Catan: Console Edition: A Full Review

Catan: Console Edition: A Full Review

Tabletop games have always been an important part of my introduction into the world of gaming. Long before my youth was spent with series like Pokemon and Falloutone game always stood tall amongst my favorites: Catan

As one of the first major European tabletop games to gain worldwide following, Catan maintained a strong status since its 1995 debut that has only grown in recent years with new expansions. As settlers of a fictional island, players are tasked with building, maintaining and expanding settlements through obtaining resources and trading with other players to build their best settlement and ultimately win. 

When I heard a digital tabletop version of Catan would come to PC and consoles, I was ecstatic to return to a beloved game that I could finally play without having players altogether in one room. However, I had my concerns, as some digitized versions can fail to deliver the same experience as the tabletop version. Moreover, changes made to these games can often be cumbersome, both as a familiar or new experience. 

Ultimately, I found that Catan: Console Edition offers a very fun experience that doesn't just retain its classic charm and robust strategy that it's known for, but also offers plenty of good ways to play that are perfect for every type of player. Despite some small issues, this is surely a game I plan to revisit a lot over the years and will make for fun competition with friends.

One of the first things you'll notice when starting up your first Catan: Console Edition game is that the graphics look pretty strong for a tabletop game. The board and its detailed regions look sharp and distinct from one another, and both detailed and overhead views on the board's locations offer unique perspective you simply can't get in other games. Overall gameplay also runs smoothly, with dynamic action constantly occurring on the board that makes it engaging to watch during turns. This is a nice step up for a digital adaption that adds some fun immersion to the experience that the tabletop version does not have.

Even as a seasoned player, I honestly gained a lot from a reminder about how to play and learning the controls. The tutorial is very informative and one of the more enjoyable tutorials of any game I've played in recent times. The narrator and visuals clearly walk you through the game and its controls in an entertaining way, and it's easy to get up to speed on this way to play. I imagine this would be an effective tutorial for a newcomer just as it can be for veterans. As such, with an effective introduction to controls, I also found the controls to be well-organized as a whole. It may take a little adjusting to remember every button as opposed to the functionality of a tabletop game, but this layout is streamlined in terms of accessibility and grasping different actions. 

By the time you're set loose to do what you please, the amount of game modes is excellent to choose from. Players have the option of playing against CPUs, local players on the same system or against online opponents with support for cross-platform play. These make for good options that can suit any player and offer fun experiences in playing the game in different ways. The CPU play felt authentic to playing against real people, and playing online was quite fun and competitive with few issues in matchmaking. The cross-platform play will certainly make this an enticing choice for those looking to play with friends on a variety of systems. Overall, the options of opponents really make this a fun game to play for hours on end, and it feels more rewarding to build settlements than ever before. 

However, one of the things I came to see as I played games with different opponents was that Catan: Console Edition maintains its slow pace in the digital version. Though the classic vibe of Catan is undeniably there and is enjoyable for playing in this context, there are almost no options to speed games up through timers on moves or skipping turns, animations or time elapsed in any game mode. One small way to reduce time per turn is turning off trading when desired, but it doesn't do as much for tempo as I hoped. Games can run a bit long at times that might make some players dislike how long games will run for.  This may not be a problem for many players, but it could be something that could rub some the wrong way for those looking for a more casual and fast pace.

Despite play against CPUs being fun and balanced, it can feel a little lacking once you've played enough against them. There are also no ways to customize CPUs through difficulty or other selections, and even with different strategies, there is a lack of scalability and customization to opposing ways to play. The only ways CPUs can be customized are through names, characters or colors (as shown above). I feel this lack of customization could harm the value in revisiting the game or turn away players if the initial game is a bit too difficult. I feel there can be value to an easier custom option that lets players learn more through a real game that doesn't feel as difficult. 

Even despite its few problems, Catan: Console Edition is truly a blast to play and has plenty of potential to reach greater heights through different updates and expansion packs over time. The sheer fun of building up your settlements, fun trade negotiations and competing against other settlers to dominate the board is a joy that will last over time. The things that made Catan a classic ring truer than ever in this digital version, and it's a much-needed version that lives up to its great reputation. 

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