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Video Game / The Settlers

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The Settlers is a series of RTS/empire-building computer games from Blue Byte Software, which premiered on the Amiga in 1993. The series was first conceived by German developer Volker Wertich, who designed the first game as well as returning to work on the third installment. He was not directly involved in the creation of the other titles, but in 2018, Ubisoft (who purchased Blue Byte back in 2001 and acted as publisher ever since) announced that Wertich was leading the development of a new title in the series, set to release in 2020.

Missions in the game start with each player controlling a castle, the immediate area around it, and some basic resources like wood and stone in storage. Players use these resources to build basic structures for gathering more wood and stone to make more buildings. These extra resources are used for construction of guard huts, which expand your territory, in turn opening up more space for construction of more buildings—especially ones that produce other basic materials like raw minerals (iron, gold, coal). Yet more buildings are then erected to grow or forage for food to feed miners, process raw minerals into tools for your workers and weapons for soldiers, brew beer to make everyone happy, and so forth. The eventual goal is to expand your territory enough to establish borders with your opponents, then assault their guard posts to steal away their territory, eventually bringing down their main castle.


Space within your territory is limited, and some structures take up a lot of space, so the decision to place a structure in a specific spot can have a great impact. In addition, smart placement of roads to connect these buildings can dramatically cut down on the time it takes for resources to travel from their production sites to their processing sites and storage facilities, and failure to cut down travel times means losing the advantage. This makes the series unique among RTS games: it focuses on logistics and resource management rather than simple military might. In fact, in the first game, it was often possible to win a level without any meaningful military engagement, as the AI would tend to eventually run its economy into the ground.

A second unique quality is its "high-level management" style of play, which eschewed a traditional Command & Conquer Economy in favour of a system where the player decided what buildings were to be built, what enemy structures attacked and what the transport priorities for various commodities should be, and the peasants carried out those orders to the best of their abilities. You do not have any direct control over any of your settlers.


Games In The Series Include

  • The Settlers
  • The Settlers II: Veni, Vidi, Vici
    • The Settlers II Mission CD
  • The Settlers III
    • The Settlers III: Quest of the Amazons
    • The Settlers III Mission CD
  • The Settlers IV (known as The Settlers: Fourth Edition in North America)
    • The Settlers IV: The Trojans and the Elixir of Power
    • The Settlers IV Mission Pack
    • The Settlers IV: The New World and The Settlers IV: Community Pack'' (German only expansions)
  • The Settlers: Heritage of Kings
    • The Settlers: Heritage of Kings - Expansion Disc
    • The Settlers: Heritage of Kings - Legends Expansion Disc
  • The Settlers II 10th Anniversary (A remake of settlers II)
    • The Settlers II 10th Anniversary - The Vikings (Germany only)
  • The Settlers: Rise of an Empire
    • The Settlers: Rise of an Empire - The Eastern Realm
  • The Settlers: Rise of Cultures (Spiritual Successor to The Settlers II 10th Anniversary, includes elements from The Settlers III. Germany only)
  • The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom
  • The Settlers: Castle Empire/The Settlers Online (Online Browser Game)

The first two games are slow as molasses. Starting wood production, for instance, means designating a spot for a woodcutter's hut and hooking it up to a road. A leveler will then walk over from the headquarters and prepare the ground. A builder will then walk over and add planks to the hut as a bucket chain of carriers brings them in. Once the builder's done, a woodcutter will walk over to occupy the hut, walk over to a nearby tree, cut it down (then strip off the branches in the first game), carry it back and leave it in front of the hut. Carriers will bring it over to a sawmill, which will turn it into one unit of planks, fresh and usable once the carriers get it where it needs to go. Matches will take hours. The games will frustrate sane people (one review in an Amiga magazine provided a recipe for a tuna melt, so that players would have something to do while they waited for their orders to be carried out) but have a strong cult following, especially in their native Germany.

