In reality it took decades and the effort of thousands of workers to create monuments such as the sphinx or the Pyramid of Cheops. The latest building sim Empire Builder – Ancient Egypt by developer Iguana Entertainment enables the player to experience those miracles of architecture much quicker. While the game might lack the challenge and complexity of similar titles, it is still worth a look for players searching for a resource management title in a new setting.
As the new apprentice, you serve different Pharaohs as the entrusted builder at ten locations with three levels each. Veteran players will immediately feel familiar with the basics of the game. To improve your Egyptian cities you can choose between various types of buildings, such as houses, infrastructure, city and civil buildings, as well as monuments. The houses are your major source of income, which is collected on a regular basis. This income is important to train workers, order materials, or acquire desired lots.
Infrastructural buildings like the quarry, the wharf, or the mine may lower the city’s overall appeal and that of nearby houses, but they provide functional advantages, such as cheaper materials or lower costs for training workers. In contrast, civil and city buildings increase the appeal of the city and nearby houses, but on top of that they also activate some further advantages. By constructing a beautiful garden the player can train gardeners, thereby increasing the number of possible upgrades on houses. Other buildings such as the courthouse, the school or the well do not fulfill any particular function, but still go very well with the basic theme of the game.
A somewhat quirky feature is related to the construction of monuments, namely mastabas and tombs. When you build tombs near houses, green-shimmering mummies will appear on the streets occasionally, and you will have to drive them out of the city with a magical staff, in a similar fashion to banishing ghosts or orcs in Wonderburg. Sometimes you will receive bulletins throughout missions, which will provide you with additional money as a reward for fulfilling the citizens’ needs.
Two of the most interesting twists of Empire Builder – Ancient Egypt are bidding and haggling for houses and lots, and magical amulets. When you decide to sell any of your houses, three different bids will appear within the next seconds. You can decide to accept the highest bid, or try to haggle with each of the bidders to even increase the offers.
The magical amulets are even more interesting – in the beginning of each level you can decide to activate one of those amulets, which you will earn through finishing levels. To choose the right amulet in the beginning of each level according to your objectives and your basic situation can really come in handy, because the various amulets’ effects can be of major significance to your success. For example, the "Djed Pillar" – amulet boosts the speed of constructions, demolitions, upgrades and material delivery, while the Amulet of Steps upgrades all the houses currently in your possession to the maximum.
The addition of those amulets, in particular, could have made the game very demanding, requiring a lot of strategic thinking, but unfortunately it falls flat on challenge. Even the timed mode gives you plenty of time to finish each level, independently from which strategy you apply and which amulet you choose. The memory-like mini-game which you have to beat after each finished city also corresponds to the general easiness of the game, because it is simply impossible to fail.
In this context it is important to note that some aspects of the game, like how to train gardeners and farmers, or that houses near rivers can get damaged easier than other houses can be hard to understand in the beginning, but even when you neglect those features you are still able to beat every level easily until you are used to all the small details of the game.
The final challenge of nearly each level is to build really impressive Pyramids or temples, which always require a lot of workers and materials. The majestic buildings are really nice to look at, but since the level always ends with building those landmarks, you won’t have much time to observe them. Another interesting change of tradition is the fact that you really have to react quickly when your houses need to be repaired. The longer you wait, the more workers and materials it will take to repair the damaged house.
Regarding graphics and music Empire Builder – Ancient Egypt cannot be criticized. The animations are smooth and soothing, and the music suits the theme of ancient Egypt very well, without getting annoying. The atmosphere is engaging and realistic, and you might even feel a bit afraid when one of the Pharaos points out that he is content with your work and can now neglect his previous thought to execute you.
All in all, we can definitely recommend Empire Builder – Ancient Egypt to those of you who generally prefer the relaxed type of building simulations. The game introduces some clever twists, does not take itself too seriously, and gratifies the player with wonderful graphics. With that said, avid fans of Build-a-lot should reduce our rating by one star, while those who really enjoyed Wonderburg or Plan It Green can even add half a star.