Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Settler's 7: Paths to a Kingdom - Gold Edition - 6/20 hours

I figured out why it's been taking me so much longer to beat the tutorial missions than my first time through - I've accidentally had the difficulty set to Normal instead of Easy. I'm forced to conclude that, despite doling out the game mechanics one-by-one, these early campaign missions are not actually meant to be "tutorials" per se. It's more likely that they are simply scaled down versions of the skirmish matches and are meant to be fully challenging in their own right.  I say this because I think I'm about to play my first full-featured match and there doesn't appear to be any special story fanfare associated with it.

Which means they're drawing out Bors' inevitable betrayal for far longer than they should. It's like, hey, Settlers 7, we can all see it coming. You're not going to surprise anyone. In fact, I am so confident in this twist that I going to bray about it like a jackass, secure in the knowledge that I will not have to walk my words back later.

I suppose I shouldn't be so churlish, though. The reason this exact same plot has been in games since time immemorial is because it's a perfectly serviceable plot. You fight some people. And then when you beat the people and think that the fighting is over, it turns out that you need to fight some new people. And rather than introduce a whole new set of characters, it's simpler just to have you fight the first people you met and who hitherto were your allies. Intrigue!

(Oh, man, you have no idea how embarrassed I'll be if I'm wrong about this, but it will be the good kind of embarrassment, because I will also be genuinely surprised).

I should wrap this post up by talking about the mechanic introduced in my latest story mission - the victory points system. I like this one a lot. The way it works is that you don't necessarily win the match by totally eliminating the enemy (though you can). Instead, you can chase after "victory points." Once you have a certain number, if you can hold onto them for a couple of minutes, you win the match.

What's fun about this is that each victory point has its own little sub-goal attached to it. You can earn victory points for having the most money, troops, prestige, or territory, over a certain level, or you can earn victory points by accomplishing quest objectives on the map. In the last mission, you had to be the first to deliver a huge shipment of meat to a werewolf, but from what I understand, each skirmish map has its own unique story goals.

Of course I love any mechanic that lets me win the game without trudging through battle after battle, but more than that, I like how the victory point system gives you flexibility in your strategic approach, even up to the very end. In my latest match I was aiming to grab the victory point from owning a certain town, but the enemy conquered it before my clerics could get there and convert it, so I instead diverted those clerics into technological research for a quick prestige boost and won the "most prestigious" victory point instead.

It's possible that, in time, I may find that victory points let me win in implausible tactical situations, and thus feel kind of hollow thereby, but for now I really appreciate the clever way they make every part of the game into something worth pursuing. I'm looking forward to seeing the next few campaign maps. Hopefully the victory point system is as flexible and diverse as I know it can be.

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