Released on Xbox consoles on the 9th November 2021, Airborne Kingdom is a beautiful airborne city building game developed by The Wandering Band and published by Freedom Games. In this game you build and expand your flying city across a unique procedurally-generated map while exploring, building and researching your cities technology and forging alliances with the 12 other discoverable cities.
The game starts with a very artistic opening cutscene that vaguely sets the overall premise up and leaves you wanting to discover and uncover more about what has happened in this world and why you are commanding a flying city in this very middle eastern style aesthetic. When you first gain control you have a very small and limited city and like other builder style games you will need to collect resources, manage your works and their needs and ensure your city runs at its most efficient whilst keeping everyone as happy as possible.
When I first started the game, I had envisioned the game to be like the end of Studio Ghibli’s Howls Moving Castle with it's hodge podge buildings/rooms combined into one fantastical steampunk flying contraption however after putting in more game time I realised it was much more than just throwing additional things onto my existing city without much thought, and this is where the game adds its own unique flavours to the city building staples we come to expect.
For instance, you have to ensure that your city is literally balanced because placing too many buildings to one side will cause your city to tilt to one side instead of being straight. This can cause your citizens to be unhappy and ultimately cause your city to crash, so you have to plan your city layout like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. You also have to ensure that buildings that create pollution are placed in an area that does not affect your workers living quarters and also make sure you maintain enough propulsion providing structures in relation to the overall size of your city or you will eventually move at a snails pace!
One thing I enjoyed was the freedom to openly explore whilst continuing to expand my city. I could harvest all the available resources in an area and then move on to another area whilst the resources rebuilt. The map features three distinct areas and scattered around the map are settlements and temples that you can interact with. At these settlements you can recruit new citizens for your city whilst interacting with the temples can bag you resources and also expand the sparse lore of the story.
The game itself contains no combat so you don’t have to worry about being attacked from invaders so you can solely focus on the expansion, exploration and atmosphere the game has to offer. The main aim of the game is to discover a selection of cities across the map and complete quests for them which eventually leads them to allying with you. These kingdoms also give you the chance to trade for resources and also acquire schematics for new buildings and technologies for your city.
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Airborne Kingdom, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few issues worth noting. The cursor on the screen is extremely small on my 4k TV and many times I had to get up and get closer to the TV and focus to find it! It’s nothing major, and could be easily patched to be slightly larger but every now and then it did pull me out of the atmosphere when the pesky thing decided to hide.
Another thing I found, was that when you first jump into the game the speed at which the tutorial played out seemed much slower than the progress I seemed to be making and wasn’t always as clear as it could have been. Once you get through the earlier parts of the game and the tutorial section this is no longer an issue but it felt a little too drawn out for my tastes.
Overall Airborne Kingdom is an absolutely fantastic gem of a game. Not only is it great to look at with its unique art style and setting but the overall city building gameplay is satisfying and relaxing. This is one of the more unique games I have had the pleasure to play this year and I highly recommend it. There is also a photo mode for those people who love to take gorgeous screenshots whilst they play!
8.5 / 10
Airborne Kingdom is currently available right now on the Xbox store HERE Priced at £20.99 and playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. We were provided a copy of the game for free for this review. A big thanks for that!