Going Retro with The Settlers

A while back I bought some of the old The Settlers games off of GOG. Tonight I finally tried to play them. Settlers 3 had some challenges under Windows 11 but the GOG community had sorted them out and I got up and running without too much bother, but this one might be a bit TOO retro for me. At first I was running it at 640×480 because I forgot that back in the day there was a separate .exe file you’d run to access things like resolution!

So I went from this:

The Settlers 3 running at 640×480

To this:

The Settlers 3 at 1024×768

Definitely an improvement. I couldn’t figure a way to run it in Windowed mode though, and it didn’t much like being Alt-Tabbed out of. There’s also, as far as I could tell, no way to zoom in/out and it just felt like a lot of the UI was going to take a bit too much brain-rewiring.

I decided to move forward a few years and try The Settlers IV which runs at a glorious 1280×1024! Which, OK, doesn’t look that much better in a blog post but when actually playing it felt a lot easier on the eyes.

The Settlers IV at 1280×1024

It also has a much nicer UI, mouse wheel support to zoom in & out (the header image is of my baker, zoomed pretty much all the way in), and most importantly a time skip button. Neither game lets you adjust game speed as far as I can tell, but Settlers 4 skips head some amount of time (10-15 seconds, maybe?) when you tap the F12 button.

I also have The Settlers: Heritage of Kings, which is effectively Settlers V, but I haven’t installed that one yet. (I bought them all as a bundle for a bit less than $6 US.)

I’m not usually a retro gamer but I guess I’ve just been feeling nostalgic for the old days when I was all about the strategy. Not sure how far I’ll go with any of this but just installing them and booting them up and watching the low-res intro videos and stuff has been oddly enjoyable. For $6 I feel like I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

First Look: Eador: Genesis

Eador Logo

For the past two evenings I’ve been wallowing in strategy game nostalgia with Eador: Genesis. This is an older game, originally published in 2009 by Ukrainian developers Snowbird Studios. An English translated version hit GOG.com last week at a bargain price of $6.00.

If you have fond memories of Master of Magic, Warlords, or Lords of Magic then you are going to love Eador: Genesis. It’s got everything you can ask for: the city building and resource management of a 4X game, the leveling of an RPG and turn-based tactical battles of a classic strategy title.

The premise is that the universe of Eador is busted up into many tiny shards, and your goal is to create order in the universe by conquering each of these shards. Essentially each shard is a level/map/mission in the Campaign, but each one also unlocks certain buildings so there’s kind of a meta-game of deciding which order to conquer them in.

Once you decide on a shard to attack (and your first one is pre-determined) you move to a map of that shard where you get a citadel from which you can hire one or more heroes. Eventually you’ll hire troops to travel with these heroes, buy gear for the heroes, teach them spells and finally send them off to battle. Before you do that, though, you’re going to have to build the shops, temples and training grounds that can produce all these resources (this is where the buildings come in…you need to unlock buildings by conquering shards to get advanced units and gear).

The map is hex based and every hex is occupied, so every time you move you’ll have to either fight or negotiate with the occupiers of that hex. IF you fight and conquer the hex you’re going to have an unhappy populace on your hands. You can buy guards to help keep the peace, or erect buildings that make the local populace happier.
Lairs full of monster? Yes please!
In lieu of moving to an occupied hex you can opt to explore one you already occupy. Doing so will often uncover lairs full of monsters and treasure; good both for filling your coffers and leveling up your heroes and troops.

When it comes time to do battle you’ll move to a tactical, hex-based battle map with varied terrain that impacts attack and defense strength as well as movement costs . You place your troops and then participate in a turn-based battle. Generally (for me so far at least) your hero will be much more powerful than your troops and a big challenge can be letting the troops get experience by fighting, but not getting them killed. Dead troops are gone forever; a hero can eventually be resurrected.

After a battle both your troops and your hero may level up. If they do you get to choose from a pair of perks for that unit. Often these are as simple as +1 attack vs +1 defense, but sometimes they’re offered skills as well. Additionally a troop unit that performs exceptionally well will be offered a medal that gives them a stat bonus.
And that’s the basic gist of the game. For every Shard there’s a Big Bad that you have to defeat in order to claim that shard. If you’ve never played this kind of strategy game it can be a bit daunting but if you have, you’ll slide right into Eador like a comfortable old shoe.

But speaking of old, the graphics of the game are quite dated and the game runs at basically 1 resolution (1024×768). You can run it full screen but on most modern monitors it’s going to be terribly stretched out if you do so. [Tip: The GOG installer creates two shortcuts, one to run in Windowed mode and one to run full screen; there are no settings in the Options menu for this.]

It’s also worth noting that this game is difficult, even on the easiest setting. At least I’m finding this to be the case. As I said, I’ve only been playing for two evenings but I lost the battle for my second shard and was thrown back into The Void. I can attack again but my funds are seriously depleted and that’s going to make my next attempt even more challenging. I may need to re-start the campaign; we’ll see. (There is no manual Save feature so I can’t just go back to before I attacked Shard #2 and try a different tactic.)

