Available through the Epic Games Store, Airborne Kingdom is a sky city builder from indie developer The Wandering Band. You manage the titular airborne kingdom – starting out as a mere settlement in the skies – and aim to unify the twelve ground kingdoms and bring peace to the world once more. Maybe you’ll find out what happened to the previous airborne kingdom before you.
It being a city builder game, the options menu isn’t packed with all the nitty gritty settings you find in blockbuster titles. For my home computer, recording footage on High quality was enough to make it whirr really loudly as though I were airborne myself, so for those with less powerful PCs, it might be a good idea to turn down the quality. I wouldn’t say the visuals are the game’s primary draw anyway, but it’s nice to see the little details where you can.
There’s also a photo mode to play around with, if you have crafted an amazing layout you want to show the world. The whole game feels inspired by Middle East / Muslim themes, one of the most obvious being the roofs of the buildings, like that of mosques. I’m not one who can really delve into the design, but I quite like it: where many might opt for typical fantasy / medieval themes, this one choice makes Airborne Kingdom stand out that bit more.
As for the music, I didn’t consciously realize if there were multiple tracks. It’s okay, and the game doesn’t utilize that many sound cues, so putting on your own BGM will work just fine.
Besides allying with the ground kingdoms, you can also find three additional Wonders along your journey. You’ll come across scattered ruins containing either the pieces of these Wonders – 3 pieces each – or those containing relics. You’ll also find smaller settlements with people whom you can recruit with pretty lax requirements. At launch, Airborne Kingdom does not have a difficulty option, so even I who honestly somewhat mismanaged my kingdom, found it easy enough to cruise through in roughly 7 to 9 hours.
Sure, you have only one city to manage, but there are still a multitude of resources to take note of:
- They will consume food and water, and require housing
- They’ll be your primary resource gatherers, and also a resource themselves
- Later buildings require workers, and you’d have to juggle having enough for ground work too
- You’ll need to keep them happy or they’ll abandon your kingdom
- Food and water
- There will be buildings to generate these resources
- Building materials
- They run the gamut from wood (no processing required) to clay, quartz, iron and canvas, the latter all requiring additional buildings to craft from the materials you get
- They add to your total load, and carrying too much might force you to toss out precious materials
- Keeps your city afloat
- Can be generated from wood with the appropriate building
- Acquired from ruins at a random amount
- Required to purchase blueprints for researching
Gathering nodes are clearly marked on the map, with the number on the ground indicating how much resources a node has. The closer you are to the gathering spot, the faster your people will be able to gather, which makes sense. These nodes will also replenish over time once you deplete them.
I will say this: make your paths 2 tiles wide so that you can destroy them without worry. The game will not allow you to destroy any paths if that strip is what keeps a building supported. Many of these structures will require you to purchase blueprints, which you’ll find from the kingdoms you come across. Once blueprints are acquired, you have to spend in-game time to research them, which you can only do one at a time. Building more Academies will speed up the process.
You have your structures for housing, resource generation / processing, and the ever important lift / propulsion. Too many buildings will slow down your maximum speed, which can make you use up more resources than necessary as you move. Besides the fuel costs, too many structures on one side will also tilt and affect both your citizen’s happiness and your speed, so that’s a balance you must keep in mind.
Wonders are one off buildings, and from the name, they have pretty good benefits. With how the game goes, by the time you do get them, they’re hardly necessary as researching efficiency for your structures should mean that they’re mostly for completion’s sake at that point.
Certain buildings can be researched to stack, which provides the same benefits as a new building but with less resources and space used. While you’re at it, don’t forget to have the hangars for actual ground gathering. You’d want to have more Academies later in the game for faster researching, so find the balance once you hit that point.
Your primary focus will be to find and unite the other kingdoms. They will ask you to do a quest, progressing to building a sky port, before at last, they will be your allies. They’ll also provide their area specialty resources which aren’t that large, to be honest, but it’s passive income. On allying with these kingdoms, you’ll get another influx of citizens, of which you’ll need at least 150 by the end of the game.
The default starting area kingdoms provide wood. The Shallows kingdoms will grant cotton, and their area of the map will have much less coal to find than usual. The Highlands will have much less food nodes instead, with allied kingdoms providing ore for iron. You don’t need to micromanage anything further once you’ve allied with the kingdoms, unlike say, the Civilization games, where there are other territories vying for city states which can ask for resources or assistance. It’s easy to know when you’re entering one area to the next, as there are clear edges between the regions.
Obtaining all the Wonders is not necessary to complete the game: I finished my run with two of them built. The most important thing is the allying process.
It’s really easy to start out being super enthusiastic and making a horrendous layout nightmare, besides being painfully short on resources. I do feel that the game is very lenient and generous with how much you can skirt the edge of dissatisfaction – granted I did eventually have people abandon my kingdom – but I still found fun in it regardless.
I do see how the game can be considered really easy despite all the moving parts to manage, especially for more experienced sim / strategy players. You see, I fully expected to crash and burn when I ran out of coal, but… I didn’t. My kingdom just kept bobbing up and down until I chugged my way to the next kingdom to trade for other crucial resources, which was funnier in the Highlands, seeing my kingdom clip through the hills. The speed of the game can feel a little slow still even at 3x the speed, but that might just be personal taste.
All in all, yes, it was a fun experience, with a bit of that story to tie up the end. The journey there was enjoyable, but once it was done, I found nothing else I wanted to do, not even looking for the last Wonder I was missing. There’s potential here, so I’d look forward to any further updates.
|Artstyle / design helps it stand out||Only one save slot|
|Layout juggling is fun||No difficulty options, feels too easy|
|UI clean and easy to understand||Nothing else to do post-credits|