Preview: Ubisoft Goes Fantasy City-Building with The Settlers

The SettlersLast week, Ubisoft took a deeper step into the social realm by adding its own cross-promotion bar to the game Castle & Co. The bar is working great for us, as it helped find a new Ubisoft gem called The Settlers – My City, for Facebook. This spin on the venerable The Settlers strategy franchise feels mostly like a city-builder, which might cause some to groan in despair. But don’t be fooled.

The Settlers marks the latest sizeable intellectual property franchise to attempt to do something significant (game-wise) on Facebook — a trend we most recently saw with FIFA Superstars from Electronic Arts. It appears that The Settlers is still in early beta, so a number of features are still missing. Nevertheless, with a solid core set of mechanics, an exemplary style, and a tremendous amount of room for expansion, it’s a game that’s already pretty good now.

Players control a tiny avatar (that will supposedly do more than walk around eventually) in the world of Tandria. It falls on the player to run the kingdom the way they see fit. The basics are about the same as all other city-builders: construct a beautiful and thriving city by managing population and production.

ProductionProduction is the most self-explanatory. Various buildings — such as a butchery or bakery — can be used to produce their respective products (up to five at a time), for a small fee, that you can later sell for profit. Like farming games, making these items can take anywhere from minutes to several hours, and spoilage is possible if the player fails to claim the product. Eventually, taxes can be collected to mitigate such losses.

As for the population, these fellows become the work force, in a matter of speaking. For each resident you have, you can produce something from one of the production buildings. Obviously, this means the greater your populace, the greater the potential income. This is where things start to get a bit interesting.

Many buildings cost more than just coin, also requiring resources such as lumber or stone, which are gathered from the sectors displayed on a rather expansive world map. In each sector, users can perform different tasks, one of which is sending out your residents to gather said resources. Sadly, the map section has not yet been opened, but it is here that the potential of the app shines.

Sector MapLike the strategy game, these areas, dubbed the “Outer Rim,” can become a means of expanding your kingdom. Though it is not entirely clear how it will work in the Facebook version, players will be able to expand in many different ways, such as trade, diplomacy, or simply military muscle. What makes the expansion sound more unique, however, is a feature called “Event Locations.”

Beyond new land and potential resources, these Events appear to be special quests to grant equally special rewards (for the record, an entire section is a dragon — awesome). Additionally, friends will be able to join you in completing these quests, adding a fantastic social mechanic that enhances the basic existing concept of visiting friends’ towns to help and share gifts.

Beyond all of these features, The Settlers appears to have any number of other strategy aspects waiting to go live. For example, many buildings appear to have sub-functions such as the casino, church, and tavern, which will be used to gamble, research technology, and keep soldiers happy, respectively.

In truth, the only thing bad about The Settlers – My City, is that it’s not ready yet. It’s a very cool looking game, and probably worth the wait, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Filled with a wonderful, animated fantasy style, from visuals to music, The Settlers is easily the biggest social endeavor that Ubisoft has taken on yet. With about 4,700 monthly active users taking part in its beta, you can bet it’s going to be fun when it’s done — especially since it’s kind of fun already.