For $6, I don’t think you can go wrong if you’re a strategy gamer (unless you just can’t deal with the old-school graphics). Eador:Genesis has that “1 more turn” compulsion that can keep you up well past your bedtime.

Eador did well enough for the studio that they’re working on a 3D sequel, Eador; Masters of the Broken World. It’s currently in Steam’s Greenlight section and I hope you’ll give it a thumbs up. Based on what I’ve played of the original game, I’m really excited to see how the modern sequel comes out!

[Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of Eador: Genesis.]

What happened to PC gaming?

This is one of those “Git offa my lawn!” old codger posts. Be warned!

We’re moving soon. And so this weekend I was packing things, which meant digging through the closet. And in doing so I found a cache of old PC games. At some point I’d taken them out of their boxes and put them in 3-ring binders complete with their fat manuals. Before I shoved these binders in a cardboard box I flipped through them and wow, did that bring back some memories.

And it also led me to feeling a bit glum about the state of PC gaming today. Setting aside the Indie movement (and thank god for them) today’s ‘AAA’ PC games all seem kind of the same to me.

See if any of you old codgers remember these titles (in no particular order):

Myth: The Fallen Lords (Bungie)
Over the Reich (whatever happened to Avalon Hill?)
Talonsoft’s Battleground series (Napoleon in Russia, Bull Run, Antietam, Prelude to Waterloo, etc)
Steel Beasts
Horse & Musket
The Thief series
Vampire The Masquerade
101st: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy
Imperium Galactica
Grim Fandango
European Air War
Interactive Magic’s games (Great Battles of Ceasar, Seven Kingdoms, Capitalism)
MissionForce Cyberstorm

None of these are ‘action games’ or ‘shooters’ (though a couple are simulations). OK maybe you could call the Thief series an action game…

But basically strategy games seem to have disappeared, unless you look at ‘fringe’ developers/publishers like Paradox. And bless Paradox for keeping the genre alive but their titles aren’t always the most polished games you can find.

Still, this weekend I started playing their Warlock – Master of the Arcane. It was intended as a ‘light’ diversion to mix in with packing. I didn’t want to play any MMOs because I was afraid of getting too hooked and spending too much time.

Well that didn’t work out so well. It seems turn-based strategy games are my true addiction. I don’t love Warlock.. I have a lot of gripes with it. But I couldn’t stop playing it. Angela suggested I might need an intervention, I was playing it so much. I stayed up so late playing that I got myself sick (well maybe playing with the dog in the pouring rain for a few hours had something to do with that). But yeah, it was opposite weekend with Angela hassling me about playing too much instead of the other way around (I get on her for spending too much time in Everquest 2 fairly often).

I’m often amazed and a little stunned by how much time people I know spend playing MMOs. In fact I find myself “tsking” about it (to myself) …so much time they “waste” in a game. Well now I realize I’m in a glass house; it’s just that MMOs aren’t my addiction. Turn-based strategy games are.

Maybe I should be happy they’re a dying art form.


Just a really quick post before bed. Playing EVE and STO has me thinking a lot about space battles. I’m still looking for a Honor Harrington space combat simulation, y’know?

I just came across Flotilla from BlendoGames, an Indie game dev. I have *not* played the game yet. But based on this video, I’ll definitely be giving the game a try. I know some of my friends out there are also space grognards so I figured I’d better share the link asap. Besides posting about it is the best way to be sure I remember to try it myself! 🙂

Mosby’s Confederacy released

Tilted Mill’s Mosby’s Confederacy has been released on Steam for $20.

Man, it’s killing me that I don’t have the time or money to jump right into it. I really enjoyed Tilted Mill’s Hinterland and am currently really enjoying their browser-based Nile Online. Plus they’re a local developer…hard at work about a 5 minute drive from where I am right now.

Mosby’s Confederacy combines turn-based ‘base building’ with RTS tactical battles. From their website:

As John Singleton Mosby, one of the Civil War’s most interesting and dynamic leaders, you are charged not with leading vast armies into battle, but with commanding small bands of skirmishers, scouts and guerilla fighters on opportunistic missions to scout, ambush, steal supplies and harass a larger and better armed force of Union soldiers, in this game of turn based strategy and real time tactical combat for the PC.

I can’t wait to get a chance to play! If anyone does before I do, please share your thoughts.

Nile Online

And now for something completely different…

Tilted Mill, the folks who made the rather enjoyable Hinterland that I’ve previously posted about, have a broswer-based city-building game now in beta, Nile Online.

I’ve been playing it for a week or so now. At first I thought it was really interesting. Then I got kind of bored with it since it seemed to lack depth. And then I realized there was more depth than I at first saw, so now I’m finding it really interesting again.

The basic idea of the game will be pretty familiar to strategy gamers. You start with a small settlement and need to feed your people and grow your empire via resource management. Every starting plot, as best I can figure, has wheat, clay and reed resources. Also each plot has a 4th resource that varies from area to area. I started with Kohl, used in cosmetics. Huh?