The third and fourth game take a different approach. While the basic principles remain the same, roads are no longer placed manually, now appearing on any path settlers frequently use and speeding them up. Maps are no longer tile-based, allowing for more precise placement of buildings. Additionally, soldiers and specialists can be moved freely and emphasis is shifted from individual soldiers fighting duels to skirmishes and battles between larger armies.

Heritage of Kings dropped the quirky, adorable presentation in favor of more realistic looking Settlers. Territory is no longer limited by borders and more emphasis was placed on a story-driven campaign centered around a young prince reclaiming the kingdom once ruled by his father. Hero units with special abilities also become important to combat, and research is introduced to the series. The economy, on the other hand, is simplified - there are only five resources, as well as money, which are stored in pools and no longer need to be refined, thus removing the production chains from the predecessors.

2007's The Settlers: Rise of an Empire has its own page.

See also Knights and Merchants, a game made by a bunch of Blue Byte people who left the company following the second game with a lot of similar mechanics.

Not to be confused with the board game Settlers of Catan.

The seven mainline titles were re-released as part of a "History Collection" in November 2018, featuring additional features such as support for higher resolutions and more recent operating systems (getting the third game to run on current systems required some tinkering before, and running the first two games required an emulator or a separate (virtual) system). Reception varied depending on the game, with some actually gaining new bugs in the process, and eventually, it became clear that the rerelease had been handled by individual developers who were not familiar with the inner workings of the games.The rerelease did, however, include some previously rare or restricted content. Notably, the Community Pack (released after the game's Gold Edition and not included in any of them, leading to some absurd used sale prices) and The New World (not included in some of the Gold Editions) expansions for the fourth game, previously only available in Germany, are included.The Settlers II 10th Anniversary as well as Rise of Cultures are not a part of this collection.

