If you are someone who walks the streets of. roams BioShock Infinite‘s floating city of Columbia and wondering how such a city could actually be feasible, you’ve come to the right place. Airborne Kingdom is a city builder who takes to the skies and assigns you to create your own floating steampunk city. It’s a nice little twist on the genre that makes you think a little differently about how a city should be built, but it’s also one that doesn’t quite reach its full potential.
When you start the main campaign you start with a simple city center and it’s your job to grow your young community into a thriving utopia with your own advice. To do this, of course, you will have to use your workers to gather resources and create new buildings and structures.
However, since you soar high up in the sky, resources need to be gathered from the world below. The good news, however, is that once you’ve built a hangar, you can air-plan workers into nearby forests, caves, settlements, and other areas of interest. The workers then automatically reclaim vital resources until the supply of a certain area is depleted.
From a gameplay perspective, the mechanics work well and are easy to understand, but it’s a shame that little attention is paid from a narrative perspective; At a time when climate change is such a hot topic, flying out of your city and essentially robbing the world of its natural resources could have become an intriguing story thread. Even so, it’s a convenient way to ensure your kingdom is thriving while you try to keep expanding.
Once you have the necessary resources, you can start expanding your city. Your first port of call will be to make sure your employees have accommodation. So if you use wood from the surrounding forests, you can build settlements, with each house protecting a worker. As the game progresses, you need to consider where these settlements are in relation to other buildings. For example, workers don’t like having to live near adobe kilns due to the fumes, which directly affects their overall happiness levels.
However, the most important aspect to keep in mind when building your city is how the structures and pathways affect the overall balance. Build too many buildings on one side and you will find the city start to topple over. You can mitigate this by placing wings, balloons, and other “floating” objects to counter the weight of the structures. Again, an unbalanced society is an unhappy society, and if you happen to take it even far away, you run the risk of completely destroying your city.
In order to gain access to new structures and benefits, research is required, which you can access at any time during the campaign. Learning new tricks takes a certain number of hours in the game, and you can only learn one new thing at a time. We assume that the game’s generous options won’t overwhelm you. Access to new skills and structures is also achieved by visiting the twelve kingdoms of the world; As you take on quests and help them develop on their own, you in turn receive unique resources, structural blueprints, and other nifty perks.
Ultimately, your goal is to increase your population up to 150 and visit each of the game’s kingdoms to earn their favor in order to become the most prosperous city in the world. Compared to other city builders, it’s a pretty breezy experience; As you grow your population, you can send out dozens of workers at the same time to gather resources so you never really get into trouble. In a way, the game feels like it lacks depth; It would have been nice if you had focused a little more on actually preserving your city, maybe by repairing broken machines or making sure that buildings and foliage don’t deteriorate. The focus is heavily on resource management and expansion.
With that in mind, the game includes a build mode if you prefer an even simpler experience that effectively removes all of the resource management of the standard campaign mode. Flex your creative muscles here and build any type of city you could wish for. Do you want a pink city with bright green lights? Go right ahead. Of course, you still need to keep an eye on the city’s balance so don’t go mad and pile a couple of farms or warehouses on one end.
In terms of gameplay, Airborne Kingdom is relatively easy to learn, although we found the menu and general UI a bit confusing in terms of layout at times. Moving the camera feels natural, but even at the highest sensitivity it can feel a little slow and sluggish. You can speed up the clock in the game if you want, which is a nice quality of life feature when you only have a few moments to spare. After all, the very act of placing objects and buildings in the world feels comfortably hassle-free; Provided you have a path to connect your structure to, the game will automatically move it to the most sensible position (but you can change this if you want).
Airborne Kingdom is a perfect city builder that gives the genre a nice twist by focusing on weight and balance to ensure the survival of your community. The act of gathering resources and building structures feels simple, though some may want a little more depth in the general management of the urban population. A few gameplay quirks could be frustrating too, with a camera that feels way too slow and a user interface that’s just a bit confusing at times. If you’re looking for a city planner, this feels a bit different, then this may be for you.