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The Settlers: Heritage of Kings

The cutesy visuals may have been discarded in favour of a more traditional fantasy/medieval style, but this latest Settlers title appears to be anything but ordinary, as Blue Byte strives to take the decade-old RTS series into the third dimension.

Apart from offering characters with near average-sized heads and allowing you to swoop the camera around them to appreciate their new polygon togs, Heritage Of Kings aims to push into new territory by offering a far more evolved combat system than ever before. Traditionally, Settlers' gameplay has been geared more towards resource management and city building, with warmongering often not quite as refined as in similarly themed games. However, with a diverse spread of combat units (including some with 'near-magical' abilities) and plenty of army formations to try out against the enemy, we're hoping that Heritage Of Kings will offer a more varied and exciting experience.

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Settling Up
Blue Byte won't be deserting its faithful fans. Underneath the grittier visuals a highly technical economic engine will be beating, but with a streamlined interface centred on the needs of the settlers themselves rather than some wider `notion of economy. Each individual will have their own unique skills to unlock should you succeed in fulfilling their needs. To that end, the design brief may well have been ask not what your settlers can do for you, but what you can do for your settlers.

In a nod to games like SpellForce, Heritage Of Kings will be the first game in the series to offer a full storyline, with you playing as one of six unique hero characters with the ultimate aim to reclaim a throne that is rightfully yours. Obviously it's a storyline that will transfer to the multiplayer game without too much trouble, only instead of one rightful heir, there will be a few more claiming royal lineage.

King For A Day
The list of structures and units is typically exhaustive for a Settlers game, with buildings as obvious as farms and as diverse as sulphur mines and weather towers. More mobile are the usual mix of swordsmen, cavalry and bowmen, but back at base you'll have to manage scholars, bricklayers, stonemasons, alchemists, farmers and bankers as you work your way through the branching technology tree to advance your civilisation.

Having been in development for over three years and with a 3D engine that will facilitate vast maps, cities and warring armies, as well a providing a host of new tools with which to build and conquer, Blue Byte might have finally found a delicate balance of gameplay - and one that may well appeal to anyone with a fondness for strategy titles as diverse as Warcraft and Sim City. As such, we remain optimistic that Heritage Of Kings will be a princely RTS - watch out for the exclusive review and playable demo next month.

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