The Settlers III
is a real-time strategy computer game
developed by Blue Byte Software
, being the second sequel to The Settlers
The most notable difference between this game and its two predecessors is that there are no more roads - all units, including carriers with goods, can walk around freely. This simplifies the building of a settlement, since only the distances between buildings are relevant, and not how roads can be constructed between them. And military units are now directly controlled, making fighting more similar to games like Command & Conquer or Age of Empires than to the previous Settlers games.
Settlers III was also famous for its peculiar copy protection: in pirated versions of the game, iron smelters would only produce pigs instead of iron, which made weapon production impossible.
As in the original game and its sequel, Settlers II
, a Settlers III
game is played by building up a working economy to produce military units, and then going to war against enemies. Iron and coal is needed to 'produce' soldiers, which in turn requires mines and food production. All buildings require wood and stone to build, and all settlers need living space, which results in a complex chain of infrastructure required before big armies may be produced.
Usually, the player will start by building foresters
, stone masons
to get base building materials. Residences
are important to get enough settlers to carry around goods and build buildings. Fishermen
, water works
provide the base of food production, where crops
need to be either processed by a windmill
and a baker
, or fed to pigs
who then are brought to a butcher
, before resulting in bread
. After food production, mining
for iron and coal can start. The resulting iron ore is processed by an iron smelter
, and a weaponsmith
can then finally produce weapons, which are used in barracks
to train soldiers.
In parallel to the above, it is also important to increase the owned lands to have room for building – this is done by constructing towers
. Also, mining and processing of gold is necessary in order to increase the motivation of soldiers, as well as building temples
and supporting them with sacrifices
in order to get powerful mages
who are important in battle.
It also is possible to build additional things, like ships and ports, war engines with ammunition factories, storage places, trading posts, and several others.
The goal of attacks is to capture enemy towers and castles. When capturing such an enemy building, the land ownership is transferred, and all enemy buildings in the newly owned land are destroyed. This allows tactics such as sneaking in a group of soldiers to an enemy tower which protects important buildings, and if successful, thereby destroying the enemy's economy – which is hard to recover from.
Fog of War
Such surprise attacks are possible because Settlers 3 employs a Fog of War display – only areas of the map around own units are visible. Special spy units can be used to try and spy into enemy lands, which will appear as own units to other players - but the camouflage does not work for enemy soldiers, and it is possible to let soldiers patrol around a settlement to ward off spies. (But it is also possible to distract such patrols with a feint attack and sneak in spies that way.)
For actual battles, there are three types of units: Sword
, and Spearmen
. Archers are effective against spearmen (because the spearmen are slow), spearmen against swordsmen (because of their stronger melee attack), and swordsmen against archers (because of their speed). This balancing often requires to quickly adjust tactics during battle, which is made possible by keyboard shortcuts to select all units of one type. Each unit type also comes in three versions, from weakest to strongest. The type and strength of a unit is determined by the barracks building. If it is delivered a sword, bow, or spear, a corresponding unit is created. The strength of the unit depends on the global upgrade level of the player, which is affected by manna production. The more manna, the more upgrade possibilities. Each unit type needs a separate upgrade, and upgrade cost is not linear – instead higher upgrades require more manna production. To reach the highest upgrade for all three unit types, six upgrades are necessary. Gold and gems also increase your soliders strenght in enemy territories.
Each unit is initially created with full health, and can be wounded in battle, as indicated by a little dot above each selected unit, which changes color from green over yellow to red. Players can retreat wounded units to regain full health in the healer building.
Controlling of units by the player is possible in ways typical to most RTS games of this time, by selecting them with a rectangle drawn with the mouse or by selecting all visible units, then assigning a target. Selected units can also be put into up to 9 groups, which players can quickly select again with keyboard shortcuts.
The size of battles varies a lot depending on type of map, resource settings, and play time. Early battles using only initial units consist of ten to twenty units, while in a typical map good players have recruited hundreds of units after an hour of play time. Battles often can involve several thousand units in longer games.
It is possible to build stronger defenses by building bigger defensive structures. There are three different sizes for those, a small tower, a medium tower, and a castle, but bigger buildings are considerably more costly in terms of needed building material. When attacking such a building, the troops occupying it can only be attacked one by one, and archers can shoot at the attackers from a safe position.
The strength of soldiers depends on two factors - the amount of gold a settlement had stored, and whether they are fighting on friendly or enemy territory. The strength on friendly land is always at least 100%, while the strength on enemy land without gold is initially very low, for example only 25% in a four player game. This makes it hard to attack early in the game. By producing more gold, the strength can be increased to over 100%, possibly making the attackers stronger than the defenders in their own land.
Soldiers can be supported by mages and pioneer units. Mages can cast powerful spells, for example converting a group of enemy units to a player's own units, by making the own units fight with greater strength, or by making enemies weaker. More powerful spells cost more manna points, which are gained by sacrificing beverages to temples. Pioneer units transform unowned land or unguarded enemy land into owned land. That way, they can claim mineral-rich land or enemy stashes. Additionally, when used as support units of an army, the changed land ownership results in a strength boost for soldiers standing on owned land.
Each nation can also produce war machines. The Romans use catapults
, the Egyptians ballista
, the Asians cannons
, and Amazons a magical gong
. Such machines are costly to build, and they need a constant supply of (also costly) ammunition (except of the Amazon gong). Furthermore, they are hard to move and cannot defend themselves against enemy troops. But they allow taking down enemy defenses from a distance and without fighting, which still makes them effective in many situations.
It also is possible to build ships to transport units and goods across continents. The number of units transported on a single ship is limited, and therefore it requires many ships to transport a big army. It also is risky, since war machines can sink ships. But ships can be used to transport small groups of soldiers far behind enemy lines, or even build up a second settlement.
The player can choose between four different nations, all with different capabilities. The original game comes with the Romans, Egyptians and Asians. An addon later added the Amazons as fourth nation. Each nation has differences, which are important for the strategy of a game.
The Romans need wood as well as stones for their buildings. They are the only nation whose priests have a spell which turns enemy soldiers into their own, and easily produce manna by offering wine. Wine can be produced in wineries, which need no other goods or support buildings.
The Egyptians require a lot of stones for all buildings. This means that they have a disadvantage in long games, since stones will eventually run out and they will no longer be able to build residences. On the other hand, they can build very quickly at the beginning of the game. Their buildings take little space and they are the only nation that can build on desert terrain. Producing manna is difficult for them, requiring water and grain to brew beer.
The Asians require few stones and much wood for their buildings. This means that in very long games they can still expand their settlement, even when the Romans and Egyptians have already run out of stone. For Asians, like the Egyptians, it is expensive to build manna – it requires rice and coal to distill rice wine. However, they are the only nation with a relatively cheap spell to speed up the fighting of their troops, which is very effective. And it is also possible to gain manna from building many temples, which is easy for Asians if they have a good wood production, therefore they can upgrade troops without having to produce sacrifices first.
The Amazons in general need less stone than the Romans, but more than the Asians. Their manna production is relatively cheap, requiring just honey and water. They have as the only nation a war machine which can use manna as ammunition, enabling them to destroy enemy buildings without fighting.
One of the biggest changes to the game compared to the two predecessors is the multiplayer capabilities. It is the first Settlers game with full support for Internet play. There is an official game lobby which can be entered by the player from within the game. BlueByte was also running an official ladder, where individuals or clans could compete by marking games as ladder games.