“The workings of Airborne Kingdom are fun to play and completely unique in a game of its genre…”
Airborne Kingdom is a unique, peaceful city builder with a very new domain for players to thrive in; the skies! Constructing a grand new kingdom among the clouds, you follow in the footsteps of civilisation gone by. Your mission is one of peace, prosperity and unity for all of the peoples of the cities on the ground, with the growth of your city being reliant upon the majesty and tilt of your flying wonder. Yes, you read that correctly, the tilt.
Before we delve into the intricacies of tilt mechanics, it is worth noting the nuances of the story. A lengthy opening cutscene establishes that, at one time, the people of this land enjoyed prosperity amongst the skies. Alas, many returned to the land over time and the wonder of being masters of the air became artifacts of a bygone age. That is, until now. Discovering the mysteries of the ancient civilisations and gaining the allegiance of the great cities on the ground are key to achieving your ultimate goal; to bring all to the air once more. Whilst undeniably intriguing, the game’s story is perhaps its least inspired feature. It is not poor, by all accounts, but the gameplay is superior to its setting – and very addicting, too!
It all starts with the smallest of hovering settlements, made of a city centre and a few paths from which to expand. Oddly, given the decision to pursue life in the air and the apparent extensive history upon which the concept is based, you begin the game with very limited resources prepared and precious little knowledge of how to actually build for this manner of survival. Alas, the research system in the game seems a little out of place given the wider narrative, but the gameplay beyond this is solid. It largely focusses on two key factors: resource management and the aforementioned tilt.
The resources present in Airborne Kingdom are your standard food, water, fuel, etc. alongside raw materials such as adobe and wood for construction and the more niche addition of relics as currency. All of these resources can either be “mined” in the landscape, traded with cities or, as the game progresses, produced on board the titular Airborne Kingdom itself. Gathering resources requires the careful distribution of aircraft as you pass them overhead, and the general method of gathering is simple. Resources in the landscape are largely finite though. Whilst some, such as forests, are replenished over time, others can be scarce in particular regions. One city suffering from a drought, for example, has several empty oases surrounding it, meaning water stocks need to be kept high in advance of helping them out. The need to carefully gather, store and sustain resource stockpiles advances greatly in the mid game, too, with the great oceans and mountainous regions of the map lacking in key resources that your people need to survive. On the face of things, the resource management if fairly standard. When playing, though, it is challenging and thought-provoking mechanic which has been well implemented as a core aspect of gameplay.
Tilt is something unique to Airborne Kingdom and changes the happiness factor of city builders at the game’s core. Citizens aboard the city in the skies generally join your voyage and mission as they see the satisfaction and elation that it might offer them (and leave if it does not). Some of this happiness is determined by factors such as faith, safety and amenities; all of which can be happily manipulated by intelligent city planning. Tilt, however, is the most interesting happiness modifier. As you add structures to your city, the weight balance of the entire city shifts accordingly. Ensuring minimal tilt in your city will make your people happy, which gently forces smart city building from the off. It is a simple mechanic but one which fits the concepts behind the gameplay perfectly, selling itself easily as an inspired feature. In fact, tilt is frequently your greatest opposition in the game. There is no combat or genuine resistance to your efforts other than physics and poor planning, making your forethought and tactics central to your success.
Success, here, is determined by making your city as cool as possible so people want to join its ranks. That is, of course, an oversimplification, but in essence it comes down to how appealing your city is and how well you help out others. This assistance comes in the form of simple quests which see you exploring the landscape for some specified feature and returning with an object or a simple confirmation of a mission accomplished. The previously noted regions of the map which lack certain resources and pose greater challenges make this aspect of the game more interesting as it goes on, but generally speaking the gameplay in general is more enticing that the story goals themselves.
The workings of Airborne Kingdom are fun to play and completely unique in a game of its genre, but the stylisations of the game are excellent as well. The city itself has a semi-steampunk, semi-classic Arabian visual style, whilst the map falls somewhere between smart geography laid out on a tapestry and a smartly designed 3D aerial view. The clouds mask much of the map as you traverse the scenery, leading to a persistently beautiful landscape to behold. Audio-wise, beyond some cutscenes, there is relatively little to shout about. That being said, the overall style is satisfying and fitting for the game’s themes.
There are a lot of positive factors about Airborne Kingdom, mostly focussed around its unique and inspired mechanics and design. Certainly, the game sets itself aside from others in the city building genre by putting a genuinely fresh spin on what has largely become the meta. It is not my favourite city builder to date, but it did surprise me in a positive way and it compelled me to take my city on an adventure; a way of playing that I truly could not have imagined previously. This game is well worth a look in for city building fans looking for something new to experience.
Airborne Kingdom was Developed and Published by The Wandering Band LLC
You can purchase this game here on the Epic Game Store for £19.99
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