Ah, so this is what Ubisoft meant when they said they were reinventing The Settlers series with Kingdoms of Anteria . They meant "it's kind of an action RPG now", but also "it's still a city building strategy game", and "not to get picky, but we prefer the term 'Action RTS'". While I try to unpack what 'Action RTS' means, here are some unSettling facts: Anteria will feature "persistent city building", four-player co-op, loot and bosses, and those are certainly words you don't see together very often.
Ubisoft describe this latest Settlers game as "a unique combination of persistent city building and real-time action strategy. Players will work to build up, control and optimise their production chains and economy to unlock building upgrades and new sectors, resulting in kingdoms growing larger than ever before. They will also have the opportunity to face-off against fierce enemies and frightening bosses in tactical battles to earn resources and special loot as they level up".
So yes: that first part sounds like a typical Settlers game, while the second part sounds a lot like Diablo. Interestingly, there'll be some intermingling of both halves, so players will be able visit each others' kingdoms, and trade resources to help make them more prosperous. Dastardly cad that I am, I'd quite like the option to go to war with another player's kingdom, to sabotage their grain supply or ruin their turnips, but nothing like that was mentioned in the press release. I may have been playing too much Dark Souls.
If you're a longtime Settlers fan and your mouth is currently agape at these changes, perhaps you'll be pleased by the following sentence. "No matter what players prefer," Ubisoft say, "they will be able to focus gameplay on their favourite feature, either developing the Settlers' kingdom and optimising the economy or seeking tactical fights and new adventures." I can't imagine you'll be able to just ignore the action RPG part, but maybe you'll be able to automate it to some extent?
Ubisoft say that Kingdoms of Anteria will be at Gamescom next week, and that a closed beta will be starting soon. Here are a few screenshots: