Did you ever wonder about what happened to your settlers after you finished a classic game of Oregon Trail (or the newer iOS remake)? Yeah, me neither. However, the folks over at Gameloft have taken that premise and used it to build a free-to-play town builder game. Set in the frontier wilds, The Oregon Trail: American Settler [Free] tasks you with building a new town from scratch. While many folks will no doubt be somewhat perturbed by this classic series going freemium, those that are willing to check it out will find a potentially decent game with more gameplay and content than similar titles (along with more annoyances).

Gameplay-wise American Settler generally plays like most other freemium town builders. Players chop trees for wood and grow crops for food with the intent of building houses and businesses to make cash. You then use that cash to build bigger and better businesses to make more coin, and so on. Each action rewards you with experience for leveling up, which subsequently unlock better things to build. Folks familiar with freemium building games should feel right at home. In addition, the visuals in American Settler are quite colorful and look very similar to those found in the recent iOS remake of the original Oregon Trail. In other words, if you were able to accept the cartoony graphics of the remake, you’ll be fine with American Settler.

Where Gameloft somewhat deviates from the norm is with the sheer amount of things you can do simultaneously from the start. Being in the frontier, a lot of time will be spent clearing your plot of land and chopping down trees, which both earn experience among other items. Also, a lot of businesses will require base commodities (such as food) before they can eventually spit out gold. In addition, American Settler features a decent amount of crafting, with advanced items requiring simpler items (that can be made at the same workshop) and so on. I thought Gameloft did a decent job of the wide variety of items you could make, particularly with the interplay of items that could be used as prerequisite ingredients.

Gameplay and graphics are all well and good, but when it comes to freemium games, the most important question is in regards to how much can a person play before they have to wait or pay. Like most freemium games, American Settler has the usual assortment of timers that players will have to deal with in order to grow crops or craft items. Accompanying the timers is the usual ‘premium’ currency that can thwart said timers (and is conveniently offered as IAP). It’s a standard system that offers very little surprise.

However, Gameloft has taken timers one step further with the ‘Energy’ system. Similar to Let’s Golf 3, energy is required to do nearly anything in American Settler. While actions can randomly reward additional energy (thus giving you essentially a free act) you will eventually run out, and you will have to either wait, or use your premium currency to instantly restore your energy. While I’m certainly not a fan of additional timers, the truth is energy doesn’t really affect the game much outside the first few hours, as the gameplay will inevitably devolve into waiting decent amount of time for items or crops to be ready (and your energy will most likely have recovered by then).

Where I do have a problem, however, is with the randomized events that occasionally occur which threaten the timers of your businesses or crops unless you shell out some premium currency. It’s as if multiple timers and IAP were no longer enough and the developers had to throw in yet another method to try and coax IAP out of the common gamer. Sure, these events hide behind the general theme of Oregon Trail (bandit attacks and natural disasters, for example), but it still amounts to an uncouth business practice.

In the end, despite the colorful visuals and deeper gameplay, American Settler is still a freemium game. There are undoubtedly gamers out there that will simply turn their nose up and not bother simply because of that classification. However, for those that enjoy this type of genre, American Settler can offer enough actual content and gameplay to make it a freemium title worth pursuing. I just really wish that ideas like the random potentially timer resetting events and the energy ‘gameplay’ mechanic didn’t make the choice harder than it already had to be.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/l1nuxguy l1nuxguy

    I liked this game a lot for a while, but I got to a point where it seemed (to me at least) like I was *constantly* getting the events where the settler was "sick" (snake bite/broken X/disease X/etc) and got fed up with it.  Like you said, it's one thing to make you wait a long time, but it's another to keep throwing in events (esp when they pile one atop another).  I didn't mind the "quick" ones where they were trying to squeeze a little more out of you (flood/fire/etc) since those were *quick* and it was simple to avoid paying real money, but these "sickness" events piling up (one getting sick while you were going through *extremely* long times making meds/bandages/etc then another getting sick at the same time) just was the last straw and I stopped playing.

    • http://twitter.com/theemilybob Emily Hunt

      It really did become outrageous for me. I had to build 4+ infirmaries and still couldn't produce enough supplies to save my pioneers even checking back to the game round the clock. That just isn't fun anymore.

      • Anonymous

        Same thing here. And the real issue is... If you stock up a bunch of the supplies they will *all* go as soon as you need to use one. For example, if you can get all 6 of your infirmeries set to produce needles overnight (since it takes 4 HOURS!) then have 6 needles and have to cure someone using 2 then all 6 disappear. That really sucks. So it seems like this triaging of the injured and deathly ill is the bottle neck that makes you either pay or bail. That's when I was out!

      • Anonymous

        Hi Emily. I wanted to let you know that there is another way to cure the sick. I actually figured it out by mistake, I was building a new infirmary and accidently built in on top of the little guy, and he walked away ...lol - I was quite shocked...but non the less pleased. I also found out by mistake tha ta road will do the same. Cheaper. than the other. :-) oh, and it has to be a new piece of road. Try it. :-)

    • http://www.facebook.com/nathalie.lockhart.75 Nathalie Lockhart

      Thats why when you first build the infirmary you should start making herbs and medicines immediately and you won't even notice cause it will be apart of your money cycle, plus when you start building barns its a pain, the second time around i just made everything first before even thinking about buying it yet! 

  • Federico Astica

    Dear developers, please, stop this freemium madness! I miss paying for a full game.

