Developer: The Wandering Band
Publisher: Freedom Games
Release Date: 9th November 2021 (Switch, Xbox, PlayStation)
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Airborne Kingdom is a city-builder and management game with a twist. Floating among the clouds, you nurture the town across a wide-open landscape, restoring peace and prosperity to the world below.
Airborne Kingdom is the debut game from Indie studio, The Wandering Band – a group of seasoned AAA veterans who bought us the likes of Dragon Age, Battlefield and Dead Space.
Initially released on PC last year, Airborne Kingdom lands on consoles tomorrow. Excited to take it for a spin? Played the original on PC? Leave your thoughts in skywriting in the comments below.
In Airborne Kingdom, an ancient tapestry tells of a long-lost Utopian City that once united all the kingdoms in the land. Since it’s disappearance, the many kingdoms lost all contact with each other, becoming increasingly isolated and impoverished. All that remains is the prophecy which foretells of the return of the Airborne Kingdom. It’s up to you to rediscover the ancient technologies, unite the disparate townships and restore peace and prosperity to the world.
With a glut of city builder games out there, it can be hard to stand out in the crowd, but with a unique take on the genre, Airborne Kingdom certainly does. Granted, you have the obligatory food, fuel, and building resources to harvest, but the joy of creating your city in the sky means that you can roam freely across the world. One morning you’ll be crossing a dusty plain and by night you’ll be weaving through the snow-capped peaks of a mountain range. The constantly shifting scenery keeps the game feeling fresh throughout.
As with other city builders, you’ll need to strategically manage resources and fine-tune your citizens’ happiness in order to succeed. But where Airborne Kingdom differs is in its unique physics mechanic. There are two key metrics to watch out for: Tilt and Lift. Pile too many buildings on one side of your city, and the whole thing starts to tilt. This not only creates drag which decreases top-speed but it also makes your citizens unhappy. With Lift, your city has a building weight limit which you can only increase by constructing wings or researching new technology blueprints in the simple research tree.
Overall, it’s an interesting game mechanic that really gets you thinking strategically about the design of your city and how best to lay it out. That being said, it’s not particularly punishing; I was able to push my weight to its limit which slowed me down for sure but it didn’t spell disaster for my City.
The core gameplay loop consists of travelling the open-world, recruiting new citizens and completing quests for the lost kingdoms in order to gain their allyship. When you first boot up the game, you can choose between the default Normal difficulty or Hard. Playing on Normal isn’t especially taxing for the most part. But the real joy of the game is just how chill it is because of this. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to create a decent strategy in order to survive but Airborne Kingdom gives you a little breathing room compared with the densely detailed titans of the genre such as Civilisation. There’s just enough strategizing to keep your brain ticking but there’s also time to take in the view.
Controls are fairly straightforward in the game, although there are some issues with the port to console. Rather than a free-moving cursor, there’s a fixed point on the screen that you use to select something. This means that you have to move the camera and line up the point with the object in order to interact with it which is imprecise and cumbersome.
Graphics & Audio
Airborne Kingdom does look a little dated in parts, but it certainly has a charm to it. Rather than having a realistic depiction of the world below you, the landscape is set against a board-game like background, with numbers to denote the amount of resources left in a certain place. In between each landmass is a sea of beautiful Arabesque tiles, which coupled with the chill middle-eastern style soundtrack lend a real sense of place and history.
When docked, the UI is perfectly functional if not a little uninteresting but playing handheld, the text is so small it’s almost illegible. Further to that, I experienced numerous frame-rate stutters and freezing when moving the camera around in handheld. Hopefully, this is something that can be optimised in future patches as it feels like a good one to just pick up and play when you have a spare half hour.
Airborne Kingdom is a refreshingly unique take on the city-builder genre. With no combat or violence, hope and cooperation take centre stage, making for an uplifting, surprisingly relaxing game. The chill vibes are compounded by a mellow soundtrack and serene vistas, but ultimately a few graphical issues hold it back.
While it certainly isn’t a challenging game, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air in the genre. With innovative gameplay mechanics and a distinctive story, Airborne Kingdom has definitely earned it’s wings.
Disclaimer: A review code was kindly provided by the Publisher.