Last December Airborne Kingdom was released on PC as an Epic Store exclusive. I never got the chance to check out the game on PC, but the game was released on consoles today giving me the opportunity to check it out. I have always been a fan of city builders as I like the challenge of running a well designed city managing resident’s needs with the need to expand. The twist with Airborne Kingdom is that the city you are building is floating in the sky. This gives you another thing to consider while planning your city while also allowing you to move around and explore the world. Airborne Kingdom is a really interesting twist on your traditional city builder which can be quite fun to play.
Airborne Kingdom takes place in a world that has seen better days. Once upon a time all of the kingdoms were united helping one another with the help of a flying city that helped bridge the divide between each kingdom. The floating city and all of its knowledge was eventually lost to time. With the city gone the kingdoms went their separate ways. Many years later the technology that created the floating city resurfaced and you become the leader of this new city. Your task is to travel through the world trying to once again unite all of the kingdoms.
While it has its differences which I will get to later, Airborne Kingdom is in many ways similar to your typical city building game. As the leader you are in charge of running the city and deciding how it will expand. When creating your city you have a number of things that you have to consider. First you need to create housing for your residents as well as provide for their other needs. This needs to be balanced with buildings to further refine materials you gather as well as store resources. You need to balance each of these to create a well run city that also keeps your people happy.
I would say that this aspect of the game is pretty similar to your traditional city building game. It mostly comes down to balancing the happiness of your people with acquiring enough resources to allow your city to continue growing. I genuinely enjoyed this part of the game as there is strategy to creating a successful city. In the early game you can just plop buildings down and probably be okay. As you advance in the game though you really need to start carefully think about how you design your city. You can always destroy buildings or move them, but this wastes resources so you want to avoid it whenever possible. I will say that this aspect of the game is probably not as in-depth as some city builders. There are possibilities for beneficial synergies with the buildings that improve your people’s mood, but this is not as key of a factor as in many games from this genre.
Making this more difficult is the fact that your city is literally flying in the air. In addition to analyzing how to place buildings to maximize your people’s happiness, you also have to worry about making a city that will stay in the air and remain balanced. This is where lift comes into play. As your city expands you need to add wings and other structures which will provide lift to the city to offset the weight of the other buildings that you have added. How you place buildings also matters as you try to keep your city balanced. Place too many buildings to the left, right, front or back of your city center and your city will develop a tilt. This can slow down your city’s movement as well as make your residents upset.
I found this mechanic to be pretty interesting. It does have an impact on how you design your city as you can’t overemphasize one side of your city. Basically you have to balance out your city while also making sure not to put your housing near any of the buildings that leave a negative impact on your residents. Each time you place a building you need to make sure that you aren’t putting your city off-balance. I think the game does a good job balancing the mechanic where you have to always be aware of it while not obsessing over it. As long as you build somewhat equally in each of the four directions you should be fine.
With the city building mechanics out of the way, lets move onto the actual objective of the game. As you are in control of a floating city you have the ability to move your city around to visit new locations and communicate with other cities/kingdoms. Your city has coal reserves which are used to keep your city afloat and move through the sky. Should you ever run out of coal your city will begin sinking. As you are traveling you will encounter various pockets of resources which you can send your workers down to the ground to collect. Some of these resources are used to satisfy your residents while others are used to build buildings or can be used to trade with other cities. Your storage capacity is limited so before going on a long trip, you need to pick up enough supplies for your residents needs or to expand your city.
This creates an interesting dilemma for the game. While there are some restraints, I believe there are two main ways of approaching how you build your city. First there is the strategy that I pursued which basically entailed building a tank of a city that could hold a bunch of residents and supplies. This allowed me the flexibility of not having to find resources as often as I could just live off the stored supplies for long journeys. This lead to my ship being quite slow though where it took time to travel anywhere in the game. The other approach is to go with the leaner and faster model. Instead of filling your ship with a bunch of buildings you could go with a more lean approach allowing you to travel faster and reach your destination quicker. I don’t know if one approach is better than another, but I like that the game gives players options.
The ultimate goal of the game is to reunite all of the cities of the kingdom. As you are exploring the world you will come upon twelve cities/kingdoms. When you visit each city you can trade resources with them or you can use gems you acquire in your journeys to learn new research topics. Each city also has one or more missions that you must complete in order to recruit the city to rejoin the kingdom. Most of the missions either relate to going to a specific location and completing some sort of task, or providing the city with the resources that they require. Once you complete these missions you get the opportunity to build a port in the city and it then joins the kingdom.
