There’s a certain charm in creating your very own metropolis. From planning where you want each road to lead, drafting up budgets to make certain that your city doesn’t become a replica of Robocop’s Detroit or the approval of building a toxic waste dump next to a school for children who are easily susceptible to DNA-altering sludge, metropolitan bureaucracy can be fun!
At this point, it has also been done to death, and with just about every form of terrestrial urban planning having been covered, where do you cast your gaze to next? The sky of course. An unclaimed wilderness of free real estate, that’s the idea behind Airborne Kingdom and it’s a more magical exploration of the city-building genre.
All the usual administrative tropes are present, such as managing resources, keeping the population in check, and researching new technologies that can be used to keep your urban dream from making the Hindenberg disaster look like a damp firework in comparison. The difference here is in how developer The Wandering Band has approached this genre and expanded on familiar gameplay ideas.
With the sky being the literal limit, Airborne Kingdom focuses on exploration, evolution, and equilibrium. Building a collection of homes, resource hubs, and research buildings is all par for the course, but you have to factor in where you’re building them so that you remain afloat. Stack too many buildings to one side, and you’ll need to put your seat trays in the upright position as you prepare for a crash landing.
The other neat twist on the city-building formula is in how Airborne Kingdom pushes for you to explore the lands beneath you. Building a floating marvel requires resources, and contrary to popular belief, you’re not going to find a ready supply of lumber in the clouds. You’ll need to set an itinerary, travel the globe, and make pit stops at areas that have abundant natural resources that can be used to expand on your empire, and along the way you’ll discover more of the world.
There are secrets galore to be found, hidden temples that house fascinating lore, and valuable resource caches to plunder. You’ll also forge alliances with 15 earthbound kingdoms, complete quests to strengthen those diplomatic bonds, and eventually absorb them into your kingdom. Combined with an aesthetic that makes the most of its premise, Airborne Kingdom floats on the clouds with a style that is perfect for its tale and focus, while also being a contender for damn I’m glad this game has a photo mode.
Elegant on a visual and audio level thanks to its sophisticated soundtrack, Airborne Kingdom is the fantasy twist on city planning that you never knew you wanted. It is worth noting that currently, Airborne Kingdom lacks any sandbox mode for testing the aerial waters of just how creative you can get with your city-nation in the clouds.
It’s always a meditative treat to have a sandbox to goof around in, to try out new combinations, and push the game in exciting new directions, but it’s sorely missing in action right now. Beyond that, Airborne Kingdom is one of the better high notes to end on in a year that had no shortage of quality games on offer. It is both reflective and relaxing, charming in its presentation, and possibly the best cure for my aerophobia since I downed an entire bottle of Vodka before a transatlantic flight and passed out.
A beautiful twist on the city-building genre, Airborne Kingdom is a fascinating journey with innovative gameplay mechanics, a stirring soundtrack, and a sense of exploration that flies high.
Last Updated: December 16, 2020