- Or “10 Days Of Grinding And I Still Didn’t Defeat Chuck”
Being a massive fan of the Settlers games, jumping into the closed beta of The Settlers Online was something that I just had to do. I just wish that someone had warned me before I got going that this game was going to chew away at my time to such an extent that it became the first thing I looked at every morning and the last thing every night – and this has been going on for over a month now.
The concept is straight forward and will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has indulged in some Settlers action in the past. The player has to create a settlement on a large island that is split into nine sectors. With control of the first sector, the player begins to construct buildings to provide the resources to build more buildings and, a bit further down the line, a variety of troop types with which to battle the accursed Bandits that control the other sectors.
Build a wood cutter and they start supplying the player with logs. Build a Mason and they will start receiving stone from any stone deposits that the players’ geologist may have found. Need more settlers? Build a house. Before long, the player will be responsible for an impressive collection of buildings and the manufacturing lines of which they are part.
As seems to be the current trend at the moment, especially amongst browser-based games, The Settlers Online keeps on running even when the player is not logged in. This means that whilst the player sleeps, their Settlers will continue to gather wood, collect stone, make swords or whatever unless told otherwise. “That’s great” I hear you cry, “that means I can log in and do a few bits then go off and do something else”. You’d think so, wouldn’t you…
Leveling through the first 16 or 17 levels is fairly easy as they represent the tutorial levels and can be pretty much completed in a day. After that, things slow down by a fair chunk. The only way to level up, aside from adventures which won’t be available until later, is to defeat Bandits and take control of the remaining sectors – A task which requires an awful lot of resources.
As an example, let me talk about Chuck. He is the boss bandit of the eighth sector and has proven to be the most difficult so far. In defeating the other Bandit camps on my route to him, I had pretty much lost all of my troops, so would have to start from scratch. I only had two Generals, each of which could command 200 troops, so I would need 400 settlers to start with in order to make enough troops. Despite having enough residences to house 400 new settlers, I would stuill have to wait for them to be created, which happens at a rate of one every 15 minutes. So that’s one hundred hours I would need to wait, which gave me time to work on the other resources that I needed.
Bronze swords for recruits, iron swords for militia, longbows for longbowmen and horses for cavalry. This is what I would need in various sums. The bronze swords are not really a problem as they can be created quite quickly, three bronze swords every seven or so minutes once the weaponsmith has been upgraded to level three. As I had three of these buildings and a solid bronze production line, I could manufacture all I needed in a day or so. Iron swords and longbows would take a bit longer as they require more resources and are manufactured more slowly. They are also more difficult to upgrade as they require gold, which is the most difficult resource to come by in the game, even after being able to build gold mines.
But it is the cavalry which are the most time consuming. The problem lies in the fact that they are both very slow and that they require a resource that is needed by two other processes – Wheat. A level two stable will create two horses every seven minutes or so, depending on how far away from a storehouse the stables are. But each cavalry unit requires 40 horses and I needed 120 cavalry. That would take a massive 280 hours, but thankfully I have two level two stables, which cuts it down to 140 hours. Still a large amount of time, but a bit more palatable.
The problem is that in making horses, which require Wheat, I am unable to make any beer, which is another resource needed in the creation of any troop type. Recruits and Militia require 10 beer for each unit, Longbowmen require 20 and Cavalry require 30. Although beer production is quite quick, that is still a few more days added to my quest to defeat Chuck and gain control of the eighth sector.
So, after more than 10 days of preparation, I was ready to send my two generals to defeat Chuck. And they failed. Don’t get me wrong, they did actually defeat Chuck himself, but a few of his lackeys remained and prevented me from taking control of the sector. I would have to wait another four hours for one of my generals to recover and another hour or so to make enough recruits to take out these lackeys and finally reap the rewards of my hard work.
“So it took you 10 days to defeat Chuck. It’s not like you had to sit and watch the screen for those 10 days, is it?”. True, I didn’t have to. But there is something incredibly compulsive about The Settlers Online that makes you keep watching. The game is running in the browser from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, and the temptation to keep on checking up just in case one of your resources has run out, or to make some adjustments to a manufacturing line, is overwhelming. You find yourself staying up for an extra half hour because you know that your explorer will return from his treasure hunt at that point and you can then send him out again without wasting any time. The game creates obsession – or it does in me at least.
People willing to spend some cash on this free to play game can make things a bit easier for themselves, by purchasing resources or buffs that can speed up the various processes. They can even buy building licences and have more buildings to speed things up. The player can also create their own buffs if they have enough fish, meat and wheat. But I have avoided this, playing the game free of charge and suffering silently in the process.
The Settlers Online is a slow game to play, but very compelling and satisfying. If you haven’t had a chance to try the game out yet, it is now in open beta and can be enjoyed by anyone. As the game is still unfinished, there will be plenty of features to come that promise to make this game even better than it already is. Head over to www.thesettlersonline.com and see for yourself.
And for those that want to know – I stopped writing and checked on my Settlers 11 times whilst writing this. But, in all fairness, I am working my way towards fighting Wild Mary – it should be epic.