  • Briker Ed

    These facebooky types of games that translated onto iOS or other portable systems offer absolutely nothing new. It's simple applications designed completely around the premise of milking money from the suckers, under the bs excuse banner of "freemium". Honestly, limit my active play time/actions? I don't mind paying for optional content. However, hours long timers and limited actions.... It's not even debatable, no matter the packaging, and it's only the packaging that ever changes in these....

  • Hone Melgren

    I don't actually mind the freemium elements. For the most part you can play a lot of the game for free. I have yet to pay a single cents for it including the original purchase - I got it when they had a promotion offering it for free.

    No what I find annoying is when this random event happens where an animal pops out of nowhere. Some racy music plays encouraging you to chase after the squirrel/bear/deer to shoot it for food. 

    This is a little annoying when your in the process of doing something else and don't want to spend the energy running after some squirrel when you're already at 100% food. It's not required but the music that play lends a sense of urgency so you start think you're expecting to run after that animal :(

  • Anonymous

    LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME!!!!

  • Tracey Stewart

    Use to love the game until I hit level 42 and the game started to kick me off as soon I went to do something.  After several days of not being able to to play I decided to reload it thinking that would fix teh bug....I am now back at Level 1 and haven't played it since.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelodell Michael O'Dell

    Anyone know why almost all of my buildings have stopped collecting taxes? I am on level 18.

  • Anonymous

    i'm wondering the same thing Michael. Mine has stopped too, I am on my second try and on round 56 of the game after I had to reloaded because it quit all of a sudden a few weeks ago. I was on level 46 and had to start back at level 1. Does anyone read these and are you even trying to fix the glitches???

  • http://www.facebook.com/mphilipp17 Mark Philipp

    how do you earn more of the "dollars"?  I earn coins from the buildings and stuff, but don't know how to get more dollars unless i buy them.  HELP please!

  • Guest

    nice game

  • puma19

    I'm not very far into the game but it seems i've run out of land to build stuff on. how do i get more land so i can keep building?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2MNGLXCMIQHW7ZI5JX3DNNMLMY JoannaH

    You can earn more "dollars" by either using real via the store or getting free money from watching advertisements.  You can purchase more land after you have run out of land to build stuff.  I'm on level 100 right now and my problem is that I have run out of tasks.  It hasn't given me anything new to do in quite a while :(

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/6JWNJPKZW2V7UN42Q2ON6MCWRU teriann177

      I am having the same problem. I thought it was because I needed to update the app, but apparently that's not the case if you are experiencing the same issues! I am getting bored with it, and thinking about deleting........

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VAGBEZZD6MPBPLZOXANNGOG22M rusty

    i am stuck on a task but cant figure out how to complete it . it saying i have to clear 12 flowers but when i remove flowers they dont add on to the task . anyone have any ideas?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2MNGLXCMIQHW7ZI5JX3DNNMLMY JoannaH

    Rusty, they have to be flowers specifically.  Somethings like weeds might look like flowers.  Put the cursor over them before you clear them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.maccallum.9 Rebecca MacCallum

    I have the same problem as Rusty and I have cleared 5 entire land expansions with everything from rocks, flowers, weeds, skulls, and trees and it still doesn't count towards that quest.  I also haven't received a new quest since I got that one.  Love the game but it seems to have stopped progressing.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/IPFPSAH3Z6FYS4IHBOLQJWQWIM shayo

      They fixed that particular glitch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/josh.mcgath Josh Mcgath

    Love the game had it on my 4s pretty much beat it level 100 then no more XP points no mote challenges or tasksd to do bought all land 100000k for the last one cleared all trees had to plant more had ever non.cash building multipuls 16 barns 20 work shops then it sucked now have Android and on level 45 almost half way done with game joshuamcgath@gmail.com for tips

    • http://www.facebook.com/nathalie.lockhart.75 Nathalie Lockhart

      Hey how do you organize your housing/ businesses so you can add the bonus items around them to get the max percentage?  I build them in squares with stuff in the middle like a fire pit area but it takes up a lot of space. any suggestions?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Martin/1241107045 Jonathan Martin

    Also been having the problem clearing 12 flowers... And even thought they are
    labeled as Red Flowers, Orange Flowers, etc, they still are not recognized as
    cleared in the task chart. It still shows 0/12... No other tasks have come
    along since that either. So I just keep building, collecting, farming, and
    running in circles until I can find a solution.

  • http://twitter.com/AKoustyc Lyon's_Den

    I'm stuck!! I have a two different tasks to do and it's telling me I need to cure people but there is no one to cure. I guess I just need to keep playing. Were any of you stuck there??

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathalie.lockhart.75 Nathalie Lockhart

    I got to like level 35 and got frustrated because i was wasting half my energy on collecting all my coins having so many houses, BTW if you can help it NO SHANTY'S,  waste of coin collecting. I started over again yesterday and already bought 2 more expansions. If you don't know the energy trick yet its super helpful. Set your date time forward BUT  you have to write it down on colornote or something so when you want to play you set it forward and you get full energy all the time. It works! 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/IPFPSAH3Z6FYS4IHBOLQJWQWIM shayo

      Another thing that works is if u set your internal calendar one day ahead you can go prospecting. When you set it back to actual date you can again go prospecting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/romero.carlomagno Carlo Romero

    I have a task here to harvest from an apple tree but can't find it anywhere there were no fruit trees on the shop. Can anyone tell me where to find them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sadie.ball Sadie Ball

    I had to uninstall. I enjoyed it, but it force closed and jacked me of money and land way too much. Also, the "customer service" didnt help me at all. All I got was the same automatic generated email. I really liked it, until all it was was frustration. Guess I need to find a new game, without so many bugs.

The Oregon Trail: American Settler Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3