Pharaoh: A New Era PC Review

Pharaoh: A New Era does fair justice to its original while also satisfying players' expectations.

By RON, Posted 21 Feb 2023

Not many would know the games Caesar, Zeus: Master of Olympus, Pharaoh, and Cleopatra. The city-building simulation genre was at its peak when these games flourished and made us this genre fans. There had been several tries to revive this genre through games like Caesar IV, Builders of Egypt, Lethis: Path of Progress, and a few more but none could reach the level of satisfaction even with more depth in the gameplay.

It’s undoubtedly one of the toughest genres to work with for any developer and we were greatly pleased and surprised at the same time when Triskell Interactive took the responsibility to bring Pharaoh to its former glory. Pharaoh: A New Era must have been an enormous challenge, not only for the game belongs to the most sophisticated genre of video games but the successful history of its predecessor.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game, NoobFeed

Pharaoh was originally developed by Impressions Games back in 1999, developers who also gave us Caesar and Zeus: Master of Olympus. But their journey ended in 2004 after releasing Lords of the Realm III, while the Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom was the last game in the city-building simulation genre.

Triskell Interactive on the other hand doesn’t have a rich history like Impressions Games, only developing Lethis - Path of Progress in 2015 which didn’t have a great impact like any of the above-mentioned titles. So, there was a glimpse of doubt about whether they would be able to make Pharaoh: A New Era as intimidating as its predecessor. My 50+ hours playthrough of the game was a deep and captivating dive into ancient Egypt's great beauty, but strategy, there was something a bit off about it.

First and foremost, Pharaoh: A New Era remains faithful to the original Pharaoh. For those who didn't play the original, it's a city-building simulation with all the usual features common to this genre where you start from scratch in an empty land and build a flourishing city. You spread out dwellings and furnish your new people with the means to continually improve them, ensuring a steady populace in the smallest feasible area.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game, NoobFeed

To accomplish this goal, you will need to construct supply lines for both food and merchandise. These supply chains will, in turn, require personnel. The city itself is the goal, and as this one is isometric, you may take great pride in the fact that your hard work is visible from above as you gaze down on the tops of your buildings and the walls around them.

The structure of Pharaoh: A New Era appears to be largely unchanged from its initial form. You'll start off in a small, prosperous town and work your way up to a sumptuous empire. Gameplay-wise, you'll find that the majority of your way is well-marked and explained. Each task adds a small set of new tools to experiment with and provides sufficient instruction on how to use them.

Beginning with the basics like shelter, water, and agriculture, the list progresses through necessities like religion, entertainment, and mining, and finally to pleasures of luxury items. Eventually, you'll gain access to a map that allows you to engage in foreign trade, construct temples, and celebrate lavish religious festivals to appease the Egyptian gods.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Like its predecessor, Pharaoh: A New Era begins with the campaign mode, where you start your journey from a small village called NUBT and eventually make it to Cleopatra's Capital completing several missions. The win conditions given in any of the campaigns are crystal clear: build your thriving Egyptian city from the ground up, giving its residents everything, they need to live prosperous lives. The process is tedious and not as user-friendly as some of the more popular city-builders, but the payoff is immense when your city finally becomes self-sufficient.

You can't simply rush towards the goal, as each time you establish something new, it takes time to affect the city to evolve accordingly. For instance, inhabitants will immediately upgrade their dwellings when pottery is introduced but eventually return to their previous form unless a steady supply is kept. Thus, the process of advancing is what matters most in Pharaoh: A New Era. You can control the speed of the game, but you can’t control how it evolves. To begin with, each time you start with a new campaign in a new city, you always start from scratch.

So, you begin with constructing roads, tents, and basic water supply. Except for the road connection to the capital, there’s no building or any sort of establishment other than barren land with areas for construction, farming, and mining. Eventually, you construct hours, firehouses, architect’s posts for city maintenance, granaries for stocking food items and bazaars for distributing them, temples and shrines for the gods, entertainment, tax collectors, and eventually massive monuments. The whole process is done step by step and you won’t be able to manage the city if you skip a step and move on to the next phase. It’s not that simple.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

For instance, once the basic structure is completed up until you’ve introduced shelter, food, health, and safety, the need for goods such as pottery, beer, and linen will come into play. Then comes the need for luxury goods such as jewelry, ebony, etc. Along with the demand for these goods, comes the demand for services such as more entertainment locations, courthouses, dentists, mortuaries, etc. Once these demands are fulfilled, the houses will evolve into a better state, eventually paying more taxes.

