The Settlers: Heritage of Kings E3 2004 Preshow Impressions

We were recently able to view the next installment in the classic Settlers franchise.

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The classic Settlers series has always had a devoted following for its particular brand of real-time strategy, simulation, and town-building in realms with fantasy flavors. With The Settlers: Heritage of Kings, Blue Byte is expanding its audience by giving its venerable franchise a 3D graphical face-lift with Criterion's RenderWare engine. Additionally, developer Blue Byte is incorporating some new gameplay features. While at a recent Ubisoft showing, we had a chance to observe this game, which has been designed to appeal to fans both old and new.

The Settlers: Heritage of Kings will take place in a world that tends more to the medieval than to the mythological, along with a form of "credible magic". The maps will incorporate active terrain that includes things like changing weather and seasons as well as smaller environmental details, like forests populated with deer and ranging wolves. Resources that you can collect will include iron (used to help build your military), stone (used to help build towns and important structures), sulfur (used in the art of alchemy, which is akin to magic), and silver. Working serfs will collect resources as well as construct buildings; they'll also carry out other tasks. There will be 70 different kinds of buildings and 40 different kinds of people present in the game. Serfs will indicate their needs, like food and rest, via thought bubbles that will appear above their heads, in addition to making verbal utterances. The closer your workers are to their sources of food and shelter, the more efficiently they will work.

There will be 20 dynamic scenarios in the game, and there will be multiple successful paths you can take to complete your missions, including engaging your enemies in battle. If you've built a barracks, you'll be able to recruit leaders who will, in turn, recruit squads of troops for you. Types of troops will include men who use swords, spears, and bows and cavalry and artillery units. In addition, there will be "hero" units that possess special abilities. You'll be able to train your troops at your barracks as well, increasing their levels and making them more successful in combat. Certain characters will also have the ability to use alchemy, which can actually be used to predict the weather. Weather will affect troop movement. So, for example, a cold, wintry setting will cause bodies of water, like rivers, to freeze, thus allowing your men to cross them quickly.

Graphically, the game looks to be coming together nicely. Environments are alive with creatures and details, like swaying trees and lightly falling snow. The different varieties of buildings are all distinct and are also alive with activity. As a result, you can watch your archers practicing their bow work at the barracks, complete with various types of targets. The Settlers: Heritage of Kings is currently scheduled for a holiday release on the PC.

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