We met up with Christian Hagedorn, Creative Director of Ubisoft’s The Settlers to learn more about the upcoming RTS title in an interview. Rebooting a nearly 30-year-old franchise isn’t easy, but that’s exactly what Christian and his team at Ubisoft Düsseldorf are doing for The Settlers, which piqued our curiosity and ultimately led to this interview.
If you aren’t aware, The Settlers is Ubisoft’s next big release that is poised to come out on 17 March 2022 on PC. The game is also currently looking for closed beta testers, with said test taking place next week from 20 – 24 January 2022. You can learn more about the game and what it offers here.
Originally intended to release back in 2019, The Settlers was delayed with not much information on the game until now. According to Christian:
“The game has been in development for over five years. We have gone over plenty of changes. A year and a half ago, we redefined our vision and since then, we have turned serious tables around. There are plenty of changes. Five years of production really show how much of an effort we are putting into this.”
The Settlers franchise has a rich history, with the new reboot being the 8th mainline title in the series. We learned that The Settlers (2022) is inspired by Settlers 3 and Settlers 4. We were curious as to why it was specifically the third and fourth titles that were selected as an inspiration, and this was what Christian had to say:
“We wanted to examine that if we were to make a reboot, what would be the strongest core that we could aim for since we cannot really grab everything from every game. That would create a nightmare,” he explained. “Settlers 3 and Settlers 4—not only are they the strongest titles in our eyes, they’re still being played today. There are tournaments going live. There are streams happening with Settlers 3 and Settlers 4. There are YouTubers creating content for those games still. So we decided this is what the core fan group would want to see, and this is also our strongest series of iterations.”
Settling For More – Designing a Worthy Successor
We were fortunate enough to try out an early access version of The Settlers prior to this interview and needless to say, we were intrigued by many different aspects of the game. The game offers various modes, from match-long Skirmishes to an extensive story-driven Campaign. “The campaign comes with 13 missions. Depending on the type of players, since certain players tend to sometimes take more time or less time, we are expecting an average between 10 to 12 hours of game time,” answered Christian, when we asked about the Campaign length. Note that the Campaign will only be available upon official release, and not during closed beta.
Be it the Campaign or other modes, players can lead one of three different Factions—the Elari, Maru and Jorn (only Elari and Maru will be available during the closed beta). Each Faction may have the exact same units and buildings available to them, but they each have different bonuses and drawbacks, as well as a different aesthetic style and lore.
“The most important part for us was to make sure that there were no direct real-world connections or correlations. There are always inspirations. We take inspiration from architecture. We take inspiration from different cultural facets, but it was important for us that each Faction remains completely diverse and also gender-neutral. Both genders can perform any job and they’re of equal strength. There’s no difference between them and all races are present in all factions, so it’s not like we have one faction that looks like this and another one like that looks like that,” Christian elaborated.
He continued, “With that established, we created three different cultural Factions, cultural differences that would give them the personality that you can see in the game today. For example, the Elari are craftsmen, they are artisans. So not only are their buildings stronger, not just as a faction bonus, but they also enjoy themselves when it comes to handling construction or when it comes to crafting. The Maru are instead very bonded with nature. They are not only close to the coasts in order to enjoy maritime life, they’re also great at trading and very adept at collecting herbs. For the Jorn, they’re this challenge and honour-bound faction. Their weapon crafting skills are unmatched, they’re very skilled at hunting meat and also living off the land since they live in the Veiled Islands. They have to train themselves to best use the pelts of the animals and the leathers. We try to give an identity to each of these Factions that would belong to this world and not comparable to earth.”
Besides the three Factions, Christian also shared his insight on the three Biomes that serve as the locations and regions for the various maps in the game.
The three Biomes are also closely tied to each of the Factions. When you play a new Faction during the campaign, the Biomes also change to invite the player to enjoy all of the new things. Additionally, in Skirmish, we will offer maps of all types of Biomes and the way they play changes. For example, in the Forgotten Plains, there is an ease of access to resources and there’s a singular pathing towards opponents. In the Desolate Fields, the desert area, the resources are actually more scarce. There is plenty more room. So the players are able to expand and build faster or stronger, but they have to be very careful with how they use their resources, how fast they can collect them, or even if they need to trade to obtain more of them. Finally, in the Veiled Islands, the focus there remains on how to efficiently use the little space available because of the differences in terrain. There are altitude differences, cliffs and mostly narrow paths. It’s important for the player to then realize which other specific buildings are needed right now, because they might need more space compared to the others. That’s the difference between them.”
On Potential Additions and Changes
Naturally, the closed beta does not provide the full game experience. Having tried the early access version where several features weren’t available, we were curious about some of the features and additions that may (or may not) release in the full game.
The first of these are heroes, a fairly common sight in RTS games that feature combat, and even some of the earlier Settlers titles. On the topic of heroes, Christian clarified that “there are currently no plans to add any sort of unique unit that would stand out in the battlefield.”
During the early access, we weren’t able to adjust the difficulty of the AI, so we wondered if players can adjust AI difficulty upon official release. “Actually they will not be able to do so,” Christian revealed, “The AI is the one that reads from the player—what type of gameplay, how advanced their gameplay is and how strong they are—and react accordingly. Our AI is actually trying to provide an interesting opponent and not a crushing experience so that players can select insane difficulty and then get crushed in one minute, for example. If the player is a new player and they need more time to adjust, the AI will know about this facet of the player and adjust according. In general, we will not have AI difficulties. What we will have are different strategies for the AI to perform once they know more about their opponent.”
On the topic of AI, while the game allows players to take on AI bots or other players in 1v1, 2v2 and 4v4 in Skirmish mode, there doesn’t seem to be an option to team up with the AI. “It is only possible to team up with players. You can, however, fight an entire group of AI. Still to be revealed is the Onslaught mode where a player fights alone in a specific setting scenario. This could include ally. This could include multiple enemy forces,” Christian commented.
Last year, Ubisoft announced that they will be embracing NFTs. As to whether The Settlers will include them, Christian made the following statement:
There are currently no plans to add any sort of NFTs to the game.
As for microtransactions, Christian shared towards the end of the interview that they will be present in The Settlers. “There will be a shop available for customization, cosmetic-only items and a booster to obtain soft currency faster. However, we are focusing on everything that is skill related to the game, leaving microtransactions out of it. You cannot buy power, you cannot buy any sort of that.”
Before concluding the interview, the Creative Director informed that players can look forward to more details on upcoming plans for The Settlers in the future. “They will be content coming at a constant pace after the game releases, so that’s something they can absolutely look forward to.”
With only a couple of months left before the game comes out, we’re eagerly looking forward to the full experience. Thanks so much, Christian, for enlightening us on The Settlers in this interview. We wish you and your team for the game’s release and beyond!
To learn more about The Settlers, be sure to visit its page on Ubisoft’s website. The game is still accepting closed beta test signups, so feel free to register for a chance to try out the game before the official release.