Once these houses evolve until Modest Houses, each can occupy 72 household members if you supply food and goods with basic entertainment, but they evolve even higher to Fancy or Elegant Residences that can hold up to 92 citizens once you introduce luxury goods. So, it’s up to you which part of the city you want to upgrade. You can always try to upgrade all the households on the map, but that comes with a very high unemployment problem.

The core gameplay of Pharaoh: A New Era consists of Services, Food and Farming, Stock and Distribution, Production, Religion, Entertainment, Monuments, Military Buildings, and Beautification. Buildings under Service facilities are separated by Education, Safety, Hygiene, Administration, and Water Crossing. Food and Farming consist of different Work Camp and different types of production facilities such as grain, barley, fishing, hunting, etc.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Stock and Distribution consist of Granary, Storage Yard, Bazar, and Dock. The Nile is Egypt's unwavering savior; in fact, the most prosperous regions of the country are found close to the river, only to be replaced by the desert as soon as the Nile's protective influence wanes. So, structures such as structures houses and farms are always constructed closer to the Nile.

As for the core gameplay, Pharaoh: A New Era is firmly rooted in its origin, necessitating the establishment of industrial chains in order to grow the economy and provide residents with amusement and, to a lesser extent, luxury goods in order to maintain their morale. Some timeless concerns, such as religious development and cultural advancement, might provide a useful counterpoint to these more contemporary concerns.

The original Pharoah game had five gods Ra, Bast, Osiri, Ptah, and Seth, and here too you can build temples for all of these gods. Though it's a bit annoying since many temples take much space and also requires additional people to work there.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Production varies depending on the landscape but mostly facilitates the production of pottery, beer, jewelry, weaver, and papyrus. Entertainment consists of the juggler, conservatory, dancer venues, and Zoo, and Senet house. The building choices here are essential for the city’s growth according to how it’s evolving.

On the other hand, Monuments, Military Buildings, and Beautification are more of a luxury, and Military Buildings are only required if you chose to go down that path. Beautification has several types of statues, plazas, and gardens, while Monuments are the crown jewel of the game allowing you to build Pyramids, Mausoleum, and Caesareum.

It takes a lot of time and resources to build these monuments and building most of these will surely test your patience but once you finish one, they make the city look gorgeous. The game also features a military component, though it feels detached from the rest of the game due to the automatic resolution of battles on their own screens.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Military Buildings allow you to construct defensive structures Gatehouse, Tower, Walls, Archer or Infantry Forts along with Weaponsmith, Bowyer, Shields, and transport and war Wharfs. Previously you could use your military units to deal with crocodiles or hippos to clear the path, but in Pharaoh: A New Era this option doesn’t work. And it gets frustrating to see crocodiles walking into the city devouring citizens as they like.

Pharaoh: A New Era takes place across a timeline of ancient Egypt, and you will travel between many historical cities. Your skill at city planning is put to the test as you attempt to satisfy the wants of the populace while also satisfying the requirements of the Pharaoh, the desires of the gods, and the threat of active conflict with the surrounding nations.

The expansion of Egypt's kingdom is enabled by the successful completion of each scenario. Once a city's exports become available as imports for other cities, new opportunities open up. A city's success can hinge on winning Pharaoh's favor depending on the prompt delivery of his requests. Fail to do so a number of times, Pharaoh is not likely to show any mercy by sending his army to your land.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Pharaoh: A New Era's first few missions do a good job of introducing you to the game's core mechanics and making the transition to them relatively straightforward. New gameplay features are introduced systematically almost throughout the game, but depending on the different landscapes you'll eventually be forced to play without all of the features available in every scenario.