This series embodies the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: At the end of The Settlers IV, the dark god Morbus is turned into a statue due to overexposure to plants.
    • While it is not exactly clear how much time passes between the events of the main game and the Trojan expansion, Morbus remains in this state long enough for him to end up on some island with the Trojans, who haven't had contact with the other races at this point and thus do not know who Morbus is.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: In The Settlers IV, priests can use mana to perform miracles. Unfortunately, each individual miracle becomes more expensive the more you use it.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit:
    • Justified in The Settlers IV: Regular settlers and builders require a bed to sleep in, else they will go on strike. This isn't a big deal though, as beds are provided by the houses the settlers spawn from and only exist so players don't just demolish their houses once it has spawned all the settlers it can provide. Most other civilians live in the buildings they work in and soldiers, as well as specialists, don't require beds at all.
      • In the manual, this is explained as specialists sleeping under the night sky and soldiers sleeping in the barracks. Ironically, players rarely need more than one barracks-building, so apparently, hundreds of potential soldiers can be housed in a medium-sized building. And even when the barracks are demolished or destroyed, it won't affect your soldiers.
    • In Heritage of Kings, the limit is as arbitrary as it can get. How many units (both civilian workers and soldiers - only heroes are excluded) you can own depends entirely on how many city centers you own, which you can't even build wherever you want - they can only be constructed on special locations.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • In The Settlers IV, the AI doesn't use certain buildings a human player would find useful. The most notable examples are large towers and fortresses for defensive purposes - if the AI doesn't start with them, it will never have any at all. They also won't build warehouses to store surplus goods or build, let alone use ships unless scripted to do so. This means that if you are on different islands, you don't have to worry about being attacked at all. The AI is also incapable of manning towers to their full extent. This means that if you take an enemy tower and they retake it, it pretty much stops being a threat since they will only put one soldier in there. Ironically, the AI could man towers it captured in the previous game. On the other hand, the AI will make liberal use of priests, special units and squad leaders, the latter of which are often neglected by human players.
    • Allied AI players usually behave very passively in the fourth game's campaign missions. They will build their settlements as usual and can occasionally be manipulated into expanding towards the enemy, but unless it's scripted, don't expect any help from them.
      • In missions where you have to protect your allies, they can be even worse. One such mission requires you to protect a Roman and a Trojan settlement for two hours, which in this case means making sure both of them retain more than ten settlers. Now, the Trojans will actually try their hardest and only require a little military support to make sure their barracks (which are inconveniently placed near Dark Tribe territory) don't get blockaded. The Romans, on the other hand, will not finish building their houses even if you give them the resources to do so, and the two large towers that protect them from the Dark Tribe are manned by one lone archer each, compared to the three each of those towers could house.
    • In Heritage of Kings, the AI pretty much doesn't exist. Everything the AI does on any map is scripted. Which is why unlike the previous game, this one has no random maps.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Promotional material for Heritage of Kings depicts Dario and Ari in such a situation.
  • Bleak Level: In The Settlers IV, pretty much every level featuring the Dark Tribe can turn into this, if you don't stop the Tribe's expansion. Luckily, the damage can be reversed.
  • Central Theme: Often, the new additions of each game also play a major part in the game's plot.
    • For The Settlers II, the portals (although the player does not directly interact with them) that link each mission to the next. The remake in particular ends on the notion that the experience was about the road rather than the destination.
    • The Settlers III introduced divine intervention in the form of miracles performed by priests. As a result, the plot revolves around a feud between the chief gods of the playable civilizations.
    • The Settlers IV introduced the Dark Tribe, a race that was the complete antithesis of the regular settlers.
    • Heritage of Kings introduced the ability to control the weather. The responsibility that comes with such power and the potential to use and misuse it are a major plot point.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Kerberos in Heritage of Kings. And his English voice is actually relatively subdued compared to his German voice actor.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Guardhouses in II. They house more soldiers than barracks and are still a small-size building... but they take 3 stones to construct and still can only have three soldiers inside. A Watchtower, a medium building, costs only 1 stone more, can be built in the exact same amount of time, has almost twice the border radius and houses twice as many soldiers. Meanwhile, if you need just the most basic military building, barracks is more than enough.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: The player must order any construction project, that's pretty much the point of the game. You do not tell your settlers what to do and where to move though, you only set guidelines and they take care of everything else. Justified because of feudalism: everything in your kingdom is your property, so you call the shots.