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Monday, September 13, 2021

Medieval construction games: The best Settlers alternatives on Steam

The release of the new Settlers is still a while off. That’s why we’ve picked out some exciting alternatives for you to play now!

Yes, another gamescom over, another no-no about the new Settlers. And quite honestly: I’ve had enough of waiting. I just want to build beautiful medieval villages again! So I ploughed through Steam and dug up four games in which I can already do that! And because I know that many of you feel the same way as I do, I want to introduce them to you. Maybe you’ll find something that will fill that settler-shaped hole in your heart.

Patron

First up is Patron, a very typical build-up game for the last few years: Basically, you get a slightly more extensive and therefore less merciless Banished. With a handful of citizens you start a new settlement in the middle of nowhere and have to secure the basics first: Roofs over your head, firewood in the fireplace and a full larder. Otherwise, when winter comes, our citizens will die like flies.

We’ve seen this before in some games, and Patron is not groundbreakingly original – but it’s a nice little city-building game that delivers exactly this classic medieval building in its purest form. What sets it apart from Banished is that it offers a little more of everything: There are significantly more buildings and production chains, and even a fairly extensive research tree in which we research fresh buildings and improvements.

Patron also expands the social mechanics: There are different estates like peasants and nobles, all of whom need to be kept happy in different areas like faith and security.

Still, on balance it’s not as nasty as Banished and I found it much easier to get through my first winter – but that may be because we’ve played a few of these games in the meantime.

As I said, Patron is not a revolution, but if you just want to settle in the Middle Ages again, Patron should give you exactly what you are looking for. And there’s even a free demo you can use to see for yourself. The game is officially released and no longer in Early Access, but it still has a few rough edges, especially in performance and interface.

However, the developer is working diligently on it and constantly releases new patches with improvements like more control options.

 

Kingdoms Reborn

Or would you prefer a slightly more unusual Banished version? Kingdoms Reborn could fulfil this wish! And what’s so unusual about it now? Well… just take a look at this absurdly huge world map in the trailer. In Kingdoms Reborn you will colonise huge procedurally generated open worlds, and if you want even in multiplayer with up to eight players.

You choose a tiny piece of land as your starting point, and then you’re off. The actual gameplay is again very reminiscent of Banished: Winter, food, firewood, death – you know the game by now. Kingdoms Reborn, however, tightens the thumbscrews quite a bit more than Patron.

Kingdoms Reborn not only offers more challenge, but also a few other special features. The first is a card system: we can’t just build buildings freely, but have to buy buildings from a randomly sorted card hand that renews itself regularly. Which somehow … takes some getting used to, but actually presents us with some interesting considerations at the very beginning. However, the point is reached quite quickly where we can actually have everything anyway and the system no longer plays a major role.

I found it more interesting that Kingdoms Reborn received an epoch system with its first major patch: In the research tree we climb through the ages, first from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages. This changes the look of our buildings and unlocks new options; in the Middle Ages, for example, we make a big leap from hunters and gatherers to more agriculture. But there’s more: we then move into the Enlightenment and even the Industrial Age. So somehow there’s a hint of Civilization or Empire Earth – which is hardly ever seen in construction games.

Kingdoms Reborn is still in Early Access and you can tell that it’s not finished yet: The AI opponents are rather inactive and the interface seems a bit unwieldy in places. The balancing of the map system, for example, is not yet fully developed. But Kingdoms Reborn offers an overall package like no other game of this kind with a few special features – so you can overlook a few rough edges.

Foundation

But if you don’t feel like playing games in the Banished tradition at all and just want to build comfortably without winter constantly approaching, then take a look at Foundation. Here, relaxed city-building is on the agenda: we do have to pay attention to efficient production chains and ensure that enough money comes into the coffers, but we can do it all without time pressure or great danger.

This is more about building our village into the medieval town of our dreams. Foundation wants to score points with Schön- und Kreativbauern above all with two special features: First, we place our buildings completely without a grid and can rotate them freely. Secondly, we assemble the most important buildings, such as the town hall and the church, from individual components, which we can then join together as we please.

Some of them, such as the towers, can even be raised at will, giving us a great deal of freedom in deciding what our buildings will look like in the end. In order to be able to concentrate on this, we don’t have to place every single residential building by hand: We draw different zones on the map, for example residential areas. There, the citizens then automatically build their houses as close as possible to their workplaces.

Our inhabitants have different needs, such as food and luxury, which triggers the classic building motivation spiral to keep building new production chains and expanding further. Foundation feels, on balance, like an interesting mix of Settlers and Anno 1404 with some clever ideas all its own – and I really enjoyed it as a result.

The game has been in Early Access since the first of February 2019, but if you’ve tried it before, it’s worth a second look: In June 2021, a patch will be released with a completely new interface that has made the game a lot more enjoyable. There’s no final release date yet, but according to the developers, Foundation could remain in Early Access for quite a while.

It should currently contain about 60 percent of the planned content. Among other things, more buildings and more narrative content are to be added by the time of release.

 

Becastled

But maybe you’re not the laid-back type. Maybe you’re dying to defend your structures with stone and steel. Ok, then Becastled is probably a bit too cute for you – but it’s still a cool game!

The construction here is much simpler than in Patron or Foundation, but defensive structures become much more important: we raise walls and man them with guns and soldiers, because when night falls, the game regularly sends enemy hordes after us. But all of this is trimmed more to be entertaining than to have the depth of a Stronghold.

Yes, there are various different types of troops and defences, there are different resources, there is population satisfaction and food consumption – but everything is a touch less complex than in the “big” genre colleagues.

But that doesn’t mean that Becastled isn’t fun, on the contrary: I really enjoyed it for a few hours of castle building and sieges in between. So the next time you get the urge to quickly build a castle – as it can happen to all of us – and you don’t have time to play through the entire Stronghold campaign again, Becastled might be just the thing for you.

It’s still in Early Access, but I’ve already really enjoyed it. The main thing it lacks is content, but after a few hours you’ll have had your fill. For the final release, the developers want to add a campaign, heroes and magic, among other things.

But the next big update is supposed to deepen the city construction. Exactly right, because that’s where things are still lacking – I’ll continue to follow Becastled with great interest!

And that’s it – four tips that should have something for every building taste! Write me which game you found the most interesting! Or do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear those, too!

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