Children of the Nile Review (PC)

There is some dispute about where the first real civilization on earth arose. Some say it was Mesopotamia, some say in Asia, and others claim it was Africa. This question may never be answered, but we do know that of all the early civilizations, the land of the Nile, the nation known as Egypt, was perhaps the most spectacular civilization of all. Along the banks of the Nile the Egyptians built great cities, monuments to their gods and their greatness, and an enduring memory into the hearts of men. In Immortal Cities, Children of the Nile, players can build great cities and dominate that most ancient and mystical of nations, Egypt.

The visuals in the game are lush and viberant...

...and clear care has gone into the details of Egyptian life.

Children of the Nile, or CoN, is from a new game company called Tilted mill, and the core group is the old Impressions design team that created such hits as Caesar 3. Like the old series, CoN is about building a city in ancient times building by building, but unlike the previous games, keeping the citizens happy and productive is the primary focus of sucess. In a series of scenarios players will strive to complete different projects and dominate distant lands, all in the name of pharaoh.

Like the trend in many games today, CoN is a full three dimensional game, which includes extreme zoom in as well as distant over view. The place where your city will rise includes the Nile of course, and on the banks, a few huts in which your future subjects are living in. There are also areas around the map where resources can be found, including fruit, wheat fields, and various types of minerals and stone. The Nile is the life blood of Egypt, and on its muddy banks is where your future farmers will grow the crops that feed the people of the city and the empire.

The first thing that needs to be done on your rise to greatness is to build your personal palace, and have an idea of how you want to lay out your city. Unlike other city builders, there is no money in this game, exchange in Egypt is by food barter only. Many homes and buildings can be constructed freely, and destroyed freely, at no cost. Getting people to live in them and use them is another matter. After building the palace, you will notice it can only support a limited number of farms, and if you want a true city, you will have to expand the number of farms, as well as providing artisans, and all the other things that a great civilization needs.

Simple farmers have simple needs, and a few shops can be built to provide them things they want in their daily lives, like mats and pottery. If people can't find these items, they become unhappy and move away, become vagrants, or may even overthrow you! Since you are limited to only a few farms, you must get more farmers, and the way to do that is to make your princes into a separate nobility. Each noble family can control a number of farms, and part of the food they grow can be taxed by a tax man, but he is hard to come by until other professions are secured first.

It's satisfying to see your city grow from humble roots... a thriving metropolis bustling with people and slick new architecture.

The nobles want luxury items, so shops for them must be built, so ladies can have perfume, statues can be purchased, sandals made, as well as other items. Just as farmers grow food, the artisans must gather resources, and produce their wares, and this takes time. Each new artisan deducts one farmer, who must be replaced by a villager. If their is nobody unemployed, you will have an empty business. If you make to many shops, you will have no farmers. You must pay attention to what the people need and want, and find a balance.

A new approach to city building is in this game, your city is really limited by the number of villagers you have, and more importantly, the number of educated men your reputation can bring to the city. This concept of tying reputation to crucial professions is the limiting factor in the game, because reputation fades over time, and your pharaoh will die, and a new one has to make his own name in the world.

But how does one earn a great reputation? By building the things the people expect you to build, providing the services they need, and the monuments to the afterlife and the gods that Egyptians place the ultimate value upon. The first thing you need is a tomb, and to build one, you need bricks. Bricks can only be made by the brick maker, and they can only be placed by the bricklayer, a separate profession. These artisans all want and need the services of a priest, the most important man in the game.

The priest is the only man who can train other educated men, who can perform the healing arts, as well as the spiritual and afterlife ceremonies. As a young leader, you can only have four educated men, and this is a problem, since all the important jobs in your city require educated men. They serve as your military leaders, overseers as well as their priestly jobs. The laborers who build the statues and monument of the city will not work without an overseer. The town patrol won't patrol or train without a commander, and crime will run rampant. The military cannot attack other lands and defend the city without an army commander to train and lead them, and a navy commander to man the ships in battle, so the game revolves around increasing reputation, to increase educated men, to accomplish deeds big and small.

It's possible to observe the lives of those in your city, if you're so inclined.

The Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt, and its muddy banks will provide your farmers with rich soil...

Once your priest is selected from the nobility, future priests will have to be educated at a school. You will have to make a hospital, and a temple, and a shrine as well. The priest can do all of this, but worked better when assigned one job at a time. The first priest should educate more townspeople, and does this better if you have papyrus, which is another item artisans can make, and it can be exported.

Once you have a few trained men, an overseer and laborers have to be made, and they are drawn from the farmers. Laborers under an overseer can handle one job at a time. For example, they can mine oblisks, statues, and drag these into the places you want them. The game shows them actually doing this. The stone cutter will finish the job, and such things will increase the pharaohs's reputation. You can also construct great sphinxes, and the pyramids, but this takes a lot of time and effort. It is crucial that you always have a burial place for your leader, if he dies without one, your reputation will be severely damaged.

There is a campaign map also, that is abstracted. You can send out expeditions, establish trade routes, and send your armies to attack others here. Each action can increase reputation, IF you build a monument to the action. You are limited to only building monuments to actual achievements. Since these endeavors require resources, if you run short, your rep may suffer.

The game is easily learned through a series of tutorials that are easy to use and well thought out. The interface actually adds to the game, as it uses Egyptian symbols for the game's functions, giving it a great feel. Your citizens will speak from time to time, and say often amusing things. The three dimension engine is lively and colorful, and as you improve buildings in the game, they add mosaics and other touches. You really feel its a living city, and the game has a pleasant sound track that adds a lot to the gaming experience.

It's important to keep your citizens happy, or they may cause trouble.
Pyramids are the ultimate monument for a pharaoh.

Top game moment: Building a gigantic pyramid that towers over your city for a particularily interesting pharaoh.

Overall, this is an excellent gaming experience. You will transform a small wilderness into a mighty city, and watch it live and grow the entire way. You will bury pharaohs, and accomplish great deeds on the way towards immortality. By all means, pick this game up, its well worth your time.