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: After the first level or two, it always has better troops than you do. Although this only applies in the campaign mode. In Free Play (aka Skirmish), the AI starts with the exact same resources as the player. Computer players don't have an infinite resource pool and will in fact run out of resources if they can't gather them.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Not only is this trope in effect, it is actually the whole point of the game (at least early in the series), and its application is what set The Settlers apart from its direct competitors (early Real-Time Strategy games as we know them today). Instead of building an elaborate field base, the player is building a whole kingdom from scratch - and the objective is usually to expand that kingdom (often, but not necessarily, through violence) to the point where it edges out all competition. This requires careful placement of a very wide variety of buildings, each of which is absolutely necessary for victory. You must create a long economic chain which slowly converts raw resources step by step into military units. These units occupy guard huts, thereby increasing the size of your territory and allowing you to build more and more buildings. Although military force is often required to actually push your enemies back and eventually raze their castles, the primary skill being tested is your ability to build the kingdom and its economy properly; battles themselves are almost unremarkable in comparison.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Justified by fact that units of the same race, but belonging to different players would be indistinguishable otherwise.
    • The Dark Tribe in The Settlers 4 is an exception - while they are assigned a regular colour like all other players, their units are all black and grey regardless. In the rare instances of more than one Dark Tribe being present, this makes it impossible to tell which unit is part of which Tribe.
  • Copy Protection:
    • Notoriously in The Settlers 7, as part of a humongous DRM program at Ubisoft. It was already bad on Assassin's Creed II, but here, if your internet connection dropped out, it was an automatic quit. Thankfully, Ubisoft has since rectified this issue, so the internet is only required to boot the program. This is still a pain in the ass, but better than before.
    • Also present in The Settlers III: If you tried to smelt iron ore into iron ingots with a cracked version of the game, they would be smelted into pigs.note 
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: In the first game, the only different thing between each side is the colour of units, while in II there are four main culture groups with their distinctive aesthetics, but each playing the same. From III onward, the differences became anything but cosmetic - building taking different amounts of space and resources, nation-specific building and resources, completely different spells and special units and so on and so forth.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Every single game in the series has different means of making and promoting soldiers, which requires different gameplay styles and focuses to pursue.
  • Dark Is Evil: In full effect with the Dark Tribe in The Settlers IV.
    • The same goes with Kerberos and his forces in The Settlers: Heritage of Kings.
  • Decade Dissonance: Heritage of Kings features the cities Cleycourt and Barmecia. While ruled by brothers, Barmecia is much more religious and are mindful of the ecological impact of their economy. Cleycourt simply exploits the local resources with no regard for the consequences.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first game had really, really quirky controls, being made for the Amiga mouse. Playing the game on any other machine (or just with other types of mouse) leads to a serious case of Damn You, Muscle Memory!.
    • In the first game, units promote on their own and only if they are stationed in your starting castle.
    • In the first two games, there is just one leveler and one builder working on each construction. Things can take forever to finish, especially when materials arrive infrequently.
    • Got an entire industry chain set up to produce weapons in II? Even secured gold production for promotions? But did you remember to produce beer to get recruitment going?
    • Resources can't be captured in the first two games and are lost once you conquer enemy territory. And in III, if you gain special resources from another nation, they remain useless for you.
      • Inverted with grain fields. In the first two games, the farm burns down, but the fields remain (and require building a new farm to harvest them). In later games, the fields are destroyed with the building and only already cut bundles remain.
    • The first two games had a detailed tool system, where almost every occupation requires specific tools, including things like crucibles for smelter workers, rolling pins for bakers and separate axes for wood-chopping and butchering animals. Those were either streamlined or removed entirely in later instalments.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The dark god Morbus is banished to Earth in the intro sequence to The Settlers IV - unfortunately for him, he is allergic to nature.
    • At the end of the main game, Morbus is turned into a statue.
    • After being freed and waging a second war against the Settlers in The Trojans and the Elixir of Power, Morbus manages to avoid this fate, though not entirely by his own accord. While Morbus manages to collect all the ingredients for the titular Elixir, which is supposed to cure him of his allergy, the Settlers also managed to manipulate the final ingredient. As a result, Morbus is also cured of his hatred for nature and is last seen tending to his new garden.
  • Guide Dang It!: The games do not always provide detailed explanations for advanced concepts, even in their respective manuals.
    • The fact wonders continuously increase in their mana price isn't mentioned anywhere in the manual for III. Hope you didn't just plan to spam a single wonder.
