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What is The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom?
One of the most enjoyable game experiences is sitting in front of a computer screen looking on in pride as a people you have raised from nothing successfully overcome their enemies and become a dominant force. God games are massive and the release of The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom in early 2010 revisits one of the old favourites, now updated for the modern era of “Games for Windows”.
With four game types and three routes to victory, The Settlers 7 updates much of the old game play and introduces some new challenges along the way, one of which doesn’t even occur during the game!
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You can get away with a Windows XP machine, although a Vista or Windows 7 PC or laptop is preferable, equipped with a 2 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or AMD XP 2600+ or better CPU, and 2GB RAM; the game also requires 8GB of hard disk space. Your graphics should have 256MB memory with Shader 3.0 functionality, while the sound card should be DirectX 9 compatible. DirectX 9.0c will be installed with the game.
Thanks to some peculiar DRM requirements, The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom requires an always-on broadband Internet connection with 128 kbps upstream or faster. This is to keep your game session connected to the game server whether you’re playing single player or multiplayer. You might think that this is a strange way of implementing DRM, and it was certainly met with some problems at the time of the game's launch, as you will see on the next page, but without the broadband internet link you will be unable to play The Settlers 7.
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If you’re the type of player that doesn’t like to read the manual but prefers to get stuck in, then prepare for your first attempt at The Settlers 7 with a pen and paper and take notes during the tutorial videos. For some reason there is no easily-toggled tutorial mode with the game so learning what is going on is going to be tough for newcomers to the series.
Is it too tough though? Some reviews online have suggested that the learning curve is too steep; I would say that if you are used to this type of game or The Settlers series in particular then this shouldn’t be an issue. However the sandbox game might be worth spending some time in before embarking on a single player game.
While actually getting started can prove tough, once you're in the swing of things with The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom everything else begins to make sense. Playing the game is a delicate micro-management balancing act between expansion, military enounters and ensuring your people have enough materials to help you expand your borders.
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The Settlers 7 DRM Issue
There is every reason to apply some form of DRM to a new game in this age of computer piracy, but UbiSoft have gone and shot themselves in the foot with the application of Digital Rights Management for The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom. Put simply, it is flakey at best, and while it is reasonably reliable now, as soon as you lose your network connection to the web the game pauses. Play cannot be resumed until your connection is restored.
This is thanks to the servers at UbiSoft being initially unsuited to the task and this caused quite a stir when the game was first released. The Settlers 7 DRM issue has caused UbiSoft some particular embarrassment, but these problems seem to have been largely resolved.
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Graphics and Sound
The graphic design of the game – the whole world, the scenery, the buildings, units and characters – all retain that very “Settlers” feeling, and along with the gameplay this places the game as an identifiable installment in the series.
It’s fun, slightly cartoony and very accessible – it is quite easy to see which resources your settlers should be collecting and their small observations about the state of things that hover above their heads are easy to read. Graphic detail for the landscape and other in-game elements can be enhanced, while the graphics memory allocation can be altered to adjust the performance of The Settlers 7.
Sound-wise there is a constant sense of activity, with some great voice acting.
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Settle Down and Play
Other than the DRM and the possibility of things being slightly tough for the beginner, I can’t find anything wrong the The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom. It’s strange to write such a positive review with two large downsides, but I really cannot recommend the game enough. While FPS and racing game fans will find little of interest, The Settlers 7 is perfect fare for strategy and god gamers and will easily keep you busy until the next release in the series, with all of the multiplayer options and the two expansion packs that have been released this year.
If you have doubts about the difficulty of The Settlers 7, check out the demo version first.