on Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The Settlers: Rise of an Empire may be the prettiest medieval city-building game that we've ever seen. Of course, this is a genre that's occupied pretty much by just The Settlers in the first place, but that doesn't change the fact that Rise of an Empire will have you building realistic-looking medieval cities, as opposed to a haphazard collection of buildings.

At its core, Rise of an Empire is about building up a complex medieval economy that's able to supply all the various and sundry needs of a populace. That includes food, protection, entertainment, goods, and more. The idea in Rise of an Empire is to make these processes come alive like never before, so the camera has been moved a lot closer and the beautiful graphics let you see every tiny detail, from the butcher hacking apart meat in his shop to the woodcutter pushing his wood cart around.

Earlier Settler games promoted the idea of sustainable economies, and that remains the case with Rise of an Empire. For instance, you can use deer as a steady food supply, provided you don't overhunt them or chop down the forests that they like to inhabit. Do either, and you'll either exhaust the supply of deer or drive them off.

Blue Byte promises a very diverse and detailed economy this time around, and you'll need it as your medieval city grows. Just like in history, as the middle class emerges it will demand goods and services and luxury items, which will have to be accounted for. The medieval cities that you can build in the game are picture-postcard beautiful, with paved roads and plazas. You'll also need to surround them with high walls, as there is a real-time combat component to the game6 whenever barbarians or hostile armies appear.

Dividing the map into separate territories is another new wrinkle. Knights can claim neutral lands by simply building an outpost there, while enemy-held regions can be seized by destroying or occupying the rival outpost. However, this whole concept doesn't add much of a strategic layer to battles because destroying an opponent's outpost causes all the buildings in the territory to self-destruct. So you never get the chance to wage back-and-forth battles for key castles or get the opportunity to make hard decisions, such as razing settlements or attempting to conquer them to win over the citizenry. You just duke it out over resources, but most maps are so well stocked with wildlife, sheep, and the like that there is rarely any need to go to war to provide your peasants with sausages or woolen undies.

Rise of an Empire gets its name from the fact that you'll also be establishing cities in remote parts of the world, such as the frozen North or the tropical heat of Africa. Environment and daylight play a major role in the game. For instance, food supplies in the Artic Circle are tougher to come across than in the verdant south. Meanwhile, in Africa you have to worry about water supplies, as well as bandits and lions. Thankfully, you can recruit hero characters in the game that can deal with many threats.

Game Information:
Offline Modes: Competitive
Online Modes: Competitive, Cooperative
Number of Players: 1 Player
Number of Online Players: 8 Online

Minimum System Requirements:
System: Pentium IV 2.0 GHz or equivalent
RAM: 512 MB
Video Memory: 128 MB
Hard Drive Space: 3000 MB

Recommended System Requirem:
System: Pentium IV 3.0 GHz or equivalent
RAM: 1024 MB
Video Memory: 256 MB


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