Review: Settlement: Colossus

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As I was saying in my review of Mind’s Eye, I’m a sucker for a hidden object game, and Settlement: Colossus, also from Alawar Entertainment, is the grandest work of hidden object design I’ve played in my 20-some-odd-year history with the genre.

Why do I say that? Because Settlement: Colossus is so much more than a by-the-books hidden object game. Sure, it has you pouring over hundreds of scenes spotting hidden items and clicking on them, but here there is actually a deeper purpose to your seek-and-find endeavors.

You see, Settlement: Colossus takes the core values of hidden object gameplay and applies them to civilization simulation. Beginning in the Primitive Age with nothing but a humble gathering of tents and grass huts, you are tasked with building a prosperous empire through multiple eras, ending in the Advanced Age. To meet that end, you must gather resources, gradually upgrade and expand your civilization, and complete various side quests and odd jobs to maintain a happy populace.

During play, you are presented with an isometric 2D view of your bustling empire to be, with circular icons placed around the map representing different locations currently available to explore. At the start, you don’t have much to work with, so frequenting the nearby forest and lake to forage for firewood, mushrooms, berries and reeds is the norm until your little village matures. Then as you progress through the game’s six chapters, you gradually build up your empire and establish new methods of resource harvesting — markets, farms, blacksmiths, harbors, universities, stone quarries, temples, jewelers, etc. – and go from gathering twigs and berries to growing vegetables, producing wine, baking bread, collecting pearls on the ocean floor and turning marble into columns and statue pieces to ultimately build a mighty Colossus statue honoring the god Helios.

Gathering resources takes the form of standard hidden object gameplay, with each shop and surrounding environment providing specific items to collect, and each hidden object found adding a set amount to your resource pool for that particular item type.

The simulation part of the game comes in the form of managing the resources you collect and using them to grow the empire. In each chapter, you are given a list of primary tasks that must be completed to advance to the next era, and these tasks typically require constructing specific buildings or upgrading existing buildings to produce higher quality resources. However, everything you build requires a specific quantity of multiple resource types, so you don’t just gather items all willy-nilly. It’s also important to keep food stocks high, because citizens aren’t happy if they don’t get fed, and if they aren’t happy they won’t perform their jobs and production ceases.

These two gameplay styles integrate so well with one another, I’m quite surprised this genre fusion hasn’t been tried before – or perhaps it has and I just missed it. Later on in the game, constantly collecting resources from the same locales can feel like busy work at times, but in general the hidden object gameplay is a lot of fun and challenging enough to keep you engaged. Frequent mini-games and logic puzzles also help break the monotony.

Actually managing the resources is a breeze too. Drop-down tabs along the top of the screen allow you to easily keep track of resource supply, and whenever you have the necessary materials to build or upgrade, the target building will glow with a green indicator. If need be, you can also pull up a full construction timeline to see the upgrade progression for each building and era. Everything in the game is intuitive and accessible, just as it should be.

I also have to commend Alawar for producing such a robust game. Finishing all six chapters should take you a minimum of six hours — even longer if you complete all of the secondary tasks and mini-game quests. That’s great longevity for a $10 game alone, but Settlement: Colossus goes even further with many features you probably wouldn’t expect to see in a cheap casual game — things like Facebook integration, in-game trophies, and scalable resolution. Fullscreen, widescreen and windowed modes are supported, and resolution choices range from 800 x 600 up to 1400 x 1050, so even on large monitors and flat panels the detail and vibrancy of the graphics are maintained. Much of the scenery is static, but moving animals, working equipment, rustling trees and soothing wildlife ambiance bring an illusion of life to the still backdrops, and overall the game looks and sounds lovely.

Out of nowhere, Settlement: Colossus has become one of my favorite games of the year so far, regardless of platform. It is a very simple game, but at the same time it has a sense of depth and ambition behind it that truly surprised and impressed me. Settlement: Colossus takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary, and for that it has earned my undying respect. Hidden object games, and casual games in general, simply don’t get much better than this.

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Pros:
+ Successful melding of hidden object hunting and civilization management
+ Packed with content and extra features
+ Sharp graphics and relaxing audio
+ Tries something unique and pulls it off

Cons:
– Gathering resources can feel like busy work after a while
– See a lot of the same environments by the end of the game

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Alawar Entertainment
Release Date: 2/11/2010
Genre: Hidden Object / City-Building
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!