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Pharaoh: A New Era's demo shows that I had no idea how to play Pharaoh

Denial

Like many, I was excited by the existence of Pharaoh: A New Era beacuse I played a lot of the original Pharaoh as a kid. There's a demo of the big fancy remake on Steam as part of the Next Fest, and Katharine mentioned it made her realise she had no idea what she was supposed to be doing when playing Pharaoh back in the day. I then tried A New Era for myself, and can only say "big mood".

Usually with something like this I'd say "Remember Pharaoh? It's like that," except it turns out I misremembered Pharaoh. Since playing the demo of A New Era, and going through some early campaign levels, it has come back to me that I basically only played the first few bits of original Pharaoh over and over again, because Pharaoh is actually quite hard. It's a collision of your usual city-builder interlocking systems, and vibes-based town planning. You need to build a city and must ensure water and food supply and so on, but finding out how much supply you need, and over what area, is a case of feeling your way.

Resources, be they well water, ostrich meat, or fire safety, are delivered by people walking around your city, and when they reach an intersecton they could turn either way. if it takes too long for fire safety to be carried to a building, it'll burn down. So you need to figure out if you should have two fire safety offices, and thus two firemen lads walking around, or change your road system and put up some road blocks. You will level a few cities before you figure these vibes out. And look, you might start off thinking you'll be a good ruler to everyone, but isn't it just easier to throw a few hovels down right next to the mine and let them do their own thing, rather than build a new granary and supply system up there?

Food production is a particularly juicy one, because if you're too dependant on farming the banks of the Nile then you'll have some lean, lean months to get through on account of those same farms relying on the seasonal flooding of the river. There were many, many things that I didn't get to grip with when playing Pharaoh as a kid, and I'm not sure I will in A New Era, either, but the demo has given me good reason to try. There's so much to learn.

All of which is, I suppose, a long-winded way of saying "Remember Pharaoh? It's like that." The controls are easy, and it's painless to wipe out buildings you've placed somewhere daft. There are also loads of coloured overlays to check the supplies and needs of your city. Looks real nice, too, Although it did take me a while to get over the art. The buildings and land look lovely, but the people and animals are sort of...cartoon-y. I found this a bit weird, especially when an ostrich was facing the camera, for some reason. But after a while it just looked normal, so who am I to gripe? Give it a try yourself (the full game is "coming soon").

About the Author

Alice Bell avatar

Alice Bell

Deputy Editor

RPS's dep ed. Small person powered by tea and enthusiasm for video game romances. Send me interesting etymological facts and cool horror games.

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