It mostly varies when it comes to different types of food production and the type of raw materials available in the land for manufacturing goods. Each mission grants you access to a different set of resources, but you are rarely granted access to everything you have at your disposal. So you’ll have to focus on importing raw materials in almost every scenario.

Throughout the campaign, you'll be tasked with accomplishing a variety of objectives, such as increasing your population by a certain percentage, raising your culture and popularity to a certain level, and constructing a specific monument or two. At first glance, these objectives may seem simple, but when factors such as Pharaoh's demand for certain products come along with the citizen's needs, things get a little out of control.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Most frustrating is when Pharaoh demands goods that you don’t manufacture. So you’ll have to import them to meet the demand. Things get even worse when he demands food or Debens (in-game currency) when you’re hardly feeding your citizen or your treasury is too low even for a small festival. This is where Pharaoh: A New Era will test your patience and management skills.

One of the most important parts of Pharaoh: A New Era is the city’s initial planning and it takes most of the time even before you actually start the city’s construction. A tiny miscalculation of a single tile can cost you to restructure an entire area. So don’t be surprised if you restart any campaign after playing for several hours to progress it.

For instance, you’ve progressed to a level when the city is demanding a mortuary that requires four square tiles, but you don’t have the space to place it. You can’t remove any existing building because that was also placed due to its demand and removing it will cause the nearby dwellings to go back to their previous phase. So, unless you plan your city without keeping space for future buildings, a restart is inevitable.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Another challenging aspect is able to manage your finance when you start to build cities above medium scales. Even though trading becomes available and so does tax collection, compared to the vast amount of expenses, these are hardly enough. It becomes more frustrating when Pharaoh constantly keeps on demanding goods that you’re exporting, forcing you to stockpile them until the requirement is fulfilled.

During this time, you not only lose the income from export but also risk supplying your citizens if you aren’t producing enough. Sometimes when there are limited resources to supply both the Pharaoh and your citizens, you need to forget about the growth of the dwellings and save your skin from the wrath of the Pharaoh.

If you're familiar with the game, the most significant change you'll notice in Pharaoh: A New Era is its presentation. Newcomers may not find the visual very appealing, but if you're a seasoned Pharaoh fan, you'll admire the redesign of the game's look. The developers deserve kudos for their hard work in improving upon the preexisting features and adding their own touches wherever possible.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game

Even though the citizen's dialogs are mostly similar but I wondered why most of them have a more Indian-like English accent. It sounds funny, which I'm certain Triskell Interactive didn't mean to. The background audio is okay but often too distractive and loud. The only real treat was the hand-drawn visual sharpness of buildings and characters. The Overlay and Observers panels are redesigned too, and instead of pillars, you can non see the buildings in different colors when you examine Overlay stats.

What genuinely felt missing is Pharaoh: A New Era is the guideline for newcomers. Even though there's a tutorial and a vast Encyclopedia but it's not enough to make newcomers familiar with the game. There’s a hint system or sort shown at the Observers panel or when you click the citizens to hear their opinion or client the buildings to see what’s required for the next upgrade, but in terms of the gameplay as a whole, there isn’t enough to understand the overall complexity. Most newcomers will struggle to manage the economy and soon get frustrated with the game.

Pharaoh: A New Era, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, City Building Game, Beautiful Art

Though once anyone has mastered its systems, Pharaoh: A New Era gives you more freedom in city design than any other city-builder and a greater variety of difficult tasks than you'll find in any other game. There’s a lot of fun to have with this game, and you'll be challenged to think outside the box as you try to figure out how to progress.

The game’s mechanism is simple to pick up but difficult to master, with plenty of ways to tone down the difficulty if you so choose. In the end, Pharaoh: A New Era does fair justice to its original while also satisfying players' expectations. In case you haven't heard it before, A New Era is the best way to get acquainted with a true classic.

If you're new to this game, here's an in-depth Pharaoh: A New Era Guide & Walkthrough.

Sarwar Ron (@SarwarRon)

comments powered by Disqus


General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): DotEmu
Developer(s): Triskell Interactive
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Ancient Egypt, City-Building, Strategy
Release Date: 2023-02-15

View All

Popular Articles