Each city has a finite number of building plots. You’ll erect bakeries, brickworks, basket shops, pottery shops, etc. Then you assign your labor pool to either gathering a resource or working in a shop. There are more products than there are building plots, so you’re not going to be able to make everything you need. Building a Market gives you access to goods that other players are selling. Curiously, the currency of the world is bread, which is also the way you feed your people. Buildings and resource plots can be continually upgraded to become more productive.

Nile Online runs in real time and is kind of low-impact gaming. As an example (I’m writing this on my lunch hour) I started upgrading my Market at the start of the hour, but its going to take about 2 hours for that upgrade to happen. So I’ll check in when I get home tonight, perhaps. Early on, level 1 buildings go up pretty quick… 10 minutes or so. Also low level buildings require pretty basic resources, so they’re easy to get going.

Soon enough things become more complicated. My next palace upgrade (which will give me a larger labor pool) is going to require Bricks, Baskets, Perfume, Pottery, and Jewelry (and 3 hours, 40 minutes of time). I can make the Bricks & Baskets, but I’ll need to buy the other items from the Market. I can grow a lot of wheat and bake a lot of bread to buy them, and I’m doing that, but I’ve also been trying to sell some extra pottery. I have a Cosmetics shop to turn my Kohl into Cosmetics, but I also need Henna, which I can’t produce, so I have to buy that. Hopefully I’ll be able to sell Cosmetics for enough to cover the costs of the Henna and still make a profit. Cosmetics are required to found additional cities, and if someone is rich enough to do that, I figure they can pay me well for my goods.

As far as I can tell, there is no player vs player combat in the game, but you can produce troops. Outside my city are “Monument plots occupied by raiders” and I assume these are what troops are for? Documentation for the game is sparse, to put it nicely (but again, this is beta) so I’m learning by doing, and I don’t have the resources (Bronze and Leather) to produce anything from my Spearmen building.

So, still a lot of questions, and ultimately it might not hold my interest. After the initial building process there’s kind of a dead spot where you’re just waiting to have enough bricks and bread to build a new building. But things get more interesting when you start playing the market and needing resources that you can’t product on your own.

It seems like anyone can join the beta. You do have to apply but getting in is really quick. If, like me, you have a lunch hour to fill every day, this is an interesting way to use up a bit of it. And I do find myself checking in before and after work. I’m looking forward to seeing what else the game holds as I grow my city.

A Brief Sidetrip to the Hinterlands

No, I’m not talking WoW here… 🙂

I’m talking about the new strategy/rpg game from Tilted Mill Entertainment, Hinterland. It came out today, on Steam, for $20. I decided to check it out, partly because I enjoy both strategy and RPGs, but mostly because Tilted Mill’s offices are local, and I gotta support the local game devs, right? Plus, these guys are descended from Impressions, a company whose games I enjoyed for many a year. Anyway…

This is in no way a “review” of the game! I’ve played it for a couple of hours; not even remotely enough time to base a review on. This is just a brief description and some early thoughts.

Worst news first: the game freezes on me, and fairly often. If I’m patient enough, it’ll recover, but it can sit frozen for literally two minutes. Like, check the clock when it freezes, check it again when it starts moving again, and ~120 seconds have passed. Let’s hope for a patch for this soon.

The game is a hybrid, one part hack & slash RPG, one part “city building” sim. You start with a patch of land that is your “town” and a single house. Folks of various professions come to visit: farmers, merchants, craftsmen, etc. You can offer to build them a home, and if you do, they’ll stick around and start doing whatever they do (produce food, goods, money, or whatever). As is typical in this kind of game, you need to make sure everyone is fed, and you can spend gold to upgrade shops. Eventually you can set folks to doing research rather than manufacturing. Some folks won’t be willing to stay unless your town meets certain prerequisites.
Continue reading “A Brief Sidetrip to the Hinterlands”

Conquer Club

Some of my friends and I have ‘discovered’ a fun web site, Conquer Club. (Full disclosure: that link contains a referral tag…if you follow it and sign up as a paid member of the site, I get a free month.)

The site is built around a web-based version of the old “Conquer” game, which itself was basically a rip-off of Risk. The games are played either on a 5-minute/turn (more or less real-time) clock, or a 24-hour clock, which means you take a turn at most once a day. Games are further broken down as either sequential (each player goes in turn) or freestyle (everyone can play whenever they like during the 24-hour turn period). There are a ton of maps and variants, almost all of which are more complex than basic Risk; if you enjoy this kind of game the site could keep you busy for a LONG time.

Players are rated and ranked and can earn medals (sort of like Achievements). Rating is assigned by other players on aspects such as if you’re a fast player or a good sport. Ranking is more about stats and how good you are. At least that’s how I understand it works.

It’s free to play up to 4 games at a time, or for $25/year you can play as many as you like and start Private games. Be warned that the competition there is pretty darn tough and a lot of these guys have been playing for a long time, it seems. It isn’t unusual for a game to only last a few turns. I’ve been having more fun, honestly, playing Private games with friends.

My handle over there is Jaded, and I did spring for the Premium membership. If there’s any interest I could start a private game for readers of Dragonchasers and Jaded’s Pub (my gaming forum, linked to above).