City Builders and you: Children of the Nile

Welcome to a brand new bunch of useless reviews no one will ever read, because you’re all to busy masturbating to a disorganised list of Warhammer 40k quotes.

This series is all about the particular Video Game genre called “City Builders“, a largely Niche genre, which mainly aims towards hilariously nerdy people, me included. It can be seperated into two main sub genres: Ancient City Builders, based on anything from ancient Egypt to Medieval Castles, and Modern City Builders, who are basically just SimCity and it’s successors, also the entire Modern City Builder sub genre died out with Simcity 4, SimCity Societies sucks awfully and Monte Cristo can’t make games.

Now, today’s game is Children of the Nile by Tilted Mill Entertainment, oddly enough the same damn company who made the absolutely awful Simcity Societies. However, they are also the successor company of Impression Games, one of the grand old City-builder developers, the only other members of that rare club is classical Maxis, back when they where still developing shit other that the Sims, and good old Bullfrog.

Children of the Nile is set entirely in Ancient Egypt, with it’s expansion pack Alexandria, covering the rise of Greek Egypt, during the conquests of Alexandria. And remarkably enough, it actually has plenty of unique selling points for the budding little simulation nerd to enjoy.

The graphics are quite good, for a game developed by a small independent company, and is actually fairly enjoyable to watch and observe, which is important for me, I personally enjoy watching all those little people, running around, pretending to matter.

It’s single largest selling point is the way the economy works in the game, unlike most Ancient City Builders, the players involvement in the city’s economy is actually slightly limited.

In most of those games, you have a currency, say gold, you use it to build absolutely everything, but not in this game, this is ancient Egypt after all. it was all barter economy back then, gold and silver was used exclusively to make jewellery and bribes to foreigners.

So the parts of the economy the player actually controls are based on two things, bricks, used to build most of the mid to high-tier buildings, like bakeries (Produces food for government employees) to gigantic Cult temples. And the the big dog, food.

That’s right, the most important “currency” in Children of the Nile is simply food, as King, you take a share of most of the food produced from the farmers of your city. Your own palace will, throughout the game, support from six to ten farmers, who will then deposit a lions share of the food into the city granaries, that food is used by brick makers, bricklayers, government labourers, soldiers and of course: Priests, scribes, commanders and Overseers.

There is also a large private economy, which, if done properly, is larger than the Government funded one, all farmers build their houses out whatever they can find, you simply decided how many there should be, the answer to that one is, by the way, as many as you can, and a few extra just in case.

Now, your Palace can only support, what, six farmers in the beginning, that’s not really enough to get a nice big city now is it? Of course not, fortunately enough, Egypt is a feudal society, and you can build nice big estates for Nobles, who then support even most farmers, and you get a chunk of the food produced, as taxes. Which you then mainly spend on various support structures for the city itself, ie. temples, hospitals and schools, manned by the most important educated Government employee, the Priest.

So, what does the nobles, farmers, servants, government employees and the Royal family itself, spend most of their food on? Why mats, linen, pottery, baskets and in the case of the nobles and educated, six different kinds of luxuries. In most City builders in the Ancient world, it’s up to the player and the government to set up production chains, pay wages and so on and so forth.

Not here, Common shop-owners and luxury show-owners handle everything themselves. The inhabitants of the city use their food to buy stuff from the shops as they need it, the show-keepers then travel around and gather the materials themselves, often sending out their kids to do it, and produce it themselves. They are completely outside of Government control, they only thing you as player do, is control where they build their small shops.

It’s oddly realistic, especially when you remember that most societies back then where utterly dependent on a successful and good harvest.

So now you have a lovely little city, plenty of food to go around, your scribes out collecting taxes from the fields, you priests handling the gods and the people’s health and education, your commanders commanding what military you may or may not need and your Overseers handling, oh yes, what are they doing, why they are answering a questions you would presently be thinink about.

“That’s all good, but what’s the point of all this?”. You blood moron, it’s fucking Egypt, what the hell do you think the point is? To build some damn Pyramids!

Your Overseers handle the labourers dragging the necessary stones to the sites of the pyramids, the raw obelisks and statues to those sites and temples. They can also be used for mining and quarrying when needed.

And what are the pyramids and brick tombs used for? Well, first of all, to contain your dead Pharaoh, members of the Royal family and in the case of the really small brick Mastaba, the nobles and Educated people of the city.

And guess what, they also produce Prestige, which is the “currency” that decided how many Educated governement employees you can have in total, thus really enforcing a limit to how large your city can grow. You need more priests to handle all those temples and hospitals after all.

These is also a little world map thing, which is similar to what Impression Games old products had, you set up trade routes, send out your army to murder everything that looks at you funny, complete little tasks. All to gain more prestige, resources and cool luxury bollocks to keep your nobles happy. Those dilletants even need entertainers, private economy again, and servants just to be happy. Although the servants are also used by the luxury shopkeepers to gather resources, they can afford it anyway.

Oddly enough, your shopkeepers and entertainers usual end up being filty rich, simply because they really don’t have that much to spend the money on. They don’t buy all the luxuries the nobles and educated citizens can spend their income/wages on, so it simply builds up.

Meaning that in the later game, most of your nobles are former Luxury shopkeepers and so on. It actually works fairly well, there are little annoyances, but nothing serious.

So yeah, if you enjoy these kind of city builder games, I’d happily recommend Children of the Nile, Tilted Mill apparently really do care about this little game.

Oh yeah, the military part isn’t very strong, but they rarely are, so who cares?

I would’ve have ripped Hinterland a new arsehole for being a shallow city builder with a shallow RPG smashed into it, but apparently they are releasing another freaking expansion for it, so hey, I’ll wait.

About Ragnarokz

I am the Managing Director of the Balfour Institute of Internet Culture, and one of the world's foremost experts on the cultural phenomena of the Internet.
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