Ancient Egyptian civilization is one of the most interesting eras of human history. Known best for constructing such enormous monuments as the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx, the ancient Egyptians also worshipped numerous gods, studied the Nile River to enhance their agriculture, and practiced mummification. Aspects such as these are what make ancient Egypt the perfect setting for a world-building game. Pharaoh does not make any dramatic advances to the genre, but it does take elements from other successful games, blend them perfectly with ancient Egypt, and provide an addictive and challenging game experience.
Pharaoh is best compared to games such as Civilization II and SimCity. While Civilization II has a very basic city management system, if you were to go inside of one of its cities it would probably look a lot like Pharaoh. Turning villages into bustling cities is what users will be doing throughout the game, something not unlike SimCity. If you gave SimCity an ancient Egyptian theme and add more detailed functions, you get Pharaoh.
At the start of every game players will need to perform basics such as building houses in order to attract immigrants, setting up a road system that maximizes efficiency, and making sure enough food is being produced. Placing items is very simple: click on a menu, choose what you wish to build, and click on the action screen to place it. Every mission has its own goals that need to be completed, but in most cases you will need to perform many of the same functions as a previous mission in order to complete every new goal. Goals may be as massive as constructing a particular monument, or something as basic as reaching a particular population number. At the start of the game all of the items required to build are not available so don't expect to be building pyramids right off the bat. In fact, you will not even build a monument until the second time period.
How you develop a village's location of buildings is extremely important because individual commands cannot be given to each worker. Instead, the people roam the streets, randomly choosing which direction to go at each intersection. For example, a bazaar should be placed near a granary so that it stays stocked with food. However, you will also want it near housing so that the people will be sure to receive food. No one wants to live near an industrial building though, and if you do place housing in an industrial area then the living conditions will be poor. So how do you get the bazaar workers to go to the housing areas? Roadblocks.
Roadblocks are essential to guiding people to where they need to go. It is very possible that people will never get food if you cannot get a bazaar worker to walk past housing. Therefore, you need to place roadblocks strategically in order to keep some workers on particular paths while not isolating others. One particular group you do not want to isolate is the firemen, since doing so may cause parts of your city to burn to the ground.
One constant reminder that you are in ancient Egypt is religion. Gods need to be kept pleased so that benefits are received rather than punishment. To please the gods players will need to build temples, shrines, and hold festivals. Get a god upset and quite a few things can go wrong. Upset Bast, Goddess of the Home, and many of your people will likely be infected with a plague. On the other hand, please Osiris, a god who controls the Nile, and your agriculture will stay strong.
Pharaoh is a great game and will keep any fan of this genre busy for many hours. The game is certainly long, and addictive enough to force you to lose track of time.
Graphics: Many small details adorn each building and the characters are all animated well.
Sound: The music fits the theme of the game and sets the atmosphere. Voices are used throughout the game: menus are read completely by a narrator, cut-scenes are described by the narrator as well, and clicking on a citizen in your village will result in them speaking to you.
Enjoyment: Menu systems are easy to use and although gameplay is slow, it is very addictive.
Replay Value: As previously mentioned, the addictive gameplay will have you hooked.
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Pharaoh and Cleopatra, Caesar 3, Zeus: Master of Olympus, Caesar IV, Port Royale: Gold, Power and Pirates, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Port Royale 2, Populous: The Beginning
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