The Settlers: New Allies Review – Boring Shores
Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. It has been soooo long since the last Settlers game that I’m compelled to quote old lady Galadriel. This was THE city-builder series since the late Amiga era; When it surfaced on MS-DOS, it charmed early PC gaming audiences and over the years, became the economic antipode to the Age of Empires’ combat prevalence. A relatively steady stream of The Settlers games abruptly stopped in 2010, never to return. There was an attempt at reinvention with The Settlers: Kingdoms of Anteria in 2014, but the beta feedback was so hostile that Ubisoft scrapped the game. People who got to play it said it definitely lacked The Settlers DNA.
The Settlers: New Allies won’t win over any new allies, either. This feeble attempt to return to the roots while simplifying the economic concepts is disappointing in most respects. The blood of the Numenor has been spent regarding Blue-Byte magic touch. Let me explain why.
Facing the Faceless Enemy
The Settlers: New Allies’ clumsy story about survival and colonialism is set in the fictional tropical archipelago. Leading a merry band of refugees from the medieval coup d’état, you’ll join forces with the peaceful native tribe, fighting bandits and digging up your shared history. The narrative presents itself through short but massively cringey cutscenes full of truly amateurish dialogue. It almost feels like ChatGPT generated script. Even if all the nuances from the game made in Dusseldorf (Germany) were lost in translation for the English-speaking audience, it would not be THIS bad.
For most of the campaign, you’ll be fighting the generic bandits without any character or clout. You only know those are bad because the game tells you so, even if they mostly just chill on their islands you keep landing your forces on. The historical part of the plot about ancient ruins and origins is also laughably generic. It feels like developers walked on eggshells trying to come up with a story that won’t upset absolutely anyone. The result is bland beyond belief and instantly forgettable.
Optimizing Road Network For The Win
Comparing its mechanic with old Settlers titles would be unfair due to age discrepancy, but matching The New Allies against Anno 1800 (2019), the previous Blue Byte title published by Ubisoft, would be entirely sensible. In short, The Settles: New Allies feels like a step down in most respects. Its economic ruleset is simplified to the level of a generic real-time strategy. The economy is, of course, resource-based, but the complex interdependency is dumbed down. For example, food is entirely optional for your colonists. It only boosts certain workshops and mines, helping with the yield, but it’s not essential for growing or maintaining the population. Drinking water doesn’t exist as a concept at all. Even the recently released remastered Pharaoh feels more modern in this regard.
Your typical settlement in The Settlers: New Allies revolves around warehouses. Those act like resource hubs for everything you guys farm, mine, dig up, forge, or fish. The speed of transport of raw and processed goods between resource nodes and warehouses is the measure of economic health. An inefficient road network can easily clog everything down, tying up more workers and slowing down the recruitment of military units. Apart from optimizing the routes, building more warehouses and manually adjusting the stored resources in each one, you can pave roads with stone and set up the chain for producing donkey carts for the significant speed up.
Power Is The People
People are the ultimate but infinite resource. The influx of fresh settlers is limited only to available living space, which is easily fixable by mass building cheap dwellings. And since settlers require no food or any other kind of maintenance, you can grow your colony essentially for free. Basic settlers only carry goods around but can be upgraded to engineers or soldiers. Engineers build stuff and (slowly) move the boundaries of your settlement, preventing the super-fast expansion that would simplify everything to the point of absurdity.
Establishing the metalworking chain and building the training ground enables you to raise basic melee and ranged troops. This process is very slow unless you stack up weapons beforehand. Specialized troops, such as healers, require rare stuff you may lack resource nodes for, but that can be easily remedied by trading. As for everything else in this game, building the big army takes time. Or wastes time, rather. The Settlers: New Allies would massively benefit from the game speed slider. An average campaign mission can easily last two or more hours.
The Zing Is Not Here
Combat is frequent but the principles of warfare are basic. There aren’t any nuances or finesses such as formations, and usual tactics revolve around frontal attacks with massed troops. Healers heal automatically, and manual abilities aren’t really needed if you purchased a few sensible troop upgrades. In most missions, bandits are completely passive or at least entirely predictable. They either sit in their villages, waiting to be destroyed, or they send exact waves of troops in regular intervals.
The Settlers: New Allies is a game totally devoid of any challenge, save for the need for patience. It’s simple, slow, and overly generic as if the devs had absolute beginners as the target audience. It also feels somewhat rushed and “cheaper” than The Settlers games of old. I still distinctly remember the beautiful visual design of Settlers III. I’m sure I’ll forget about New Allies’ visual fidelity the moment I finish this article. The “zing” just isn’t there.
- Suitable for absolute beginners.
- Multiplayer can be fun with the right opponent.
- Simplified to the point of absurdity.
- Generic story full of horrible dialogue and bad acting.
- Lack of a speed-up slider makes later missions a pure slog.