    • In III and IV, thieves have the passive ability to appear to other players as their own carriers as long as they avoid getting too close to enemy soldiers. When it comes to fooling AI players, however, they are not as consistent. Terrain appears to play a role in this, but there can be situations where a thief can walk right past an enemy tower without drawing attention, while most of the time, the AI will immediately send a soldier to dispatch any thief who crosses the border.
      • The latter behavior can actually be used to deprive the enemy of their swordsmen and thus much of their offensive potential (especially since the AI will not attack if they do not have any swordsmen, even if they have special units like axemen which could be just as devastating). A handful of thieves, paired with a group of archers (the more, the better), can cause great damage without provoking the AI to actually attack properly.
    • In Heritage of Kings, Ari has the ability to cloak herself as well. However, the ability does not explain which situations need to be avoided to prevent the ability from ending prematurely. This is a little infuriating since a few segments, notably the one where she is introduced as a player-controlled hero, require this ability.
  • Green Aesop:
  • Idle Animation: The first four games used these to give the settlers more personality. Carriers in II can be seen reading newspapers and jumping rope while waiting for goods to cart about. The fourth game has settlers wiping their noses, juggle with stones or blow bubble gum, among other things.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence:
    • In the third and fourth game, settlers can cross rivers (which are also used as a source of water) without any issue. Thin lines of seawater, however, cannot be crossed by any unit (aside from the Dark Tribe Manakopter), since they are part of the ocean as far as the game is concerned.
    • In Heritage of Kings, units cannot cross knee-deep shallows or rivers that would take all but one leap to get over.
  • Killed Offscreen: The original Big Bad of Heritage of Kings, Mordred, is murdered by Kerberos off-screen. Since he is never actually seen in the game, this makes him practically non-existent as a villain.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: In II you have the highest count of specific craftsmen that can't be then put into a different job: a gold minter can't work as an iron smelter, an armourer can't be a metalworker etc. On top of that, they all require specific tools (from III onward, many jobs stopped having a tool requirement and simplified remaining ones).
  • Market-Based Title: The original game The Settlers was renamed Serf City: Life Is Feudal in the United States. All subsequent games went out under the Settlers banner.
  • Mook Chivalry: In the first two games and their remakes, all fights are one-on-one, and the rest of the knights will simply stand around waiting for the opportunity to step in and pick up where the previous one left off. Since standing knights occupy space, bum-rushing the castle with low to mid-level units can be enough to clog up the area and stop them from moving goods and people around, crippling their economy.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: At the end of the "Cleycourt" mission in Heritage of Kings, the heroes assist in the construction of a weather machine. It was supposed to be used to end a year-long drought, which it did. Unfortunately, the summoned rain simply doesn't stop, eventually causing a flood. To make matters worse, the first weather machine was not made to withstand water, so it breaks down before it can be used to reverse its effects when it becomes apparent that the rain won't stop on its own.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The name of Morbus' assistant in the fourth game (who also happens to be the goddess of the Amazons in the third game), Q'nqüra, is pronounced slightly differently in most cutscenes of the fourth game. Since her name is never seen in print in that game, this doesn't make it easier to call her anything other than "that woman in red".
  • One-Man Army:
    • A fully-upgraded soldier in II can plow through dozens of freshly conscripted ones. Higher evasion, kills with a single hit and any attempt to Zerg Rush against them is bound to fail - they can easily put down entire offensives of 15+ soldiers on their own. Of course, this only works when they face the most basic soldiers - the smaller the tier disparity, the fairer the combat.
    • The Squad Leader in The Settlers IV. While his raw stats are only very slightly better, he also has an armor stat which reduces all incoming damage to him. High-level soldiers won't have much trouble with him, since the damage reduction is a flat value rather than a percentage, but early on, even one can be devastating. Fighting is not their primary role, however. They are slower than most units and cannot capture towers like regular swordsmen can, and are instead intended to help control larger armies and provide a buff to their attack power. Paired with their high cost, they are rarely used.
    • Erec in Heritage of Kings. Hero units are already quite formidable, fully capable of taking on smaller forces on their own, but Erec takes things to a whole new level. He can double the attack power of himself and all allied units for quite a generous duration, and while his spin-attack is a bit hit-or-miss, it has the potential to kill over a dozen enemy soldiers in a single strike.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: In Settlers II, a catapult may fire on an enemy building, only for that building to have been captured by the player by the time the boulder lands, resulting in loss of the building to friendly fire.
  • Refining Resources: Virtually every resource in the game either must be refined in order to be useful, or can be refined to make some other resource. Some resources can go through two or more levels of refinement.
