Review – Nebuchadnezzar
There aren’t that many city building simulators nowadays, ever since EA decided to bury Sim City six feet underground. Not to mention Cities: Skylines, the last truly impressive game in the genre, being already five years old, has no imminent signs of a sequel in the works. Tropico is pretty much the only game carrying the flame of genre alive in this day and age. Nebuchadnezzar is a game developed by a two-man team that tries to bring back the classic style of gameplay featured in other simulators like Caesar III, but with an interesting setting that is rarely, if ever, seen in any game in the industry.
The title says it all: Nebuchadnezzar is set in Ancient Mesopotamia and I honestly can’t remember the last time a game was set in such period, or even featured this civilization in playable form besides Age of Empires. Your objective is simple: from humble beginnings, you’re told to create your own Mesopotamian Empire. You start off with a miserable pile of shacks and a mediocre farm, but after a ton of tutorials and a very slow introductory campaign, you’ll be able to create your own pseudo Babylon.
Each chapter in the introductory part of the campaign mode will teach you about how to farm for resources, send these resources to the nearby warehouse, then off to a bakery, to a market, and so on. You’ll learn how to improve the overall quality of life of your residents by keeping them fed and with a job at one of these local businesses. It will also teach you how to make your town more attractive to outsiders by boosting its reputation as a safe haven with food and stability in the middle of the harsh desert.
It sounds like an ordeal, and sadly, it is. Nebuchadnezzar moves at a snail’s pace at times. There are tons of sub-menus and some irritating design choices that do nothing but slow down and make your experience bureaucratic as hell. You’ll need to hire each seller in a market and designate their specific trade routes. Then you will need to create a warehouse within a farm’s minuscule range. It won’t be long until the game floods you with an insane amount of different resources to take care of at once, all hiding inside a sea of sub-menus.
The worst decision in the entire game, without a doubt, is the fact that you can only acquire more gold, used to build more structures, by trading with other cities. Unfortunately, you can only do that after turning your town into a moderately well-known outpost.
This, coupled with the lack of a proper sandbox mode available right from the start, turns Nebuchadnezzar into a frustrating experience if you’re not patient enough. It takes ages (pun intended) before you’re able to acquire enough resources to build one of the beautiful monuments of Ancient Mesopotamia, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. To add insult to injury, Nebuchadnezzar‘s gameplay loop becomes repetitive quite quickly, as there isn’t a wide building variety to make things a bit more appealing.
It’s a shame, because Nebuchadnezzar‘s presentation is great, especially considering this is a game made by two people. It retains the same art style immortalized by the Age of the Empires games, with impressive sprite work and an excellent soundtrack that takes hints from Eastern musical genres. Even the sound effects sound like they came straight out of Age of Mythology. I loved everything about this game’s presentation and even its premise. Sadly, it was too boring to make me want to carry on.
City building and management simulators are my bread and butter, and I really wanted to like Nebuchadnezzar more than I did. However, the game is hindered by an overwhelming amount of design flaws and annoying mechanics that do nothing but dampen your overall enjoyment. This game might be set in Ancient Mesopotamia, but there’s more bureaucracy in here than your average trip to the DMV, not to mention the lack of a true sandbox mode available right from the get-go. A commendable effort from a two-man team, but one that probably bit a bit more than they could chew.
Character portraits and animations are a bit wonky, but the spritework in Nebuchadnezzar is commendable.
There are too many sub-menus and unnecessary mechanics in what should have been a somewhat straightforward city building simulator.
The excellent soundtrack takes hints from Eastern musical genres, while the sound effects sound like they came straight out of Age of Mythology.
Fun Factor: 5.0
There are good ideas in here, but they are hindered by annoying logistics mechanics, a stupidly slow economy system, and the lack of a sandbox mode.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Nebuchadnezzar is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Nebuchadnezzar was provided by the publisher.