Heritage of Kings: The Settlers marks the return of the 11-year-old Settlers franchise. This fifth game in the series comes after a four-year hiatus, and on the surface, much has changed. The cutesy 2D graphics of the original games have given way to a beautiful and more mature 3D look. However, at its core, Heritage of Kings stays true to its predecessors, as this is a real-time strategy game that's focused far more on the process of constructing buildings rather than tearing them down. And that makes for the game's greatest strength, as well as its biggest weakness.
It takes a really big village to succeed at Heritage of Kings.
The campaign in Heritage of Kings tells the story of your character, Dario, as he attempts to unify the land and reclaim his rightly throne. As the lost prince of this story, it's his job to prove to the people that he's a good steward by defeating the forces of the evil and restoring the land. In addition to the various spearmen, swordsmen, archers, and cavalry that he can recruit, Dario is accompanied by various hero units, each with his or her own special powers and abilities. This all falls fairly well into the familiar real-time-strategy formula.
Where Heritage of Kings differs from most RTS games is in its focus. In most RTS games, you usually start a level with a fair bit of building and end it with a lot of combat. But in Heritage of Kings, the ratio is more like 90 percent building and 10 percent combat. This keeps in line with the earlier Settlers games, as the series has always been more about medieval city building than Command & Conquer. As such, your goal is to build a sprawling, interdependent web of buildings, where workers and peasants go about their daily lives. It's a very charming and engaging formula, at first. However, the further you get into the game, the more you realize that you're not so much playing Heritage of Kings than you are simply sitting around waiting to gather the mountain of resources you need to build up the same huge, interconnected web of buildings over and over again.
It starts with the fact that there are five resources you must gather in immense quantities: wood, clay, stone, iron, and sulfur. Aside from wood, the fastest way to gather them is to build mines atop rich deposits. But for every mine you build, you'll need to construct housing and a farm to shelter and feed the miners, lest they become unhappy. This sets up the pattern for the rest of the economy, so for every building you construct, odds are you'll need to construct another two buildings to support it. And considering the amount of resources it takes to put up a single building, it takes a considerable amount of time just to put the underlying foundation of your economy in place. The bad news is that it gets worse.