The Settlers has always been a curious beast. It first arrived in 1993, slap bang in the middle of the whole God Game/Real Time Strategy upheaval. Populous and Sim City had set the stage, Dune II had arrived just one year before and Command & Conquer was only a few years away. With two distinct strategy camps emerging, was The Settlers a city-builder or a real-time wargame? To begin with, it was very clearly a city builder with a rather sweet emphasis on the nerdy intricacies of trade routes. But as the years and sequels went by the game became more and more muddled, with more and more RTS trimmings, until it was pretty apparent that even Blue Byte didn't know what The Settlers was supposed to be any more.
This identity crisis culminated in 2005's Heritage of Kings, a combat-skewed game with hero units and lumbering resource grinding that was virtually unrecognisable as a Settlers title. Fans gnashed their teeth and tried to think nice thoughts about the good old days. So does Rise of an Empire, the sixth official Settlers game not counting the recent Settlers II remake, finally restore the tarnished series to its former glory?