HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewCATAN - Console Edition Review

CATAN – Console Edition Review


CATAN – Console Edition brings us back to the halcyon days of Xbox Live Arcade. It was when UNO ruled the roost, and you could count the Live Arcade games on a couple of hands and feet. CATAN and Carcassone were two of the first games on the service, and we pumped countless hours into both. Who needed a table and friends when you could boot up CATAN and swap sheep with strangers? 

But for all the popularity of CATAN the board game (it’s the second most-played game on Board Game Geek, behind – you guessed it – Carcasonne), it hasn’t made it onto the latest generation of consoles. It’s not backwards compatible, alas, and nobody has plucked up the courage to improve on the Live Arcade original. We have a hexagonal hole in our lives.

That clearly changes now. CATAN – Console Edition is here, and it comes from an unlikely source. The UK’s own Dovetail Games, best known for their train and fishing sims, have turned their hand to CATAN, with potentially more board games to follow. Going by their track-history with Train Sim World, we can expect a bazillion DLC drops for CATAN – Console Edition.  

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It certainly looks the part. Boot up CATAN – Console Edition, and the board majestically rises from the ocean in all its high-fidelity glory. Forget kickstarting a deluxe edition of Catan or investing in some Etsy pieces: this may well be the most gorgeous-looking CATAN board that has ever been.

We’re rather smitten with the tutorials, too. Voiced by a smooth-talking gent who has been handed a script that allows him to go all-in on tongue-in-cheek comments, it’s a real joy. It’s both an easy listen and completely clear, initiating you in the ways of CATAN without any problems. We needed a brush up after a decade or two without playing it, and it did the job perfectly. 

Then it’s into the game modes and settings, and it’s where CATAN – Console Edition falters. None of the expansions for CATAN are available here: this is the base game, and you can imagine that the expansions will follow if CATAN – Console Edition takes off. We didn’t expect many of them, but having the ability to expand on the foundations of CATAN would have been extremely welcome. 

You can play online or locally, with human players and CPU, but the options aren’t stupendously broad. We wanted to fiddle with the CPU’s predilections for trading, or perhaps up their difficulty, but there was no such ability. You can change their avatar and colour schemes, but that’s about it.

The same goes for your character. We wanted to tweak the game board and art, but the closest we could find was the background, frame and colour of the dice. Even then, the options were on the skimpy side. We suspect that paid DLC is incoming.

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The most damning is the lack of game options. We’re skipping ahead a little here, but CATAN – Console Edition can be quite busy, with a board that is so detailed and bustling that it can be hard to spot your houses, roads, or the robber. But you can’t simplify the board or strip out information that you don’t want. It’s not a game that you can view particularly well at-a-glance.

You can’t speed up CPU turns, or remove unwanted animations, either. This is a slow game that is determined to remain a slow game, with only the ability to ‘hide trades’ as a method of speeding a turn up. As someone who tinkered with these very options in the XBLA version of CATAN, it feels like an omission that they didn’t make it here. 

Still, we were able to find games of CATAN – Console Edition online without much issue, and the netcode is sturdy as a pile of lumber and rock. While we might grumble about the bizarre setting omissions, CATAN – Console Edition plays pretty well, and that’s what matters. 

Controls were always going to be a challenge, and CATAN – Console Edition largely gets them right. It makes abundant use of the right-triggers as reference tools, allowing you to scan your resources, the cost of building stuff, and the cards in your hand with a simple trigger press. You can prioritise what you want visible at any point, too. We encountered a few bugs with the system – menus tended to stick around and overlay onto important screens, like the Game Over status screen – but it generally worked wonders. 

Other interactions are on the face buttons, and CATAN – Console Edition makes you hold buttons to commit to things. We’d chuck in some niggles here, and say that the hold is frustratingly long (which stacks onto the too-long CPU turns to make the game even slower), but the idea is sound, and we soon found the controls to be second nature. By game two or three, we anticipate that you will be a CATAN colossus, trading food at ports with a swift combination of buttons. 

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And the joys of CATAN are preserved and present. We remembered old opinions – trading with players is still stop-start and slow, but at least you can turn it off; and players love to pick on you if you’re ahead. But there’s a gloriously simple party game here, and it has enough depth to make you return to it, over and over, in the hunt for achievements or a different method of winning. We’re still working out how to best generate five knights in one game, and we’re going to manage it, dammit. 

CATAN – Console Edition is not a perfect interpretation of the board game classic. It’s slow and doesn’t let you chart a path around that slowness. It’s thin when it could have been stuffed with customisations, options or even expansions. 

But for all that, CATAN – Console Edition is mighty lovely to look at, a CATAN board carved out of finest materials and then comes to life, and the game itself has lost none of its charm. You can play in any permutation you can think of, with local players, online players and CPU bots all waiting to stiff you on lumber. When the cards are on the table, that’s what matters most, and though we might moan that everything is too slow, and that nobody is trading food, we will be returning to play it in about 3, 2, 1…

You can buy CATAN: Console Edition from the Xbox Store


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2 months ago

Similar to 2022’s catastrophic server migration issue on mobile Catan Universe (from another publisher) which broke the game for several weeks, there seems to be a lot of work still to be done on Catan Console Edition. As a keen player I bought the game on Xbox but promptly requested a refund. The main issue for me was the lackluster local coop experience: the idea of using a mobile phone as a second screen to track your resources is interesting, if only it worked. The page seems to update sporadically at first, after which updates stop and even manual refreshes don’t update the page. This makes it in effect useless in local coop mode without having to view your cards on screen in front of your opponent. From a visual perspective, they’ve put a lot of work into the tile animations, something that early on loses it’s impact as a top-down view is necessary to be able to see through all the clutter. Player colours are muted (like the general board design), making it difficult to track who is doing what/where on the board. Anyone with visual impairment has little chance of playing this game – something which in this day and age (and this type of game for that matter) need not be the case. The second local player also can’t update their name (and neither does the game use the profile info bonded to the second controller). All if this makes for a less than polished experience, and this is just the the local coop mode! The dice are truly ugly, and most of the more diverse player characters are locked for some reason. I would consider buying this game again in future, although it’s reviews would need improve considerably before doing so: there are many serious issues that need attention, and then a whole lot of superficial/graphical improvements must reach the top of their to-do list first.

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