The Settlers: Rise of an Empire - First Look

Believe it or not, some folks don't really mind if they play a game and there's not a single explosion. They don't mind playing a game that centers around construction - say, the establishment and growth of a medieval town - rather than the destruction of an entire alien race. They delight in subtle beauty, like the way you can watch the surface of a gorgeously rendered lake freeze over with ice as the season goes from summer into fall and on to winter, or the frogs, deer and butterflies they'll notice populating the wilderness. They love the Renaissance Faire. And they will go absolutely crazy over The Settlers: Rise of an Empire.

At its heart, the Settlers games are little more than SimCity back in the days of castles and catapults. However, because it exists on a smaller scale and tracks the lives of dozens of individual little serfs, it has a more intimate, human feel. Your empire begins with a single, modest castle and storehouse set in a whole ton of wilderness. But your people will need food, so you build a little house for hunters to live in. Hunters come in and bag a few deer, so you then build a butcher shop where they can drop off the carcasses. The butcher takes the animals out back and carves them into cute little hunks of meat, which he hangs out front for people to come by and purchase.

This scenario is only a jumping off point - eventually, you'll have a giant castle and lord over a sprawling town filled with 40 different types of building or business. But it illustrates a couple of important elements. One is the fact that, while we went with hunting, there are other ways to get off the ground as well - farming, for instance. There are eight resources to harvest in all, mostly staples like wood, iron, and meat. Eventually, you'll need to have a steady flow of them all in order to keep your economy humming.