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Beasts and Bumpkins is a great Settlers-style gem that is one of the very few games from software giant Electronic Arts that were released very quietly without any marketing hype, and only in Europe. And that?s a shame, because in contrast to many hyped-but-horrible games EA put out, BNB is entertaining and very charming. Tim Chown?s Games Domain?s strategy editor, says it all in his review about what makes the game well worth a look, although by no means a classic:
"...What I found was a game that indeed wasn't worthy of a full price sale, but one with a lot of new game ideas and reasonable value as a bargain bin buy. Or it is if the Settlers style of "cute" game is your thing.
The cuteness factor probably comes from the apparent European influence on the game, which is credited as "Demons et Manants" in the title screen, hinting at a French connection. The game itself has the same village building nature as Settlers, but it's presented in something of a simpler way. Putting aside the perils of the game world, your prime goal is to expand your population, providing food, water and anything else needed to keep your subjects happy. The innovative slant on Beasts and Bumpkins is that your population must grow by "natural" means - you don't build or buy new villagers, you need a frisky man and woman to nip off into a hut for a bit of nookie to get a baby, which then may grow into a boy or girl, assuming the wolves don't get it first. If you want a soldier you have to send a young man to a guard tower and train him for cash (which you raise by charging for water and food). If you later want a villager back, you can demob the footman back to farm duty.
The game clock runs continuously - you can't pause to give orders - and time is split into four seasons which in turn are split by night-time phases. It takes a few seasons for babies to grow to adults, and an adult may live for four or five game years, depending on food and water supply. As long as you provide food, housing, water, and you don't get attacked, you should expand nicely by surviving on wheat, bread, cattle and milk. Wheat is planted in spring and harvested in the autumn, cows can be lured into fenced fields where they can be milked. The "Sim Village" part of the game isn't too complex, is quite well implemented, but is perhaps too repetitive in each mission. For those who like charts and graphs, there's a good selection of stats you can view to track such things as population growth, birth rate, and so on.
That repetition is broken up by the tasks you're given in each mission. I haven't completed all the missions, of which there are reportedly 30, but what I've played to date has reasonable variety. Like Warcraft, the first few outings are merely tasters, asking you to grow your village to a certain population or to raise a certain amount of cash. From there, extras are added like retrieving artifacts, destroying an evil shrine, conquering enemy villages. Missions have implicit sub-plots - in mission 6 you need to navigate through fields filled with traps, but to do that you really need to find the "reveal trap" scroll to add that spell to your wizard's repertoire. New game elements are added as the missions progress, so the game complexity (what there is of it) is ushered onto you gently. Hints and tips are delivered tutorial-style via letters which you can read. The control system is a little clumsy - while you can scroll the map easily enough bring up the building menu bar can be a little hit and miss, and it often gets in the way of your scrolling. One useful hotkey takes you back to your village center.
Beasts and Bumpkins is a game that understandably got overshadowed by Total Annihilation and Dark Reign when it came out last autumn (1997), and technically it's also well behind the likes of Warwind II. However, it does have that certain cuteness that attracted a lot of followers to Settlers, and the simpler style of play may well prove more enjoyable to many gamers.
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Beasts & Bumpkins screenshot
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Settlers II Gold Edition, The, Dungeon Keeper Gold, Lords of Magic: Special Edition