the game was developed purely for Amiga, but after a year it was ported to PC. Both titles differed visually – Amiga used Amiga Halfbrite mode (a screen memory interpreting method, allowing one to bypass the color palette hardware limitations through the use of halving the brightness of individual color components), while the PC version was restricted to 8-bit color depth. Amiga version took two years of intense development. According to Stefan Piasecki, manager of the project, before any graphic design was undertaken, Volker Wertich worked on the program for the first year, writing 70,000 lines of raw code. In September 2018, Ubisoft released the original game under the title ‘The Settlers: History Edition’, based on the Amiga version and released it for Windows 10. The title offers game pace setting, resolution settings, options for mice, keyboard and controller, assigning keys for keyboards and controller and split screen support which allows for any combination of keyboard, mouse and controller inputs.

The Settlers for Amiga was a true work of art that took its rightful place in history, as a legend! Those of you who never had the chance to play it should do so right away – play a round and catch up on this gem. We, Amiga players, can be proud to hold this title within our collections.

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