Review – Pharaoh: A New Era
When I think of Dotemu, I usually think of them reviving long-lost arcade franchises, such as Streets of Rage and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to a painfully pristine degree, which makes the originals feel lame in comparison. While I’m still waiting for their highly-anticipated tactical take on Metal Slug, Dotemu has taken its time to publish a remake on a city-builder from the late 90s. To me, Dotemu and PC-exclusive city-builders are as relatable as Ozzy Osbourne and K-pop, but given how the company has a near-flawless track record, I wanted to give Pharaoh: A New Era a try.
Bear in mind that Pharaoh: A New Era is not a city builder in the sense of Sim City or Cities, but more in the sense of Nebuchadnezzar and Caesar III. Your role is to create an Egyptian city with what little resources are available in the near inhospitable landscape that is the Nile Valley, paying close attention to the vegetation and water supplies near you, trade routes, having enough food to feed your citizens, etc. A more tactical, strategical approach, where knowing a bit about logistics is crucial to making your city thrive.
The clear objective in any Pharaoh: A New Era campaign is pretty straightforward: develop your own self-sufficient Egyptian city, providing your citizens with everything they need in order to thrive. At first, they just need to be hunter-gatherers with access to a hut, some game to kill, and water. You then teach them how to harness metals from mines, how to farm using wetlands near the Nile, how to develop an industrial sector with pottery, and so on. It’s a slow process, nowhere near as accessible or intuitive as the more popular city builders, but one which becomes exponentially more rewarding once you see the fruit of your labor becoming self-sufficient. You know, that beautiful moment where your town makes more money than it spends.
These steps take some time, especially depending on the map. If you’re far away from the Nile, say goodbye to farming, and hello to hunting down ostriches for nourishment. Maybe you’ll have to create a town that excels at mining, or maybe you’ll just be able to raise a handful of shanties in an area as barren as Tattooine after a dust bowl. Whatever the kind of map, be aware that Pharaoh: A New Era is a slow-paced game. Even though growing your population is quick and easy (just build a handful of houses and voilà), upgrading the quality of your dwellings takes a lot of time (and nearby improvements). Finally, you need to figure out how to deal with logistics.
Oh yes, the bane of a city builder’s existence. For example, you need to ensure that the paltry resources you produce arrive at a storage facility or a bazaar. You also need to be aware of the your patrol’s somewhat poor AI, forcing you to basically set up roadblocks in order for your stuff to actually go from A to B without an issue. There’s a lot to micromanage in this game, as to be expected.
While the gameplay is fun and rewarding (if you like city builders, that is), Pharaoh: A New Era doesn’t exactly offer a lot of visual rewards, one of the most important aspects of any game of its kind. While it does look better than the 1999 original, the developers did so by revamping the visuals with some assets that look no better than a mobile game, giving Pharaoh: A New Era a quasi The Simpsons: Tapped Out vibe. For as much as Nebuchadnezzar bored me to tears, it at least featured some quality pixel art that resulted in a much more visually pleasing experience in comparison. That being said, Pharaoh: A New Era doesn’t disappoint in its audio department, with some excellent Egyptian-themed tunes and a lot of voice acting whenever you begin a mission. Really good voice acting, for that matter.
Pharaoh: A New Era doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to city builders. As a straightforward remake of a 1999 game, it did gain a much better UI and faster gameplay, but it’s still a slow-paced experience focused on micromanagement and logistics. Only a specific niche of city building fans will really get a kick out of this game, but it’s still one worth checking out if you’re into strategic titles which reward patience and long-term planning.
Better than the original, obviously, but the brand-new sprites strongly resemble the assets you’d commonly find in a mobile game.
Slow-paced as hell, but intuitive, with a pretty good UI, decent controls, lots of hotkeys, and a decent (though never ending) tutorial.
Certainly a highlight. Not only is the music exactly how an Egyptian-themed soundtrack should sound, but there’s a lot of voice acting. Surprisingly good voice acting, in fact.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Not exactly the most exciting or visually attractive city builder, but once your city reaches the point of being self-sufficient, it’s insanely rewarding.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Pharaoh: A New Era is available now on PC.
Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.
A copy of Pharaoh: A New Era was provided by the publisher.