Game: Pharaoh: A New Era
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
System: Steam (also available on GOG)
Developers | Publishers: Triskell Interactive | Dotemu
Controller Support: Keyboard & Mouse
Price: US $22.99 | UK £19.99 | EU € 22,99
Release Date: February 15th, 2023
No review code was used; I purchased the game myself.
Publisher Dotemu and developer Triskell Interactive’s full HD remake of Impressions Games’ classic Ancient-Egypt-themed city builder, Pharaoh: A New Era, released on February 15th.
Pharaoh was developed initially by Impressions Games way back in 1999. The developers also gave us Caesar and Zeus: Master of Olympus. But all that ended in 2004 after the studio shut down.
Old Game Made New
I vaguely remember playing the first Pharaoh game many years ago (my memory isn’t as good as it used to be). But I do remember the basics of building a city, and it is a city-building game with an Egypt theme. Furthermore, it has a great tutorial to familiarise new and old players with the game.
Pharaoh: A New Era includes over 50 playable missions and the Cleopatra expansion from the original game. The campaign missions will teach you the game basics while allowing you to experience a unique story through six eras of Ancient Egypt.
You’ll micromanage the daily life of your citizens, defend your city from attacks, and establish trade routes. Also, the missions in the campaign mode come with win-and-defeat conditions, making the goal of each section pretty straightforward.
In addition, there is a Free mode, it’s basically a sandbox mode, where you can pick a map and time period and tailor the game settings to your liking. The free mode has no win conditions; you can play to your heart’s content.
As with any city builder, you start with a blank canvas or a sandy map since we are in the desert. Next, you’ll build roads to grid your settlement and for settlers to walk on.
After that, you’ll build houses for the settlers and sources of drinking and bathing water. Then it’s on to constructing hunting and agricultural buildings essential to keep your settlement thriving.
In addition, you’ll build infrastructures like bazaars, firehouses, police stations and architect’s posts that keep the citizens safe. Then construct gold mines, palaces, entertainment and religious buildings to increase currency and happiness in your city.
Each mission level also has a Patron God and up to two Helper Gods. Of course, you have to keep the gods pleased on a pretty equal basis, with your cites Patron God receiving slightly more temples, altars, and festivals than the others.
Furthermore, the number of temples and shrines must correspond with your city’s population’s size. If you don’t give your Patron God enough attention, they can turn nasty and unleash plagues upon your city. It can be a challenging juggling act to keep everyone happy at once in your city.
Once you have established a settlement, you must optimize work routes to deliver goods to specific areas within your city. One of the features at your disposal is roadblocks, a way to stop citizens from wandering into sectors they aren’t delivering to; as a result, optimizing resource distribution becomes easy.
In the original game, enemies could appear from anywhere on the map and wreak mayhem. In Pharaoh: A New Era, the battles resolve themselves automatically by allowing your troops to fight off the enemy. While some players disagree with changing the combat, I like it, as Phaoroh, at its heart, is a city-building game.
Are You Up to the Challenge?
Pharaoh is not easy to play; it offers a pretty big challenge. But it also offers a great reward to those who master its systems. Unfortunately, the learning curve is steep, something returning players have already discovered, myself included. Thankfully New Era’s UI is pretty straightforward to use and understand. It looks great, is easy to master and offers plenty of information.
However, the same can not be said for other game areas; for instance, you can not rotate the camera, which is necessary for strategy games like this. Neither is there a mini-map, and the camera does not zoom out far. This means that once your city grows, you can’t see it in all its glory, as you can’t zoom out.
When I first played Pharaoh: A New Age, it was full of bugs. Recently, the developers updated the game, and most of the significant gameplay bugs have been dealt with. We only need a rotating camera and a mini-map, as they must still be added in a future update.
Pharaoh: A New Era keeps the visual style of the original and updates it for the modern era. It looks better than my memories of the first game.
Furthermore, the buildings have clear visual identities, so they stand out. The monuments, especially the pyramids, are beautifully presented. The sound design is even better than the graphics. The soundtrack is entirely re-orchestrated and performed using traditional instruments. Of course, it’s Egyptian-themed music to match the ear the game is set in.
Pharaoh: A New Era renews a classic of simulation games. While it could have improved some things, like the camera, the core gameplay basics from the original game are still there, updated for the new generation of players and for oldies like me too!
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot