Forgotten Lands: First Colony
A blend of Virtual Villagers, Westward, and strategy games such as Warcraft and Tribal Trouble, Forgotten Lands: First Colony is a casual RTS game that hits the sweet spot between challenge, complexity, and captivating casual gameplay. The title puts you at the helm of a young civilization looking to strike out and settle new lands. Everything about Forgotten Lands: First Colony is geared towards easing you into the experience, yet there's no shortage of depth or intrigue.
Forgotten Lands: First Colony gives you the power to build structures, create units, and harvest materials you'll need to do both. To recruit workers, simply click on the town hall and choose which citizen you'll need. Some of the starting units available include general laborers, merchants, scholars and scouts, each with his or her own unique abilities. Drag and drop your units onto buildings to set them to work. Scholars, for example, love to research and when they're placed around a building it will quickly earn points that will allow an upgrade. Learning how to use the units effectively is one of the key factors in mastering Forgotten Lands: First Colony.
Food, gold and wood are the only resources you need concern yourself with in the game. Build farms and place workers there to make sure your population is fed. Create a lumber mill to harvest timber, and try distributing merchants across your buildings to increase gold production. In order to create new buildings and upgrade them, you'll need plenty of gold and wood.
Divided into a series of scenarios, Forgotten Lands gradually develops the story as you complete increasingly open-ended missions. You start with simple tasks such as building a farm, recruiting a number of units, or upgrading a building. Later you get to do much more interesting things such as trade gems for new property and repair an ancient seafaring vessel that's crashed on the shore. Bonus stages are unlocked at certain points, providing you with a little break from the main game.
Analysis: I've never been a big fan of real-time strategy games. The complexity and steep learning curve usually turns me away before I get to the meat of the game. Forgotten Lands: First Colony drops all of the confusing menus and needlessly long list of units in favor of a straightforward design. New workers are introduced at a slow pace and, at least in earlier levels, it's fairly obvious which you should be stockpiling. Managing resources is simple, there's enough variety in the scenarios to keep monotany at bay, and everything is knitted together without limiting your options, keeping the "S" in RTS vibrantly alive.
The visuals, while perfectly suited to the game's atmosphere, sometimes come across as a bit grainy with slightly stiff animation. It's nothing that detracts from the game, however, and I love the overall look and feel.
It's rare to see real time strategy make its way to the casual scene in such a perfect way. Forgotten Lands: First Colony delivers everything that's great about the genre without sacrificing very much at all. And you won't have to sacrifice hours of your life just learning how to play.