The Settlers Online (The Settlers Online: Castle Empire) is a free to play browser based strategy game that utilises familiar mechanics from the core Settlers franchise. The result is a mixture of popular modern strategy games and the MMO strategy genre. The Settlers Online offers an accessible challenge which features a familiar gameplay loop of building a sprawling city, raiding bandits, achieving objectives and in time gaining levels that unlock additional content to expand your strategy options.
The game manages to somehow stay true to the roots of other Settlers games while moving into a freemium browser game which is definitely no easy task considering the huge number of poor quality games in this genre. Players of the original Settlers games will find many familiar elements as well which ensures you can reminisce as they collect the necessary resources to expand beyond their town hall. Players of other online strategy variants will recognise the gameplay formula pretty quickly which has players building up their city and going off to battle while gaining experience and unlocking new technology to defeat the next opponent that is always right around the corner.
Starting on your own island full of natural resources players will embark on the tutorial that introduces the necessary basics. Starting with the construction of a Pine Wood Cutter which when placed nearby the pine forest resource offers an efficient wood acquisition method. This is just one of the core resources though with Hardwood also available alongside a range of rocks, metals and foods that have their own uses and associated mechanics. A recurring theme is utilising a proximity bonus for the initial resource production buildings and processing buildings that requires careful town planning and the use of roads. These resource and planning mechanics alone elevates Settlers Online beyond most free to play strategy titles.
With resources in your applicable storage structure you’ll invest them in several building tiers that range from basic, intermediate, advanced, expert, elite and epic which require increasing resources to construct but provide new opportunities. Be it larger wheat fields for better production, the ability to smelt higher tiers of metal or progress from the humble bow to crossbow or cannon for your army. With a different military unit for each of these weapon types and statistics combat has plenty of choice as you form an army to fight in the wave based fighting rounds.
Settlers Online does a great job of making this endless cycle enjoyable with lots of different options and plenty to manage along the way adopting the Rome wasn’t built in a day mantra. This is primarily delivered through the quest and adventure mechanic that give you incremental progression and give you a clear objective to strive for. Some of these are also co-operative which along with the large community of players allows you to join forces or become guildmates.
While graphics definitely don’t make a strategy game the art style in The Settlers Online also stands up to critique and shows just how far browser games have come. This style has a nice hand drawn feeling to it with plenty of impressive textures for landscape environments, buildings and units. Most importantly a huge amount of the gameplay is fully animated so you can watch as your little villagers walk from place to place that adds a lot to your overall game experience.
- Captures the essence of the Settlers series while bringing it into the free to play strategy genre.
- Gather resources, build up your city and attack bandits as you grow through quests and adventures.
- A focus on town planning and resource proximity to maximise your resource generation.
- Impressive visual designs which includes a range of animations to make for a realistic settlement.
- Friendly community with plenty of chances for social interaction and co-operative challenges.
Review Platform: Browser