When I booted up The Wandering Band’s Airborne Kingdom for the first time, I honestly didn’t know I wasn’t going to put it down from start to finish. I’ve played a lot of different city builders, but something about this one just made me not want to stop. At first glance, it might seem like your typical SimCity, but it soon becomes clear that it’s far from that.
Airborne Kingdom puts you in charge of a literal airborne kingdom with the goal to grow and gain allies. The twist is that since your kingdom is afloat, you can actually move it around as you please. This allows for you to reach potential allied kingdoms, gather resources, and seek out new citizens. Of course, this does come at a cost, as staying in the air requires coal for fuel. You’ll have to maintain your resources to succeed here, and balancing them adds a little challenge to an otherwise relaxing game.
You’ll start with your Town Center and a handful of citizens as you start to develop your floating kingdom. Using pathways, you’ll branch out to build other buildings, starting with homes to house your citizens, hangars to send planes out for resources, and an academy to research new construction options. While you do this, you’ll have to maintain a balance so that your kingdom doesn’t tilt too far, otherwise your citizens will grow irritated. You’ll also have to manage your kingdom’s Lift, which goes up as you add new buildings. More buildings also means that your kingdom will drag and move slower, requiring propulsion constructs to alleviate the issue. You’ll start small, but over time, you’ll gain momentum and figure things out.
As you develop your kingdom, you’ll have to maintain resources like coal, food, water, lumber and more. After building a hangar, you’ll be able to assign citizens to collect from these nearby resources until the supply depletes. You’ll also have other resources that help with certain buildings like clay, quartz, ore, and cotton. You’ll then have to process these resources to turn them into adobe, glass, iron, and canvas. Eventually, you’ll even be able to create buildings that can convert one resource into another. There’s an impressive amount of depth in the resource management, making it straightforward enough, but not simple either.
While you’re maintaining your resources, you’ll also be wandering the world to find other kingdoms, ruins, and settlements. Reaching another kingdom will offer you trading options, blueprints for new constructs, and quests that will help you ally with the kingdom. Usually, these quests will involve loaning a couple citizens to repair or build something, finding something nearby, or discovering ruins. After doing a couple quests, you’ll earn a new ally and some new recruits as well. Your overall goal is to ally with twelve different kingdoms across three different regions. By the time you do this, you’ll likely have an impressive kingdom.
Discovering ruins, you’ll either have an opportunity to find relics by sending a single explorer, or you’ll unlock a new cosmetic dye for your buildings. Relics earn currency that you can use to purchase blueprints from various kingdoms, allowing you to research more options. A lot of these blueprints are for desires that your citizens will have, like light, faith, health, and comfort. You’ll have to maintain these things with your citizens to keep them happy. With happy citizens, you’ll also be able to recruit more people from nearby settlements. Each settlement will offer up to three recruits, though they won’t join if your citizens aren’t at least satisfied with your upkeep. You’ll need these recruits, as you’ll need available people to gather resources and run different constructs.
Research is done using the in-game clock, as each blueprint takes time to decipher. Once you research a building, you can also research upgrades for it, though you can only research one thing at a time. If you have more Academies, then you can at least speed up the process. Eventually, you’ll even unlock other blueprints by researching two different buildings. Overall, the gameplay is pretty strong and has a lot of complexity, but it isn’t overwhelming in information. The only thing I would change is giving the option to remove citizens from working in buildings. I wouldn’t mind taking some people from smelting adobe just so they can be available to gather coal for my fuel. The only solution here is to destroy the building, which just feels like a waste.
Graphically, Airborne Kingdom is rather simple. The people are very minimalist and the buildings you construct are rather low in polygon count despite some of them having lots of detail. The world itself is very ornate, featuring designs that look like a map, even having the names of regions on the surface. Clouds will move out of the way when your mouse cursor goes over it, though they still feel a little intrusive. The game’s day and night system helps to change things up from time to time, but the lighting is inconsistent. Most lighting and shading is actually pretty good, but then the shadows on the surface seem pretty weak by comparison.
When it comes to presentation, the game starts with a narrated video introducing the setting and lore. You’ll get a similar narration at the ending, as this is the only time there is voice acting in the game. The sound design itself is rather good and the music helps to set the relaxing tone. As for performance, the game should run pretty well on most decent machines. My system was able to max it out for six hours straight and had no issues whatsoever. If you play the game normally, it might take you longer to beat the game, but thankfully the game offers speed options. After putting it on the fastest speed, I never looked back and breezed through the game.
To my surprise, I really liked Airborne Kingdom. I wasn’t expecting to beat the game in one sitting, but it was an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Despite some simple visuals and minor issues with the allocation of citizens, this one is worth playing. If you’re looking for something comfortable to play and are up for some micro-management, then Airborne Kingdom should be a nice breath of fresh air.
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