City-building games can be fun and relaxing, but putting that experience in the sky makes the experience feel more magical.
Airborne Kingdom takes elements of city sims and strategy games and attaches them to a tantalizing hook. Your city is a kingdom in the sky, and you fly around the world looking for resources and recruits as you expand your floating fortress. It’s launching on PC later this year via the Epic Games Store.
Development studio The Wandering Band showed me a remote demo of Airborne Kingdom in action, and I’m impressed with both the imagination on display and the scale of the adventure.
Show me the world
Airborne Kingdom stands out for its beauty. The visuals have a painterly quality. The world below you looks like a detailed map, with the names of cities and other points of interests scattered around the land and sea.
And then there’s your flying city. Like the map below, it has an old-world quality to its look. But more than anything, it’s fun to watch your ship grow from a little hub to a giant kingdom. Since your city is in the sky, each new building must be connected to another structure, be it another building or path.
Say your city needs houses for your citizens. That’s pretty standard stuff for the genre. But it becomes more interesting when you have to place these houses thousands of feet in the sky. Sure, you need resources to create houses, but you also have to worry about things like balance. If you build too much on one side without creating any means for lift, your kingdom may begin to tilt. This can create unhappy workers, which makes it hard to recruit new citizens. You don’t have to worry about your kingdom tilting so far over that it will fall to the ground, but an uneven city will make it difficult to expand and keep productive.
And then there’s the tricky task of securing resources to make buildings like houses. Since you’re in the sky, you can’t just send your workers out on foot. Instead, you build a hangar, which houses small planes that they use to reach resource deposits on the ground. A core part of Airborne Kingdom focuses on exploring the world so that you can find things like wood and coal. And as you’re farming those resources, you’ll want to try to keep your kingdom close by so that your workers don’t have to take long trips back and forth from your city.
You’ll need resources for more than just building. Coal is important for keeping your city afloat. So you need to be aware of how much coal you have while exploring or gathering other materials. Your dependency on coal can change depending on which technologies you invest in and build. Balloons, for example, do not require any coal. You can also build flapping wings that workers can operate, so you’re using your population as a resource instead of coal. But if you’re depending on propellers and jets to keep your kingdom airborne, you’ll be needing a good amount of coal.
Recruiting and rebuilding
But you don’t just grow your kingdom by gathering resources and making new buildings. You also need to increase your population. You can find new recruits from settlements scattered across the randomly generated map. Each person will have a requirement before joining. Some may not join unless your current workers are at a certain level of happiness.
Aside from settlements, you’ll also come across large land-based kingdoms. These are core to the main win condition. The map contains 15 of these kingdoms, and your goal is to unite them all. When you find one, they’ll have quests for you. They may ask you to help build them a conservatory, which requires you to give up some resources and lend some workers. After completing some quests, you’ll get the kingdom on your side (and probably pick up a few new civilians).
These kingdoms are also key to acquiring new technologies. As you explore the world, you’ll come across relics. At kingdoms, you can trade these relics for new blueprints. Those unlock new technologies, which can help increase the lift or speed of your kingdom, making your use of resources more efficient and making it possible for more expansion.
That’s the basic gameplay loop of Airborne Kingdom. You explore the world searching for resources and relics while expanding your city and gaining the allegiances of the 15 kingdoms. And all along the way, you get the satisfaction of seeing your flying civilization grow.
Airborne Kingdom looks like an exciting, gorgeous take on the classic city-builder, giving players a greater incentive for exploration than you sometimes see in the genre. I have a feeling that this game will have more than enough to keep a player’s interest afloat.