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Settlers is a series of RTS/empire-building computer games made by Blue Byte. The series began on the Amiga with The Settlers aka Serf City and made it all the way to Settlers IV on the PC/Mac before being (sort of) rebooted with Settlers: Heritage of Kings and Settlers: Rise of an Empire.

Each mission in the game starts with each player controlling a castle, the immediate area around it, and some basic resources like wood and stone in storage. Players then use these resources to build basic structures for chopping down wood and stone to make more buildings. These extra resources are used for construction of guard huts, which allows expanding 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 Settlers series unique among RTS games - it focuses on logistics and resource-managment rather than simple military might. In fact, in Serf City 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 and 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.

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 Serf City), 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 Germany.

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

This game embodies the following tropes:

  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: As illustrated here. Original European cover on the left, American cover on the right.
  • Command and Conquer Economy: partially averted, partially justified. 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: While this trope is in effect, its unique style of application is what set the original game apart from the budding Real Time Strategy genre as we know it today. The reason is that all your effort in a game of Settlers is directed towards acquiring more pylons (I.E. expanding your territory so you can build more structures). Unit production is the result of a long chain of logistical operations, and basically provides you with the troops required to get more pylons (or, in this case, "guard huts").
  • Copy Protection: Notoriously in Settlers 7, as part of a humongous DRM program from 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.
  • Mook Chivalry: 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 left off. Since standing knights occupy space, bumrushing the castle with low to mid-level units can be enough to clog up the area and stop them moving goods and people around, crippling their economy.
  • Shields Are Useless: In Settlers II, low ranking soldiers carry shields. High ranking soldiers do not.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Destroying the last enemy storehouse, harbor or headquarters in Settlers II will cause the settlers, workers and donkeys within to flee. Usually, they would head toward the closest storehouse they can hide in -- but without one, they aimlessly wander around with nowhere to go and nobody to save them. Eventually they (usually in actual hundreds) will starve, let out a death knell and collapse, turning to skeleton.
  • Video Game Settings
    • Green Hill Zone: Your standard generic green island(s), including the first level of the campaign.
    • Lethal Lava Land: The wasteland maps, first introduced in level 5 of the campaign.
  • 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.
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