Although the task of reviewing Settlers lay on my shoulders, it took a writer's fortnight (four days to those who don't over-exaggerate everything) to claw the disks out of various sweaty palms. During the lead up to this review I've not heard so many monitors purring with sampled elation or seen so many gleeful faces of concentration reflecting in engrossing screens.
Before I even booted Settlers up, I'd had various excited responses from the most unlikely of candidates. Great they said, attention to detail they said, intelligent they said, you've got to be kidding I frowned.
Now, right at this present second, you're probably gazing down at the page, while subconsciously looking at the screenshots, thinking hmm, another "I play God"-type game. Well, to all intents and purposes, as usual dear reader you are correct. However, Settlers is more than an also ran - it contains some of the most intelligent interactions between player and characters yet to be seen on an Amiga.
But what's it all about? I hear you scream from your fake leather armchair. Well, the main aim of Settlers is to build and run an organised, prosperous city and gain control of other enemy communities.
At first glance it doesn't seem a very complicated plot, but the reality is a a very different kettle of fish. At its most rudimentary, Settlers is based on the good old-fashioned theory of supply and demand. However, there are many different aspects within this simple-sounding equation which you must keep under tight control to be a successful leader.
For instance, one aspect of Settlers is to conquer enemy territories. To achieve this warmongering ambition you need a nice army of knights. To keep these hardy warriors happy, they need to be motivated and armed. Well, to be armed they need weapons and to be sufficiently motivated to go out raping and pillaging on a Saturday morning they like large quantities of gold.
As you might expect, gold needs mining and weapons need to be forged from other mined materials. So, in order to extract these raw materials from the ground you need geologists to find the veins of various ores and a huge workforce to mine it out.
Now, hordes of workers have a hefty appetite between them, which means you must have a sufficient amount of food to keep the workforce with full bellies.
What all this is building up to say is that Settlers has a very complicated infrastructure within it. From the example above you can see quite a complicated chain system to keep one faction of your population contended.
As there are many factions and layers within these groups, you got quite a task on your hands. Because of its complicated nature, Settlers comes equipped with a well documented manual and a number of tutorial missions.
Everything within Settlers is controlled by icons via your squeaky pal the mouse. At first these take some getting to grips with, but once you're conversant you'll soon be planning that Barratt estate.
The first job you've to decide upon is where to begin your settlement. This is done by moving your mouse and clicking on your left button, which displays an on-screen icon of the place you have selected to build on.
The next step is to check out the surrounding land to see if this potential estate has the raw materials to be prosperous. Once you've plumped for a particular location, then simply clicking on the build icon constructs your first palatial residence.
After this initial placement of your HQ, you can start building and the fun really starts. The economy of a successful settlement bases its foundation on sturdy grass roots. So in Settlers it's important for you to start building the correct type of production chain which will best utilise your raw materials.
For example, if your settlement has woodcutters but no forester, then the net result will be a chain breakdown. This will mean that after a duration because the forester has not planted saplings, the woodcutter will start running out of timber. The knock-on effect of this will be an eventual slump in the manufacture of buildings.
Something so simple in its essence could actually cause a breakdown for the whole of your settlement. So it's very important that you use your raw materials to build the right balance within your community. To aid you in this desperate bid to balance your resources, you are given a series of tables and statistics to gauge how your little fellows are getting along.
Within this section of settlers you can do alter the production of goods and the priorities in which they are generated.
All of this probably hasn't left you quaking with excitement, itching to get down to your gaming emporium and charging home with your copy of Settlers clasped tightly in your perspiring palm.
While Settlers won't grab you in print, rest assured after 20 minutes of playing you'll be absolutely engrossed. What could have been a grossly serious affair has been beautifully crafted by German software house Blue Byte,
They have managed to give Settlers a very clever blend of unique playability and cutesy humour which somehow combines to great effect. Each Settler has a different style individual to his or his craft, so you can differentiate between each trade. As you scroll about your vibrant community, don't be surprised to see a butcher chopping up meat or a blacksmith forging tools while his chimney bellows out smoke from the hearth.
The fighting sequences have been handled in a very comical cutesy fashion. Rather than blood and guts everywhere, you're treated to some cutesy rolls, twirls and cartoony exits when you're beaten.
From the moment you see the huge intro sequence to the time you see the wind rustle through the trees or blow across the lakes, it's hard not to be impressed. The same applies too to the sound effects, which alter as you scroll around your graphical world. One moment you might hear the honest graft of a woodcutter felling another pine, the next you'll hear the waves lapping around the edge of a lake.
As if this isn't enough for your money, you also get 50 missions and a two-player option so you can battle it out with a friend or your Amiga.
With so many of the same type of title knocking around in the shops it's really refreshing to see a product that is fresh and entertaining. Also, unlike the majority of software that is flung upon us without thought or thorough checking, Settlers is actually well programmed, with almost no disk-
The bottom line is that Settlers is an absolute pleasure to play and could well become one of the contenders for our Game of the Year award.