Villagers: a cross between Banished and Settlers
Villagers follows a long line of city-building/real-time strategy games. Each of the big titles have often focused on slightly different aspects of RTS. Age of Empire (not really a city-building) focussed on the PvP warfare aspect; Settlers focussed more on building a working settlement. Following these precedents, Banished came out in 2014 and was one of the first games of its type. Of course, you had games like Tropico, Anno and Grand Ages, but Banished required much more strategy and careful planning. One of the faults Banished had was a not-so-clear UI and did not give you decent feedback regarding the results of your actions in-game. With these predecessors in mind, we come to Villagers, released 25th March 2016. Villagers is not as similar to Banished as you’d first think. I’d say it’s more of a middle ground between Settlers 7 and Banished.
First thing to mention with Villagers is that it’s constantly developing. Avanquest and Bumblebee are determined to keep updating it according to what gamers want and suggest. Just yesterday, they added features such as birds to the scenery and increasing the maximum age of villagers. I said that I think Villagers is more like a hybrid between Settler and Banished. This is made clear through the mini-map in the top right corner which reminds of more classic RTS games. The simple and accessible UI makes it easy to just play and not worry about missing things. You can rotate buildings by scrolling which is helpful (I didn’t really like Banished having R and T as rotating key). You can speed up time easily using + and – . Like Age of Empires, you can only build when you have enough resources. Every now and then you can get attacked by wild animals or raiders but this doesn’t seem like a huge part of the game.
Unfortunately, although the game is fun, there are a few things I didn’t like. The trees are a little bit sparse. The picture above is dense forest. They aren’t that dense – you can imagine what the other maps are like. I would have liked a way to see the general health and happiness of my citizens. Sometimes things just feel like they are moving really slowly, and you’ll sit waiting for something to happen. I think part of the problem is that the AI doesn’t always prioritize that well. I built a bridge so my villagers could cross the river. As I was playing, I noticed that they were crossing beside the bridge! Although it really doesn’t make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, I think it would be a nice touch if they fixed that in one of their future updates. The trading system is a little bit simple but I don’t focus that much on trading when I play these games. I think it would be nice if the map was a little bit bigger but you’ll be hard pressed to fill the map as it is.
Villagers is a more user-friendly and accessible version of Banished, and a more complex and detailed version of Settlers. It is not trying to be hyper-realistic but maintains a good level of realism. The campaign is a good intro into the mechanics and UI of the game. Overall, if you like Settlers, you’ll like Villagers. I think that you have to have the right expectations when you go to play. It is not a reworked version of Banished. It is similar, but if you expect it to be the same or an enhanced version, you’ll be disappointed. The same general ideas apply though. You need to build your settlement slowly but surely and you need to keep a close watch over your resources.