Tell me why do we build castles in the sky?
Long ago, in a far away land, there was once unity between the scattered kingdoms throughout the region. This era of peace and prosperity was not by accident — a floating city, a veritable airborne kingdom, connected the people through wisdom and technology that ensured a tranquil existence for all. Until, one fateful day, that kingdom in the sky vanished, breaking the bonds that it had forged between the metropoles down below. The castle in the clouds faded from memory and eventually turned to legend, the technology hidden from the masses for years… only to mysteriously turn up once more, enabling the Airborne Kingdom to rise again.
So begins Airborne Kingdom, the chill civilization-building sim found exclusively on the Epic Games Store. Developed and self-published by The Wandering Band, Airborne Kingdom is available on both PC and Mac for the reasonable price of $24.99. A soothing city-builder that will please fans of the genre and all the senses, Airborne Kingdom will cause you to lose track of time as you gently soar across the procedurally generated fractured remnants of humanity, connecting them once again under your guidance.
The premise of Airborne Kingdom is simple: bring harmony to the pockets of civilization down below while building up your own empire in the sky. Construct facilities and homes for your people to live and work while harvesting the Earth’s bounty as you traverse the map. Maintain proper resource levels, such as food, water, coal, and wood, to ensure that no citizen of your fair kingdom goes without. Invite land-dwelling migrants to join your ranks in the clouds, ultimately reaching your goal of 150 people. Research more technologies, explore hidden ruins, and make peace with the 12 kingdoms, connecting them again like in days of yore. Will you succeed and fly sky high, or crash and burn, humanity’s hopes for a better future along with you?
Gameplay is intuitive enough, especially if you’ve played city-builder or Civilization-like strategy games before. The tutorial is perhaps too subtle, only offering guidance after clicking around on the item in question; I say this upfront because I was very eager to build homes for my citizens as suggested, only to run out of wood with no quick, clear solution on how to get more. After a brief restart, I was able to get cracking right away on the proper path — just don’t make the same mistake I did and be sure to build the hangar first.
The aesthetics of Airborne Kingdom are truly unique. Although the land masses did remind me of Godus, the tiles they rested on felt like a warm quilt, making gliding across the landscapes feel cozy and warm. I loved how the clouds rolled across the sky and how moving the mouse could make them fade away to reveal the land below. One thing that really stood out was the music, as it had a sort of Middle Eastern sound to it that is so woefully underexplored. The aesthetics definitely shine through for Airborne Kingdom, a beautiful experience for the eyes and ears.
Those looking for conflict in their city-builders won’t find it here — Airborne Kingdom is about unity through peace and technology, not through war. Building up your civilization is done through asking migrants if they’d like to join your sky castle and not through brute force. Connecting those who wish to remain with their feet on the ground to each other becomes the game’s other priority, a rare treat that, again, is nowhere near explored enough. The Wandering Band attempted a lot of novel ideas, and for the most part, pulled them off wonderfully.
While I greatly enjoyed my time spent with Airborne Kingdom, I admit there are areas that could see some improvement. I found the text on the cities pages to be a bit too small, and the font didn’t help with the legibility. I constantly forgot what the towns wanted from me quest-wise without some sort of marker or questlog, meaning I spent a good portion of my time fruitlessly backtracking for no reason. Additionally, the game was perhaps just *too* chill, if such a statement could be made, as after a few hours of gameplay, I felt like I had done all there was to do. There were no surprises, no real way to get to truly know my citizens, and, if I’m being perfectly honest, the resources’ depletion rate were perhaps too forgiving. I finally had to turn it off when I started getting sleepy, which, fellow insomnia suffers, might not be a bad thing.
With all that being said, I found Airborne Kingdom absolutely addicting. There was just something special about telling your floating city where to go and watching it slowly change direction high above the clouds while your people jumped into planes to collect resources from far below. This whimsical kingdom felt alive, like a beast crawling across the sky, which was just a cool thing to sit and watch. It may not be the most exciting game, but it’s one that offers a simple, meditative joy that will be sure to keep you entertained for hours.
Airborne Kingdom is a sight to behold, and one that is worthy of any city-builder fan’s attention. There’s a chill novelty to it that will subtly come over you as your floating metropolis glides across the screen, getting bigger and more unwieldy as the hours pass. With a few quality of life improvements, Airborne Kingdom could soar to far greater heights; for now, it’s the stress-reducer that fans of the genre should be paying attention to. So keep your eyes on the skies, and when Airborne Kingdom comes into view, be sure to grab it for your Epic Games Store library.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: The Wandering Band; Developer: The Wandering Band; Players: 1; Released: December 17, 2020; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Airborne Kingdom provided by the publisher.