The devoted fans of Ubisoft's Settlers series of games will soon be given a game that diverges from the previous realms and dimensions of its forerunners. The Settlers: Heritage of Kings will be the fifth installment in the Settlers series. In the past, the previous games had been based on childish cartoon characters that were irrevocably hard to manage. This time around Ubisoft and Blue Byte have decided to ditch the old 2-D sprites that used to populate the games, deciding to go with full 3-D characters and environments. It's a departure from the series that makes it seem like the game is finally starting to grow up.
There will be a host of new features that both old and new fans will come to appreciate. A new aspect in the gameplay will be Heroes. These Heroes will act similarly to the Heroes present in Age of Mythology; however, they will be given their own set of unique skills and benefits. These heroes will be the main characters in the single player story line, and that's where the plot of Heritage of Kings comes in. The main character is a prince from an empire that has been split up by war, and he is now charged with the unification of the seven fragments from the old kingdom. On his way to reunification, he will come across many adventures and enemies, the lead enemy being the terrible Black Knight!
The old interconnected economy and building system has survived from the previous games, but it has been simplified and doesn't require you to micromanage every little detail of the game. This is where some of you may cheer, or boo, depending on the required attention to detail you prefer your games. The development team decided to make this game more user friendly in order to increase its appeal to a wider array of people. This close to release, it looks like they have done a superb job and succeeded in doing that and more. Even though the controls are easier, you won't be short on things to do. You'll be able to speed up time, for example, and the 70 different buildings and 40 different units will allow you to more than satisfy your every god-like whim and desire to micromanage.
From what I've seen, the environment and graphics have really been given a leg up. There are now deer, rabbits, and wolves that roam the woods. Buildings are distinct from one another and have come alive with activity. The environment has also been made more realistic, with changing weather conditions and seasons. This in turn changes other factors in the game, like line of sight for your warriors, or rivers freezing over, which result in greater freedom in troop movement, since they'll be able to cross them. Resources will also change according to the seasons.
When it comes down to it, Heritage of Kings looks like it is a leap in the right direction in comparison to the previous Settlers games. Everything from the environment to the way you control your serfs has been streamlined and made easier for the public at large to embrace and control. Everything I have seen gives me the impression that this game will definably be received by a wider audience than its predecessors, while still appealing to the old fans of the series. Scheduled for release in less than ten days at the time of this preview, it's only a matter of holding our breath and waiting to see how good the game turns out to be. Settlers is set to hit the market on February 1st, 2005.
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