6.5
REVIEW: Airborne Kingdom
Reviews

REVIEW: Airborne Kingdom

6.5
Score

Having a narrator with a soothing voice ease your players into a game by telling them the history of the world they’re about to enter is a good way to hook players in instantly. It’s easy to do as well, especially with a game like Airborne Kingdom, where the world involves a flying kingdom that would navigate the skies, linking kingdoms on the ground before its eventual demise. It has immediately enticing, promising steampunk vibes and lots to explore and discover while you’re tasked with rediscovering lost technologies and rebuilding The Great Council in a city amongst the clouds. 

Airborne Kingdom is a strategy management game from The Wandering Band—a sort of city builder with a twist. Rather than building on solid ground, your city begins as a little town center held aloft with propellers and fans, while below you an expansive piece of land awaits. What I was expecting next was a tutorial, but unfortunately your first foray into the gameplay is less graceful than the introduction to the world is. Like many management games, there are toolbars and buttons covering the screen and, although none of them are actually difficult to understand, for the first few minutes of the game you’re left flailing around trying to figure out what everything is. It tells you to build houses, which of course you do, then you run out of resources, and only then does it tell you that there’s a particular building you need to gather more. Making the basics clearer at the start, before you’ve clicked on anything, would make your initial run go a lot smoother. 

However, once you get the hang of Airborne Kingdom, it’s a fun game. There’s all the usual strategy, management aspects where you’ll need to build up your city, attend to the needs of your citizens, collect resources, and unlock new buildings and technology. There are a few elements unique to the game as well, most notably the “lift” and “tilt” aspects of building which require you to ensure there are enough fans to hold up all the buildings and keep everything balanced so the city doesn’t lean more in one direction. Both of these things can affect the speed you fly; while it doesn’t make building much more difficult, they are nice touches that bring the narrative more fully into the gameplay. 

To complete all the building, there’s lots of exploring to find resources, other kingdoms, and small settlements. The sense of wonder in the game is lovely, and all the kingdoms have unique characteristics and looks to them, bolstered by backstory and different quest options which stop the exploration aspect from feeling repetitive. My biggest gripe with it is that everything is just a bit slow, especially to start off with. While you can increase the speed of your city fairly quickly if you’re strategic about it, it doesn’t stop everything falling a bit flat and feeling like all processes take longer than they should. Research, in particular, starts taking a really long time if you want to unlock the high levels, and there doesn’t feel like there’s enough to occupy you while you’re waiting. 

Airborne Kingdom’s real strength, however, is having very clear goals that you can start checking off quickly and efficiently. As with most city builders, it’s incredibly satisfying to see your town grow from a little platform with nine people on it to a huge, complicated flying city. For me though, the game shines most in its world building, and I find myself hoping that the studio does something else with this place they’ve created which is full of kingdoms, strange ruins, forests, mountains, oceans, and of course, a flying city connecting them all. 

Airborne Kingdom is the first title from studio The Wandering Band, and it seems like they’re off to a solid start. While the game does have problems, most notably with aspects of the game feeling too slow to be fully engaging, it has left me excited to see what the studio will do next. If you’re looking for a management game set in an interesting world full of lots of little stories and things to discover, then this could certainly be for you.

[Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.]

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