Review Date: Feb 18, 2010
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Alawar Five-BN
Price: $9.95 (Publisher's Site)
Genre: Hidden object/Strategy
Normally hidden object games have you finding things for the sake of finding them. Sometimes the objects are loosely tied to the plot of the game -- you may occasionally come across a clue during your searches -- but, for the most part, you don't actually use what you find. Not so in Settlement. Colossus. This interesting hybrid of a HOG and a strategy game has you searching for food, firewood, and other resources necessary for creating and maintaining a brand new settlement.
Finding A Place To Stay
The story has you taking the role of an unnamed emperor. After seeing his city destroyed and being cursed by the gods, he's forced to find a new place for his people to live. Eventually he finds a lovely plain to settle in, one that's absolutely teeming with natural resources. The plot is a little hokey, filled with a lot of unnecessary supernatural elements, and it features a main character that turns out to be kind of a jerk in the end. It's also conveyed to you via short, awkward cut scenes that look terrible, especially in comparison to the rest of the game.
Thankfully, the narrative is only a small part of the experience. The majority of your time will be spent foraging for food and other resources as you attempt to build up your burgeoning community. You'll start out small, collecting berries and mushrooms to feed your people and twigs and sticks to keep them warm with fire. But pretty soon your people will be living the life of luxury, eating fish and bread and even relaxing in a sauna. It's pretty astounding just how much your village will change and grow over the course of the game, and watching it expand is very satisfying.
The game is divided up into several chapters, each of which features several primary and secondary objectives. Primary objectives are necessary for moving on in the game, while secondary ones will simply make things a little easier for you. As emperor, you're given a small amount of freedom to decide what tasks you want to take on and in what order. You can decide if you want to invest in building a school first or maybe maybe a pharmacy. That is, provided you have the right resources.
The resources you'll find are vital, and necessary for doing pretty much anything. You can't build clay pots without clay and you can't make new tools without ore. The two biggest offenders are food and firewood. You'll constantly be scrounging your surroundings for both resources, as firewood is necessary for pretty much every task and your settlers need food to, well, eat. Collecting food becomes much easier as you progress in the game as you're given many more options, but unfortunately collecting firewood remains a chore throughout the experience.
And that's the biggest problem with Settlement. Colossus: the repetition. You'll find yourself constantly going to the same areas and searching for the same things. The game switches up the background images for each area, but by the time the game is done you'll probably have scene each scenario numerous times. What makes things worse is that collecting resources uses other resources, which makes completing any task a multi-step affair, as you'll often have to re-collect resources you used up along the way.
Finding objects isn't necessarily all that difficult -- though certain objects do blend in with the environment very well -- and the game provides a very helpful hint system in case you get stuck. Occasionally a villager will come to you with a problem, which takes the form of a mini-game that will have you doing everything from fixing a bridge to building a cannon to squishing irritating bugs. These mini-games help add some variety to the experience, but they don't pop up quite enough.
Making Village Life Look Good
And the one benefit of having to constantly search for objects is that you'll get to enjoy the gorgeous background imagery. The art design for the hidden object areas is detailed and stunning, with plenty of small details that really make the visuals pop. Trees rustle in the wind, insects and birds flutter about, and the water effects are simply gorgeous. When you're in an area filled with falling rain and crashing lightning and thunder, you almost don't want to leave.
Interestingly, despite being a single player offline experience, Settlement. Colossus makes use of Facebook Connect. By signing in to your Facebook account, you can send information to the social network letting all of your friends know what you're up to in the game. You can change your status to let everyone know what you're playing, send notices when you complete a chapter or earn a trophy, and even upload screen shots so you can show off how much your settlement has progressed. It's not a vital piece of the game, but it's a cool addition that makes the game a somewhat more social experience.
The Bottom Line
Settlement. Colossus tries to do something new with the well-worn HOG formula, and on most counts it succeeds. The strategy elements are integrated well and the game is simply gorgeous to look at, aside from the cut scenes. Just don't expect too much of the strategy, as the bulk of the gameplay revolves around repeatedly finding the same resources over and over. If you can handle the repetition, then there is a great game to be found and one that brings some interesting and fresh ideas to the genre.