HIGH The visual style

LOW The crashes, bugs and glitches

WTF The infinitude of rare resources

The Settlers is a series at its best when the player is empowered to bring a miniature
civilization to fruition from beginnings of poverty and scarcity. However, The Settlers: New
 does the complete opposite by facilitating as many resources as possible, and the socio-cultural dynamics of civilization are cast aside for a focus on military-industrial production and warfare. Adding insult to injury, at the time of review it was buggy and prone to crashing. 

New Allies, like its predecessors, is a real-time strategy city-builder with a top-down
view focusing on a combination of resource management, warfare and city planning. The
campaign mode has players controlling a refugee group fleeing civil war in their native
kingdom. With each new scenario, the people progress toward their objective of finding a
peaceful new home away from strife.

This basic premise is embellished with pretty visuals and a functioning resource
management system. Civilians (up to a maximum of 500 in every campaign scenario) either
function as soldiers, engineers, laborers (such as foresters, fishers, bakers and miners) or –
if no task is assigned – as carriers. Carriers bring resources (wood, wheat, stone etc.) to a
settlement’s most nearby warehouse. The limited amount of civilians available make
balancing their jobs a significant component of successful management.

This core gameplay loop is New Allies’ strength, as it was with its predecessors.
Unfortunately, this basic joy is soon tarnished.

First, being a Ubisoft game, New Allies requires an additional step to get launched via
Ubisoft’s own storefront, Ubisoft Connect, thus extending the procedure to boot the game.
Once launched, I frequently encountered crashes, failure to load maps, and bugs where the
UI wouldn’t load, forcing me to restart. These issues were as prevalent as they were severe,
and I had to restart the game at least 50% of the time I tried to play.

I also experienced various in-game glitches, including a particularly annoying bug involving a
malfunctioning autosave system, corrupting both the autosave and manual save. The result
was a forced restart without recently saved progress, making me replay large portions —
sometimes hours‘ worth. This technical inadequacy is simply unacceptable, especially from a
huge publisher like Ubisoft.

I’ve already mentioned that the basic elements are solidly crafted, and managing laborers,
engineers, soldiers and carriers in a balanced manner presents the player with a decent
challenge. Still, this is the only successful system in place, as all external challenges such as
resource scarcity and invaders are easily negotiated, and there’s little internal pressure to
keep the player on their toes.

Resources are plentiful – farms don’t require fertile soil, self-regrowing trees make lumber an
infinite resource, and mines (gold, gem, stone, iron or coal) also provide inexhaustible
supplies. If some resources cannot be claimed in a particular scenario, it’s easy as pie to set
up a harbor, sell whatever surplus exists and acquire material that cannot be harvested.

While stone and lumber are essential for residential and defensive buildings, all other mined
materials have a final purpose of army construction. This, then, is what nearly every scenario
steers the player toward. Despite their peaceful intentions, the settlers must inevitably claim
a structure, destroy a ‘barbarian’ outpost, or defeat an encampment. Bafflingly, New
 doesn’t offer any peaceful alternatives, nor any more creative solutions to conflict.

A potential saving grace lies in the story’s emphasis on making friends with several
indigenous groups throughout the campaign. However, these story elements are left under-
explored, with the people taking the shape of stereotypical tropes such as a Viking and
spiritual clan. The player’s people easily take center stage, thus colonizing both the lands
and the narrative. The ‘enemies’ of the campaign are referred to as ‘barbarians,’ a likewise
stereotypical name that is not given proper nuance, regardless of an awkward and forced
twist at the end.

The Settlers: New Allies is the latest entry in a beloved and longstanding franchise, and
carries an inherent advantage of starting with a greatly successful formula. However, there
simply aren’t any exciting updates or formula explorations here. The buggy quality of the
code at time of review and utterly flat narrative are salt in the wound, resulting in a game that
does not boast a single positive reason to warrant a purchase.

Rating: 1 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game is developed by Ubisoft Düsseldorf and published by Ubisoft. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher. Approximately 34 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game’s campaign was completed. 0 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated E10+ and contains Fantasy Violence. The ESRB’s description states: “This is a real-time strategy game in which players help a group of refugees establish a new settlement. From a top-down perspective, players construct buildings, gather resources, engage in trade, and battle rivals and enemy raiders. Players can deploy military units (e.g., soldiers, mages) to protect their settlement, with combat depicted as large-scale skirmishes (e.g., sword battle, shooting arrows, spell casting). Battles are highlighted by sword slashing, bright visual effects, and cries of pain; defeated units collapse to the ground and disappear.”

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and resized. Some in-game clues (such as “[army] recruitment complete”) are only available via audio, but the most essential information is covered by written dialogue and instruction.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

David Bakker
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1 month ago

Thank you for the review, wish I had read it before forking over money for the premium pack of the game. Played the series since the first one and felt like they just wanted to make a Warcraft/StarCraft clone. The bugs in save games not saving has been the most annoying one.