Last night, god help me, I played Settlers 2 in my dreams.

Settlers 2 was a cute little resource management game which I loved with a desperate and undying passion, and it’s easy to see how I got there–Harvest Moon is a cute little resource management game, and I was recently given a copy of Settlers 5, so perhaps it was inevitable. Still, the sheer accuracy with which my brain reproduced all the various details of Settlers 2 was really disturbing. Moreso because I haven’t played it in over a decade.

Although I’m pretty sure the original did not include Spock, Captain Aizen, and Angela Lansbury’s character from Murder, She Wrote as your panel of advisors. That was a little odd.

The Settlers series, alas, suffered badly from overdevelopment. Settlers 2 was like having an adorable ant farm. It was excruciatingly cute, fun to watch, and none of the characters were under your direct control. You sent building orders, garrison orders, and attack orders, you told a geologist to go out to look for coal, but there was a limit to how much you could micromanage, because you couldn’t grab somebody and say “You. Go here.”

Later versions, unfortunately, proceeded on the notion that what the lovers of adorable ant farms REALLY want is combat, and made everybody a lot less cute, individually controllable, and put in a much more complicated combat system. They got the Age of Empires demographic, but they lost the Sim City demographic. (I’ve played both, of course, but I played a lot more Sim City.) It was sad, because there were still some really wonderful cutenesses–individualized cultures who would brew tequila or mead instead of beer, say–but it got really combat oriented, and the effect was like trying to build a wonderful sandcastle and having the Vikings come in and stomp on it.

I’m a weird gamer, I suppose–I want my bloodshed, but I want it up close and personalized. My goal in Civ was always to be so technologically developed and well garrisoned that the enemy would come and throw themselves futilely against my walls. Then their cities would defect because I had such awesome culture. (I disapprove of cultural imperialism in general, but approve it strongly in my particular case.)

And now, I have to go buy another cow…

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