I must admit I've been a long time fan of this series. I remember playing the original Serfcity (what the first one was called in the US) and loving that. These games are quite original in that they aren't quite a real time strategy and also not a Sim City style game. Well I have to say Blue Byte has followed their same old format for game design making Settlers 3 a great addition to the Settlers series. There are 3 races (Egyptian, Roman, and Asians) each trying to gain the most land possible and destroy the other race. The way you control your empire takes a lot of thought and this is where it differs from a real-time strategy game. You have to build buildings and train workers to support every aspect of your empire from feeding people to mining iron to make swords and shields for your army. It can even come down to one minor section of your empire being lax that causes everything to go down the drain.
I have to hand it to Blue Byte they did a very nice job on graphics. Settlers 3 supports Direct 3D and resolutions up to 1024x768. Graphics were nice and colorful on my Creative Blaster 12MB and my 8MB Matrox G200. The speed however was a problem. On my P2-333 (overclocked to 375) it ran well enough at 1024x768, but when I tried to run it on my friend's P-200 MMX and a Diamond Monster 3D (voodoo 1) it was horrible even at 640x480. I would say it was literally unplayable on that machine. So, basically, if you've got the machine for it the graphics are nice, but if your machine isn't on the "higher end" you might want to over look this title.
The effects really are quite good in this game. Blue Byte has made a wide range of realistic sounds from swords clashing to pigs snorting to woodcutters cutting. All of the sounds are life like and provide you with the sense that you're running a living empire. The sounds in this game are also important as they provide you with key information about what one of your men might be doing and also will alert you of incoming messages and events.
The gameplay in Settlers 3 is just great, especially if you like long games. You can sit down and spend hours building your empire to maximum size with your borders right up against your opponents, chopping wood and mining iron as fast as you can to build more guard towers and a bigger army. This really is a fun game if you enjoy that style. Its a little different from past Settler series games in the fact that you no longer have to worry about building roads (thank GOD!) to your buildings so people and resources can get to them, that's automatically taken care of. There are so many aspects to this game from building your empire to attacking your opponent to sailing the high seas with your ships. Your constantly kept busy with all the hustling and bustling going on inside your empire and constantly being told you need more of this or you have ample this. You also have to always be building and expanding your empire and gaining more land so when it comes down to defeating your opponent your army will be big enough and strong enough to defeat them.
I personally find this to be one of the most fun games to play period. I could see how, if you don't have time to play the game for hours, or just don't enjoying playing this sort of game, you may get bored with it, but my friends and I love to play it. One of the most fun things about this game is having your empire built up to the bursting point and zooming in on one section or one guy and watching them to see what they do. All of the people in your empire are always busy doing something: building a house, harvesting grain, baking bread, slaughtering pigs, or just carrying resources around. The best part is that you can zoom onto the person and watch them doing it. Bread just doesn't pop out of the bakery, you see the smoke come out of the chimney and you can watch the guys through the window baking. It really is like having a living and breathing empire.
Settlers 3 includes support for Internet and LAN multiplayer. This is actually the first game in the Settlers series to offer multiplayer between computers. The games are long but extremely fun to play and over the Internet playing with a bunch of people is great.
I've always liked the Settlers series and this one was no different. Blue Byte took the best aspects from all the games in the Settlers series, improved them, and put them all into Settlers 3. I strongly recommend if you enjoy real-time strategy or games like Age of Empires that you buy this game.