    • A good example of one of the longest chains of refinement is the process of turning water into weapons. Firstly, water has to be collected from a well and transported to your farms. With water, farms can grow wheat, which is sent to the windmill. There it is refined into flour, which is sent to the baker's. The baker combines flour with more water to make bread, which is sent to the iron mines and coal mines. The miners eat the bread and dig out iron ore and coal. Both are sent to an iron smelter, where they are combined to make iron ingots. These are sent to the weaponsmith (along with more coal) to be turned into weapons. The weaponsmith makes swords and shields separately, and one of each is needed in order to train one soldier. The process can take a very long time, as you can expect, especially if the roads become congested...
    • In Heritage of Kings, resources are no longer refined to create other resources. Instead, buildings like the sawmill multiply resources you already have and allow for research related to it.
  • Resource-Gathering Mission: In the mission "Barmecia" from Heritage of Kings, you have to deliver 10000 stone-resources to the eponymous city so they can complete their cathedral. You must do so before their rival city Cleycourt attacks so the two of them can make peace. You also have no means to defend any city, since both of them are your allies.
    • The mission "The Flood" requires you to collect a variety of resources for a scientist, so he can build a weather machine. This combines this trope with Stealth-Based Mission, since the only way to get enough sulfur resource is to sneak into your rival city and get a key for a sulfur merchant, so he can trade with you.
  • Sixth Ranger: The add-on races as a whole: The Amazons in The Settlers III, the Trojans in The Settlers IV, and the Vikings in The Settlers II 10th Anniversary.
  • Shields Are Useless: In The Settlers II, low ranking soldiers carry shields. High ranking soldiers do not.
  • So Last Season: III introduced the concept of multiple levelers and builders working on the same project. It also removed roads, so goods are always transported in the shortest way possible and en masse. This speed up the entire game significantly.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: The plot of the third game revolves around 'Him', the god to whom other gods are subservient, trying to stop mortals developing monotheistic religion.
  • The Dragon: In Heritage of Kings, Kerberos spends most of the game being this to Mordred.
  • Too Dumbto Live: Since you don't directly control civilians in most games, you cannot order them to flee from the few threats civilians can actually face. Also found a few times in the behavior of some factions, story-wise.
    • The Dark Tribe featured in the fourth game uses Shamans to enslave civilian settlers. That alone can be quite a pain in the ass, especially since the tools these settlers used are lost, but it's particularly infuriating when you see how your settlers will not even try to avoid these shamans. Builders who just worked near your borders, where you may have built defenses, may still be standing there if they weren't assigned another task, and will simply allow themselves to be enslaved.
    • The Trojan expansion to the same game has a mission where the Vikings and Mayans have turned on the Trojans and Romans, believing that the Dark Tribe was defeated. As you would expect, the Dark Tribe is still very much present (and is actually scripted to destroy the Romans and attack the Vikings and Mayans later on, though the tribe is hidden in the statistics menu), and upon viewing the entire map, you will realize that the Dark Tribe was sitting pretty much next door to the Mayans and Vikings.
    • In the "Norfolk" mission of Heritage of Kingsyou arrive to help protect the important city of Norfolk. Norfolk's inhabitants are confident that their walls will protect them, and their defenses are actually quite formidable - unfortunately, they completely fail to realize that in winter, the sea around their main fortress will freeze over, completely exposing it. Unfortunately, while the protagonists are aware of this, they don't bother pointing it out.
    • Leonardo (not da Vinci) is the genius behind automated turrets and weather control (although the technology apparently existed before, he is just one of the few who could reverse-engineer it), but is also frequently captured and requires rescue. Somewhat justified since he is an old man unable to fight anyone, but it doesn't help that he is somewhat absent-minded.
  • Useless Accessory: In Heritage of Kings, Erec carries a second shield on his back, which is never used (although it could serve to protect his back from arrows). Ari carries a small crossbow with her, but never uses it, instead favoring her bow.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Destroying the last enemy storehouse, harbor, or headquarters in The Settlers II will cause the settlers, workers, and donkeys within to flee. Usually, they'll head toward the closest storehouse they can hide in—but without one, they'll aimlessly wander around with nowhere to go and nobody to save them. Eventually, they starve, let out death knells, and collapse, turning to skeletons.
    • The Settlers III has dying settlers turn into coloured smoke. The Settlers IV advances this to angels (or demons for the Dark Tribe), who then rise towards the sky.
    • The first four games do not allow soldiers to attack non-specialist civilians (even the Dark Tribe adheres to this, though they can still enslave them instead). In the fifth game, soldiers will not automatically attack workers, but can be ordered to do so.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: In fact, this is more the point of the game than fighting is, but at least you can plant more trees.
    • In The Settlers IV, sulphur is pretty much uselessium. The Mayans and Trojans can use it as ammo for warships and catapults, which are rarely useful. The Trojans can also convert it into iron using magic. The Romans and Vikings have no use for it at all, making you wonder why the devs put sulphur on maps where you play as any of those two (or where the Mayans are completely absent). Even the AI doesn't use it.