Games

'Airborne Kingdom' Takes the City Builder to the Skies

Don't worry, there's always another lake you can drain.
October 26, 2020, 1:00pm
Screenshot from Airborne Kingdom, A flying city made of a few central towers over a column of fans floats over a blue-tinted landscape
Image courtesy of The Wandering Band

City builders generally lean on a few forms of friction in their gameplay: a need to build and expand and managing the resources that expansion requires. Often times this is handled in a self-contained loop, where resources are generated by certain buildings within the city and then distributed through the infrastructure you build. Airborne Kingdom however asks the question “what if your city was mobile?” How does the stripping of natural resources land differently when your forced to travel from region to region because once you cut down that forest, that resource is completely tapped? We discuss Airborne Kingdom’s resource gathering mechanics, Amnesia: Rebirth’s wrestling with horror tropes, and more on this episode of Waypoint Radio. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.

Rob: I'm curious where this game is going to go with this. Ultimately, my reservation here is that I'm not sure this is going to be much of a city builder, because there wasn't a lot of systemic friction in the several hours I played. Your city just kind of gets bigger, and while you have these constraints, they're not hard to work around. You kind of build out concentrically and balance stuff around, it's it's not that hard to sort of keep the city functioning pretty well.

The big thing you're up against is that you're a city flying through the air, you don't have a lot of capacity to build resources yourself. And so there's kind of a weird thing where you're flying over the air and you begin sending resource gatherers out on their gliders. And it's like a plague of fucking locust where like you see forests and you're like “Well, wood is one of my primary building materials,” and so you see a waterfall of gliders descending toward the forest and the forest begins shrinking. You will find a beautiful lake and you're like, “my people thirst.” And again, the gliders swoop down and you will see the lake just drain into a dry bed.

Austin: So when they found that thing that showed that there was an ancient unifying global society, are we sure that wasn't some sort of empire ruled from on high?

Rob: It's like the British empire discovering a picture of a Dreadnought and they're like, "Oh, see, we made it all work!"

Austin: Everyone was happy about this! It was all flying under the flag of the Queen.

Rob: All of these societies were brought under, they were in communication with each other, and we just sort of floated above bringing joy.

Austin: I'm watching some game play footage and this tool tip just popped up ‘a nearby forest has been emptied by workers.’ Oh, okay? Cool, I guess?

Rob: So, along the way you keep going to these like settlements and the get, you get more workers by going to towns and being like, “Who wants to go join the flying city?” And people are like, “Oh oh, me, me, me,” so you get more workers that way. And then you go around to the cities and they all have narrative stuff for you to do, and usually some quests.

In the starting zone, the first place you go used to have a sacred forest, and you have to help them replant their sacred forest. Yeah, you don't cut this one down, you help them replant this one and bring back the sacred forest that was the engine of their way of life.

Which, okay, cool, I'm curious where all this is going to go because as you play the game, you kind of need to keep outstripping your consumption of resources. The entire thing begins to take on a really strong Mortal Engines vibe. Your city keeps getting bigger and bigger and its burn rate of resources keeps increasing. So you start strapping on more engines so you can just go rocketing across the barren waste and find the next forest or lake and just gobble that shit up.


This transcript was edited for length and clarity. Discussed: Amnesia: Rebirth 3:26, Amnesia: Rebirth spoilers 23:45, Fire Emblem: The Shadowdragon and the Blade of Light 52:10, Airborn Kingdom 58:59, Tenderfoot Tactics 1:09:19, Promesa 1:17:50, Disc Room 1:20:17

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