Review: The Oregon Trail: American Settler


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The Oregon Trail used to be one of my favorite games when I was in grade school.  I got to play it on the Apple ][.  Seeing this game in the App store led me heading out to the wild west to build a town starting with only a shanty house.  The game is quite fun and majorly addicting.  I’ve been playing for about a week now and I’m up to level 36.  Continue reading to find out what makes this game so good as well as some things on the darker side.  Oregon Trail – It’s time to go west!

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OregonSettler (the name you’ll get on your iOS homescreen) has a cute storyline of you going west to start a new life.  Instead of traveling the trail, you’ll continue on to build your settlement.  You’ll gain levels which enable you to have more “energy” which is the time based factor to prevent people like me from going ape and playing non-stop.  There are plenty of things to build your town…starting with your first house and then planting some crops by building some farm plots.

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Let’s look at the resources.  There are 5 types:

Energy:  You are limited in actions only by “energy” which you get a full bar of when you level up (complete enough actions to become promoted with greater strength and thus the ability to do more.  Energy naturally refills by 1 every 3 minutes.  Energy can also be bought by paying real U.S. dollars for various amounts.

Coins:  Coins are collected from homes and businesses.  The amount and time it takes to get coins depends on each individual building that you build.  You’ll be using these to pay for most in game stuffs.  You can also buy coins through the in-game shop with real U.S. dollars.

Dollars: These are the primary currency which you start off with a small pile up and the only two ways to get more is by watching advertisements to get 1 unit (you can only do this once per day) or to buy it by trading in real U.S. dollars for the virtual stuff.  There are a number of items in the game which can ONLY be purchased with dollars.  They can also be used to speed up production and can help get you out of a pinch in various random events.

Food:  Everybody needs to eat – and this game is no different.  This is what you’ll “pay” your workers in the various businesses.   You’ll also be using large quantities to make medicines and other in game goods which are usually prerequisites to other items used in the game.  Get food by planting crops or getting them from animals (both domestic or wild).  On an odd note, you can get food from a domesticated donkey….somehow this doesn’t sound very appetizing….

Wood:  The stuff buildings are made out of!  You’ll  need large quantities for building.  Go chop down some trees and dig out some stumps to get wood.  Usually you’ll get only 8 or 12 units per harvest action.  If you want them to grow back, don’t chop the tree to the ground.  Trees have 7 times they can be harvested.  When it drops down to 1, you should let it grow back unless you want to clear the land…in which case you’ll be able to get one more harvest out of it by taking the stump.

As you begin your journey, you’ll be presented with many quests which guide you into building things.  You do not have to build only when they tell you to build.   Have fun and experiment – this is very free form and reminds me of Sim City or StarCraft where you get to build your base.  Only this time the enemies are in-game disease (yes, your settlers can get cholera, broken legs, and typhoid fever) and some horrible game crashes which I’ll go into more detail later.

As you’re building, you’ll find many decorations in the game.  These decorations provide various production bonuses  when placed in the vicinity of a business buildings.  You’ll be getting a lot of seasonal downloadable content (DLC) which extends the game with various wintery gear such as candy cane forests, nutcracker soldiers, and mistletoe street lamps.

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Game Play Tips:

- Save your dollars!  These can be used to get you out of a pinch like when 5 of your townspeople are sick and time is not on your side.  You’ll find it easy to accidentally spend dollars by mis-tapping  thereby accidentally speeding up production.

- Be careful when hunting, as it can become a tapping frenzy.  There is a button that will allow you to hide buildings which will let you easily click on the animal you are trying to hunt.

- If you accidentally start an action, that action can be canceled by tapping on the “stop” sign on the bottom right of the screen as long as the action hasn’t been completed.

- You can queue up tasks and destinations.  This is great for harvesting and planting.

- You can move people around.  This is great for lining up your townsfolk when epidemics hit and you have to triage them making sure that those with the shortest mission timers get completed first.

- You can move buildings around.  You don’t have to sell it and rebuild.  Build once, move and rearrange as you wish.

- Buy land to expand.  You can only chop down trees and perform actions on property that you own when you are playing your own town.

- When helping a neighboring town, be greedy.  You “help” them but you also get a cut of the profits.  As such, if you need coins, pick to help out at the most expensive businesses.  If you need food, help harvest the most expensive crops or domesticated animals.  If you need wood, go chop down their trees!  You can only perform 5 actions in a neighboring town each day.

- If you are needing food, try to plant what makes sense based on when you will next be playing.  Don’t waste your time on small things like chickens as they don’t generate enough food to be worth one action energy point.  For those that prefer to play hourly, try growing corn and potatoes.  For those that need “fast food” grow pumpkins.  If you are heading to bed, grow eggplant and cabbage as those will take much more time and can “grow” while you are sleeping.

- Fishing needs worms…you can build those after you build a workshop (yes, it sounds funny to build worms).

Ultimately this game is for fun – I just happen to be one of those who enjoys micromanagement and find pleasure in being efficient and hence I try to maximize everything.  Below you’ll see a picture of my town with all the crazy production of medical supplies.  This is the last screen shot I got before the game started crashing on me to where it is now unplayable as it crashes every time I try to perform an action.

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Conclusion and Tough Times: This game is excellent and does require getting used to.  I recommend playing on an iPad rather than an iPod Touch as the game can be quite sensitive to buildings.  I am currently deleting this game off of my iPad as the game has gotten to a point where I can no longer play.  The game crashes every time I try to open it.  When trying to watch advertisements for free dollars, the game also crashed a lot.  The rewards system that rewards consecutive days of play is broke as it never goes past the second day.  I have been playing a week straight even waking up in the middle of the night to play my turns.  As such, I am disappointed after putting so much effort into a game to not be able to play.  If the programmers could correct those problems, they sure have a winner on there hands.  Until then, stay away from this game as it will make you very upset when things keep crashing and burning.  If you already have it, don’t delete it as you’ll end up back to level 1 if you’d like to give the developers a chance to fix the problems.

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  1. #1 by Trisha on December 21, 2011 - 2:43 pm

    I purchased dollars on the game Oregon Settler 3 times and have not received them. How do I get them?

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