While Age of Empires IV has revitalized the real-time strategy genre, a cult series is preparing to make a comeback early this year. The Settlers: New Allies is scheduled for release on February 17th on PC, an extremely detailed RTS developed by Ubisoft Düsseldorf that we were able to test in advance.
We were invited to play for 4 hours on PC via Parsec at The Settlers: New Allies, guided by the development team of the game (Ubisoft Düsseldorf, formerly known as Blue Byte). We were able to discover 3 chapters of the solo campaign, namely the two introduction quests, and a more distant and challenging mission in the game, as well as the hardcore mode. After that, we were also able to speak briefly with Christian Hagedorn, the game’s creative director.
3 Factions to start with, and good content
Like any good real-time strategy game, The Settlers: New Allies places the player facing a choice between three tribes: The Elaris, the Marus, or the Jorns. The goal to win a game is to destroy the opponent’s warehouse(s) while protecting one’s own. In this sense, the player must expand their territory through their engineers, produce resources to build buildings and accelerate their expansion, develop their trade, and finally build an army to defeat the enemy.
The number of resource types is enormous, the strategic possibilities are dense, and it will take some time for novices to get the hang of it. Each faction has its own characteristics, with the Elaris being farmers and builders who can build houses, farms, mills or cheaper bakeries, the Marus being more connected to nature and more advantaged in building ports or mines, while the Jorn embrace warrior culture and are more comfortable in developing fighters.
And this faction choice is only possible in skirmish mode, a lobby where you can either challenge the AI in a duel or an opponent in multiplayer. The 13-mission campaign places the player in specific situations according to the scenario, while skirmish and hardcore modes will be divided into 13 unique maps (not randomly generated biomes), a number that is quite low and perhaps the only drawback of this preview but which has considerably increased during the game’s development. Note that in hardcore mode, if it’s too difficult to play solo, a friend can join to complete the game more easily, a feature that was not tested during our game session.
The art of city-building, and attention to detail
Fans of Age of Empires, the iconic medieval (or mythological) RTS saga of the early 2000s, won’t find anything particularly original in this formula. However, The Settlers has several unique features that set it apart.
Firstly, the need to expand one’s territory and therefore send engineers to carry out the risky work of increasing the surface area that can be used to build one or more bases. Secondly, the need to connect everything via roads to the warehouses and make choices within the restricted space of the hexagonal map when placing buildings, creating an urban architect’s spirit.
But what stands out the most is the quantity and quality of the details that Ubisoft has put into building its empire and preparing its armies. Some houses placed side by side become neighborhoods, even when a road separates them, demonstrating that Ubi Düsseldorf has not neglected the “city-build” aspect of the game, which was seen in last year’s beta. The most striking feature is the level of detail in the construction of buildings or the production of units.
For example, zooming in on a guild hall, you can see the colonist precisely training to become a soldier, and when you want to boost the production of a sawmill with fish, you can see a character bringing food, and the workers getting galvanized, etc. This attention to detail is a hallmark of the game, which makes the development studio very proud and clearly impressed us, in addition to the beautiful graphics in terms of scenery, biomes, and constructible elements.
The reboot of a promising RTS and the rebirth of a forgotten series
After four hours of gameplay that flew by, and the discovery of the campaign launch, The Settlers: New Allies shows that its particularities are likely to find it a good community looking for an alternative to Age of Empires.
This is a reminder of the 3rd and 4th episodes of the license released in 1998 and 2001, which were overshadowed by Microsoft’s saga at the time. Now, it remains to be seen how the online battles will fare in terms of pace and balance between the types of factions.
While the cartoonish cutscenes scattered throughout the solo campaign may not appeal to everyone, with their dialogues and visual rendering of the characters, they show that the studio has made efforts in this area as well.
The storyline allows for a good understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each tribe and is a perfect extension of the tutorial before diving into skirmishes, multiplayer, and the hardcore mode. This is a path to take in the face of the difficulty, which was well-calibrated in our first hands-on experience, especially since opponents cannot attack us outright thanks to the neutral tribe camps placed around the map.
This is one of the reasons for the long development by the German studio of Ubisoft, and it is a justified wait, especially considering that this is where the problem lies in the real-time strategy game genre. We look forward to learning more about the universe and its depth on February 17th on PC.
Ubisoft Düsseldorf took its time to mature the reboot of the cult saga The Settlers with New Allies. A pioneer in the genre, but long overshadowed by the Age of Empires series, it will undoubtedly regain momentum if the beautiful things glimpsed in this gameplay session are confirmed.
Once the construction mechanics, character allocation, and differences between the 3 factions are assimilated, everyone will enjoy challenging opponents for many hours and building an empire animated down to the smallest detail.