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Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile PC CD-ROM Official Website

Published by SEGA
Developed by Tilted Mill Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

I was a huge fan of the City Building Series developed by Impressions Games. Games such as Caesar III, Pharaoh and Zeus still remain some of my most played games and I never grow tired of them. Times change however and with Impressions now a distant memory, the City Building Series that we all knew has gone forever. The key developers from Impressions formed Tilted Mill and at first glance their first game might make you think that they’ve created a sequel to the hugely popular Pharaoh. Indeed Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile certainly seems to be that until you actually spend time with the game and then you find that it’s a very different experience altogether.

Children of the Nile is a strategy game that encourages focusing on the people rather than the cold statistics. Previous City Building games used the people to represent statistics. Yes they looked like people and right clicking on them bought out some telling and often humorous comments, but for the most part they simply walked around to show you which areas were receiving the services they provided. In Children of the Nile though the people you see are virtual citizens that have needs and desires. They have families and characteristics that make them who they are. It’s kind of like Tropico (the Caribbean flavoured strategy game from PopTop) in this respect. You keep the people happy, satisfy their needs and you will have a population that can achieve things. Ignore their needs and you aren’t going to achieve anything. The game includes a Campaign, Scenarios and Learn to Play tutorials as well as an editor to create your own scenarios and campaigns.

As we said in the introduction Children of the Nile is very different from Pharaoh and past City Building games. The previous games always felt like a juggling act. In many ways Children of the Nile is more realistic and more involving. The core ingredients of the game are bread, bricks and prestige because if you’re lacking in either of these you’re going nowhere. Bread is really more than just food in the game; it’s its currency too. Government workers are paid in bread and without it you’ll have no services. Without bricks of course you’ll never have any of the important government buildings and your society will never evolve. Without prestige you won’t be able to hire educated workers who perform important duties such as priests (who tend the gods, run the hospitals and apothecaries, educate and perform funerary functions) overseers, scribes and commanders.

Whilst you can all probably guess how food and bricks are obtained, prestige is obtained through building monuments and achievements. Propaganda allows you to build obelisks and stele to gain further prestige. Prestige allows you to hire educated workers. Initially you’ll only have access to one educated worker. It can’t be stressed enough that this educated worker must be made a priest who should then be instructed to educate others in the school. This will enable you to have a steady supply of graduates who can then fill important roles as they become available. However to begin with you’ll only have enough prestige to hire 4 educated workers so you’ll have to work on earning enough prestige to be able to hire more.

From the few paragraphs above you can see for yourself just how different the game is. Fortunately Tilted Mill has included three tutorials that make every aspect of the game clear. These tutorials are invaluable and I found myself revisiting them from time to time until I was completely comfortable with how everything in the game works. The game manual isn’t as comprehensive as it could have been but the thoroughness of the tutorials and the wealth of text information help that’s been built into the game more than compensate for this.

Whilst the game is very different from Pharaoh some things remain very similar. Building large monuments such as pyramids takes a very long time to do and requires lots of preparation. More often than not materials will have to be imported from other locations and you’ll have to visit the world map in order to arrange all this (in a similar way to previous City Building games). That said though there is a definite slant towards realism in the game. For instance an Overseer will have a labour camp built around him and you’ll be expected to provide a bakery, hospital and other important facilities for these workers to use in a very similar manner to how it would have been done for the ancient Egyptians.

The big difference with Children of the Nile of course (when compared to those earlier games) is that everything is in 3D. Rather than creating a custom game engine Tilted Mill decided to use the same one that featured in Empire Earth, albeit an enhanced version. The Empire Earth engine is a dated one but Tilted Mill have managed to make the game look quite good and for the most part I’m happy with the look of the game, although there are some rough edges both in the animation of the characters and the look of the game. Occasionally you’ll see your citizens walk on the spot as if they are stuck on something. They do manage to continue moving after a while but it’s still disappointing to see. You’ll also spot various minor graphical glitches such as when the floods begin and water begins to cover the land. This is probably due do the limitations of the Empire Engine rather than a fault of the developers though.

Children of the Nile is fine for deaf gamers. There are some omissions but on the whole there’s nothing that’s going to cause any problems. When you’re zoomed in on your citizens they’ll occasionally make some comments that aren’t shown in text and when your prestige rises, the voice that informs you of this isn’t subtitled (although a dialogue box appears that tells you more educated workers are interested in working for you). These omissions are not a major concern though as all information can be gained from the interface. In fact Children of the Nile is a very visually informative game in that it uses a lot of icons to relay information and even the look of the buildings and people provide you with information on how well you’re doing in the game. The tutorials are fully subtitled and you can even recall the previous messages that have been issued by pressing the ‘M’ key or by clicking the message log button. All mission objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. The game claims to have a free strategy guide but it’s really just a collection of QuickTime movies that explain several areas of the game. These aren’t subtitled though but to be perfectly honest it’s no great loss.

When I first began playing Children of the Nile my initial reaction was that it was too far away from the previous City Building games and I felt disappointed by this. This disappointment soon disappeared though as I progressed through the tutorials because it became obvious that what Tilted Mill had created with Children of the Nile was a deeper richer game play experience that wasn’t intended to be anything like those previous games. Somehow it feels more natural and less hectic. Time and again I loaded the game to only play for 10 minutes to look at something in particular and ended up playing for a few hours. It’s a relaxing experience and doesn’t go out of its way to be too punishing if you make a mess of things. Believe me when I say it’s quite easy to lose whole evenings playing Children of the Nile, which is always a sign you’re playing a quality game.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10

It's been a long time since we had a great City Building strategy game and many thought the genre had done all that was possible. Tilted Mill have proved a lot of people wrong though with Children of the Nile as they've shown that there are many innovations still to be made.

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

There are a couple of omissions but for the most part deaf gamers will have a great time with Children of the Nile.

A demo can be found on the official website. Click here for details.