End Evil

Children of the Nile

Children of the Nile is a city-building game created by the designer of Pharaoh. At first glance, it bears a striking similarity to Pharaoh. Your mission is to build a thriving city in ancient Egypt complete with Pyramids and Temples. However, the emphasis has been reversed so that the game revolves around the individuals living in your city. Each person has needs and desires of their own, but (unlike Pharaoh) they are pretty capable of satisfying their own basic needs if they have to.

Buildings by themselves do nothing; they just symbolize job openings. Once a person takes the job, they move into the building with their family (if they have one). Family members help the worker satisfy their needs and complete their work. So while a farmer and his children work in the field, his wife gets the shopping and visits a shrine on behalf of the household.

Children of the Nile screenshot

The population is split into five classes, Royals, Nobles, middle class, villagers and peasants. When your city is founded, there are only peasants, but once you have built a Palace you can build structures to tempt villagers into work. When a villager takes a job (farmer, servant, labourer or soldier), they become a peasant. Peasants can move into the middle class with a job such as bricklayer, shopkeeper or entertainer, while some luxury shopkeepers can join the nobility via education. Nobles join your city when you build Townhouses for them. They will manage a certain number of farms (depending on how lavish their residence becomes) which, in addition to your Pharaoh´s farms, will determine how much food you can make.

Food is the basic currency and it is vital to have enough Nobles to support a good number of farmers. Farmers harvest the food for Nobles and take a portion themselves. Nobles pay their taxes in food which goes to your granaries and bakeries so that Educated workers (Priests, Overseers, Commanders and Scribes), and government workers (soldiers, craftsmen and labourers) can be paid in food. Entertainers get their food from providing their services to Nobles, and shopkeepers sell their wears for food.

Once you have sated your citizen´s hunger, you need to provide bakeries, shops, places of worship, schools (for some) and medical facilities. The citizens demand access to virtually all of the fourteen Gods, which can make life very difficult. The key is to arrange you city so that facilities are clustered around residential areas, and make sure you have plenty of educated workers. Priests provide all schooling, religious and medical services. Scribes are needed to ease the flow of resources around your city and assess and collect tax. Overseers are necessary if you want to build a monument. You can also recruit a Commander and build an army for foreign conquest, or a city guard to protect you.

Your citizens are remarkably self-sufficient and sensible. If they need something, they will walk directly to the building or resource that can provide it. They do not wander around aimlessly hoping to bump into it. This is a major improvement on Pharaoh´s design. Each citizen is an individual who will have children who grow into the citizens of your future. You can watch the development of a family through the generations all the way up to Noble.

Children of the Nile screenshot

Prestige is vitally important to your Pharaoh. As his prestige rises, he can command more farms and attract more educated workers. Prestige is affected by the level of development of your Palace, your foreign trade and expeditions and the building of monuments and an assortment of stele and statuary.

The interface looks nice, but is actually pretty limited. If you want to see what is annoying each citizen, you have to select them individually. Some problems are obvious (your bakery has no bread) while others are specific to a family (they have just had a child and want to pray to Bast). It is also fairly hard to see how your city is doing as there is very little information on the city's economy and civic life. You end up chasing each person around trying to please them, with no idea whether you are pleasing one person but annoying another. What the game really needs is a screen showing what each of your citizens is doing and thinking.

Weirdly, no-one uses the nice roads and plazas. This is a shame, because although they are free this makes them seem pointless. Gardens mean nothing to your people! I also found that I always run out of villagers when my city covers a tiny portion of the map. It is fairly unsatisfying having to slow your expansion because you have run out of people so early. If you are building a Great Pyramid, you will stop growing when you have barely begun the monument.

Graphically the game is good, but not spectacular. The buildings look pretty, and you can zoom in closer for a good look. The art work was bound to be good, as the Ancient Egyptians built some beautiful structures. The sound effects and music are also nice, and not too intrusive. The central idea of the game is great, and I really liked the extra detail on the citizens. It is fun to watch a family progress through the social classes and perhaps even join the nobility.

Overall, I liked this game, but was a little disappointed with some of the limitations. In particular, there is no change in the buildings or resources as you progress through history. In the Old Kingdom you build Pyramids and mastabas. In the New Kingdom you build Pyramids and mastabas. There is no facility to build a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and a limited number of statues to adorn your city. However, this was only the first of what will probably become a series and I am sure many of the problems can be fixed.

If you enjoyed Pharaoh then Children of the Nile will give you quite a few days fun. It is pretty, fairly easy to pick up and enjoyable in places but unlikely to have a long term appeal.

Review by Jenny Hill

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