Those looking for combat or conflict will be disappointed as this is what the main gameplay boils down to. Collect enough resources to keep your city functioning over longer travel distances and then complete simple tasks at designated areas. I thought this was a really interesting premise for the game which is quite different than your typical city building game. Resource gathering is an important element of the game as you gather enough resources and have the production facilities in place to turn them into the appropriate finalized goods. I will admit that this might not be for everyone, but after a while I kind of became addicted to it. There is just something oddly satisfying about creating a nomadic flying city that travels around the world picking up resources along the way.
I will say that the game may not be for everyone though. The gameplay loop doesn’t really change all that much. You basically collect resources and travel between cities completing tasks for them. There is not much variety in these tasks that you need to complete. After a while the gameplay starts to feel like you are doing the same things over and over again. I thought this was still pretty fun, but after a while it does become a little repetitive. I do wish there was a little more variety to the gameplay. With this basically being all there is to the game, if this doesn’t sound all that interesting to you I don’t know if Airborne Kingdom is going to be the game for you.
Another issue that I had with Airborne Kingdom is that it doesn’t do the greatest job teaching you how to play it. At the beginning of the game there are optional tooltip/tutorial dialog boxes that teach you some of the basic concepts of the game. Some of these help and others could have been better. I ultimately was left with some areas of the gameplay that I didn’t completely understand. The game itself is not all that difficult where you will eventually learn how to play it. This does rely on some trial and error though. In particular you need to be really careful on how you build up your city at first as you don’t want to build a bunch of buildings that use up your workers. I actually got into a situation where I didn’t have any workers left to gather resources as they were all assigned to other buildings. As there is no way to un–assign workers from a building, I ultimately ended up having to destroy a building just to free up some workers to actually gather resources. This is an example of one of the areas where I think the game could have utilized a better tutorial to teach some of the mechanics.
Airborne Kingdom was released on PC a while back as an Epic Store exclusive. For this review though I ended up checking the game out on PlayStation 4. I was a little leery about this as a city builder is not the greatest genre for a console game. Ultimately I had some mixed feelings about the controls. I have no doubt that the game will be easier to play on PC than a console. Just having access to a mouse instead of an analog stick would be a pretty big improvement. That said I give the developer credit as it did about as good of job as you could with this type of game and a controller. There are some occasional issues where the controller gets in the way, but the game does a good job streamlining most of the gameplay where it works well enough. While I think the game would play better on PC, the developers did a good enough job where you can still enjoy it on consoles.
As for the game’s length it somewhat depends. There are a number of factors that contribute to this. A lot will depend on whether you focus on just completing the game or if you explore the world and try to build a well run city. I would guess that it will take most players around 6-8 hours to complete the game. This is not super long for a city building game which is a little disappointing. As the world is randomly generated for each game though, each time you play the game it will be a little different. Like all city builders you could also try to create a different/better city layout. The game encourages you to play it again after completing it. While I wish the game was a little longer, those that don’t mind playing the game again should easily get their money’s worth.
Airborne Kingdom is not your typical take on the city builder genre. You still have to build your city in a way to keep your people happy while also gathering and processing enough resources to keep your city growing and completing your objectives. This isn’t as in-depth as some city builders, but I still thought it was quite satisfying. What distinguishes the game is that you are building a city in the sky which adds its own complications. This is an interesting mechanic as it impacts how you build out your city. As a flying city your ultimate objective is to move around the world gathering resources and completing objectives for other cities in order to get them to join you. I do wish there was a little more variety in the gameplay objectives, but I found the gameplay oddly addicting. The game has some issues with not doing a great job teaching you mechanics, and the controls for the console release have some occasional issues. I still really enjoyed Airborne Kingdom as it creates a fun and interesting city building experience.
My recommendation for Airborne Kingdom comes down to your thoughts on city builders in general and the idea of running a floating city. If neither sound all that interesting, I don’t think Airborne Kingdom will be the game for you. Those who like a good city builder and think the twist sounds interesting will likely enjoy the game and should consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank The Wandering Band and Freedom Games for the review copy of Airborne Kingdom used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.