Originally released on the Amiga in 1993, The Settlers was a curious blend of strategy and sim, wrapped in a blanket of cute graphics and hypnotic melodies.
It was the kind of game that could easily swallow entire evenings, with maps that lasted for hours at a time and deeply engrossing gameplay.
Considering the slow-burning nature of The Settlers, not to mention the sprawling size of the maps, porting the game to a handset with limited battery life and a 3-inch screen was always going to be a bit of a challenge.
Although The Settlers HD is technically a real time strategy game, your main task is the construction and resource management of the fledgling settlement of one of four tribes.
Each building you construct forms an integral part of your economy, from axe-wielding woodcutters providing lumber for building construction, to the weaponsmith who crafts weapons for your troops.
It's a complex balance of interdependent supply and demand, and it takes careful planning to get right. Fortunately the first three levels of the campaign together make for one of the best tutorials we've seen in a strategy game. By the time you're left to fend for yourself, you'll have learned all the skills you need to form a viable community.
The streamlined menu system is delightfully simple to use. Tapping an on-screen button brings up a sub-menu, represented with distinct and appropriate icons. Hold your finger down on one of these icons and a tool-tip appears, just in case you need a reminder.
Eventually you'll need to turn your attention away from domestic matters and consider the threat of opposing settlements. With all of the relevant supply buildings in place, and a goodly supply of tools of war from the forges, it's time to construct an army.
Troops are limited to three types; the swordsman, bowman and medic or melee, ranged and healer respectively. You can also recruit a squad leader who confers bonuses to your troops in combat, and a priest who casts a range of powerful spells.
Units can be stationed in towers, which defend your borders from attacks and expand your territory, or they can be gathered en masse and directed towards the enemy. Unlike the original game, you have complete control over your soldiers, selecting them with a couple of simple button presses and tapping anywhere on the map to set a destination.
Once your army engages the enemy there's very little you can do to affect the outcome. The combat aspect is a little underwhelming, usually coming down to which side can field the most units. Yet despite this, it remains an enjoyable experience to watch the culmination of your efforts marching into hostile territory to give Johnny Foreigner a good bashing.
The overall presentation of The Settlers HD is excellent too, with situational music and bright sound effects married with some quite stunning visuals. The game world is full of vibrant colour and character, especially in the animations of your tiny populace as they go about their business.
Still, there are some areas which don't quite match up to the overall excellence of the game. The absence of a skirmish or multi-player mode is notable; you're limited to the, admittedly excellent, single player campaign.
More peculiarly though, every time we attempted to save the game (on the original Wave), it crashed. This isn't as completely game-breaking as it could have been as each level is relatively short, but it seriously restricts your ability to play The Settlers HD as a true mobile game as you'll need to set some time aside, especially on later missions.
Presumably Gameloft will fix this sort of issue quickly as it makes it hard to recommend you buy the game at present.
Yet aside of such complaints, there's a magical quality to The Settlers HD that draws you in, and a depth that will keep you playing right up until your battery or endurance packs in.