Pharaoh: A New Era Review

Pharaoh: A New Era promises to give new life to Impression Games classic Pharaoh from 1999, but can this ancient Egypt themed city builder be raised from the dead? Check our review to find out.


Published: February 15, 2023 10:00 AM /

Reviewed By:


Pharaoh A New Era Key Art

There’s something that’s just satisfying about city builders. Whether it’s the old-school stuff like SimCity or newer takes like Cities Skylines, there’s no sense of accomplishment like building an intricate settlement that functions perfectly and/or destroying said settlement with a giant chicken. Pharaoh: A New Era may not have a giant chicken (as far as I know) but it is a revival of the original Pharaoh from 1999, the lesser-known cousin of the Caeser series of historical city-builders by Impressions Games. The real question is whether this revival can bring the same late-90s magic back to the game in the modern era. 

What is Pharaoh: A New Era?

Pharaoh A New Era Screenshot Historical Map Showing Predynastic Period of Egypt
In the early stages of the campaign, you control the fledgling civilization that forms on the dank valley surrounding the river Nile. 

Pharaoh: A New Era is a historical city-builder game from Triskell Interactive, a small studio possibly most famous for their own city builder, Lethis Path to Progress. This previous title bears many of the same hallmarks of an Impressions Games city-builder, so clearly, Dotemu and Focus Entertainment thought they were the perfect people for the job of bringing the game back from the dead. In this particular entry, it’s your job to control the Egyptian civilization from its very earliest days as a tiny settlement on the banks of the Nile to a power that controlled a large partition of east Africa. 

For full disclosure: this is my first time playing an Impressions Games city-builder, though I’ve been a big fan of the genre for a while now. At first glance, it has a lot of similarities to other city-builders. You have to build settlements that provide for the needs of your people with a handful of built-in crafting tools. At the start of each mission of the campaign, you’re given a new objective or several that will advance the cause of the kingdom, and you must build a settlement from scratch to accomplish it. 

Pharaoh: A New Era - An Easy Start

Pharaoh A New Era The First Settlement
Your first few settlements can be barely more than a ramshackle collection of huts huddling on the edge of a river. 

Pharaoh: A New Era eases you in relatively gently. Your first task is to care for your citizens' most basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, and safety. You achieve this by making sure that any housing you plonk down has access to water sources, a local bazaar to distribute food, and of course, either farmers or hunters to supply the food. You also have to take into account the stability of your buildings and how susceptible they are to fire by providing architects and firefighters. Everything is connected by pathways, and you have to take into account how people will get around your city, as well as how many intersections there are, as this can slow down production and industry. 

There’s also a unique system at play here called the recruiter system. As immigrants come to empty homes in your city, they’ll want to have jobs, and each different job sends out recruiters looking for unemployed people to hire. This means that you not only have to make sure that your recruiters and citizens have access to everything, but you also need to make sure that it doesn’t take recruiters ages to get around your pathways, or you’ll never fill important jobs as quickly as you need to. To accomplish this, you can place red posts on your paths that prevent anyone from walking by unless they have a predetermined destination in mind. Well, either that, or you can go into the options menu and turn it off.

Pharaoh: A New Era - Modern Conveniences

Pharaon A New Era Screenshot City of Men-Nefer
Before long, you'll be constructing a thriving Egyptian metropolis, filled with beautiful works of art and verdant gardens. 

Yes, while fans of the original game might not like to hear it, the recruiter system is now optional. Instead, you can elect to have any buildings connected to your city’s path network automatically gain employees without having to send out recruiters. It really does streamline the game and comes highly recommended for anyone who is new to the series or just fancies taking things at a little more relaxed pace. You’ll probably need to as well because once you’ve made your way through the brief set of tutorials that take you northward up the Nile, you’re very much pushed in at the deep end. 

In your first few missions without tutorial oversight, you’re tasked with producing copper and gems for your Pharaoh while protecting your settlement from constantly attacking enemies. This means you need to carefully balance providing for your citizens with providing for your ruler and protecting your settlement. At any point, if you lose a battle, it’s pretty much game over unless you have a decent backlog of funds to repair the damage. These attacks keep ramping up in severity as well, so it’s pretty easy to find that you’ve fallen behind the AI character and have no hope of making up the stuff that you need. 

Pharaoh: A New Era - C*ck-Up Cascades, and Bug Parades

Pharaoh A New Era Beer and Barely Instructions
Let's be honest, it's not a shock that beer was involved in the story at some point. 

That’s certainly one of the hallmarks of Pharaoh: A New Era. When things go wrong, they cascade in a shower of utter failure. If you let your reputation fall too badly, you can’t trade. If you can’t trade, you won't be able to afford to improve your city; then you’ll fall worse into debt/poor rep, etc. On one hand, it’s reassuring that the game isn’t doing you any favors, so you know when you win that you won on your own back. That said, it can be frustrating to beat your head up against that brick wall, especially when the game keeps having bug problems in places. Sometimes pretty severe ones. 

One such example would be the time when traders wouldn’t buy any of my one sellable commodity, despite it being plentiful and freely available in my city storage facilities. This caused a debt spiral until I brute-forced it by making the only path through my town go straight past a depot filled with nothing but sellables. I also had a time when my citizens refused to use the local temple or shrines, despite being incredibly close to them. This one was harder to resolve, basically coming down to having to ignore them until they went away. Honestly, the worst bug by far was one that saw my save data completely wiped, forcing me to create a new family from scratch. Incidentally, that’s also why some of the screenshots may have a rude word blurred out. 

Pharaoh: A New Era - Visuals, Music, and Gameplay

Pharaoh A New Era Combat Shwombat
Combat is introduced around the same time that the gameplay challenge gets more serious, and it can be relentless at times. 

Bugs aside, the gameplay is relatively solid. Pharaoh: A New Era, introduces all of the core elements to you and then expects you to spend your time figuring out the deeper nuances. Once the tutorial is over, you still have plenty of new buildings and mechanics to unlock and manage, and there’s an entire history to play through. You end up having to manage everything about the city, from its streets to the decorative features that attract wealthy citizens. It’s a very deep and involving campaign, and even after 20 hours, you feel like you're just barely scratching the surface.

In terms of visuals and music, there’s not much to write home about here. Music sets the tone quite well but mostly blends into the background, as it should do in this sort of game. It’s mostly about that Ancient Egypt atmosphere, and it pulls that off with aplomb. The big issue that I have here is with the graphics. They by no means look bad or anything, but they are just so bland, especially when compared with the relatively decent-looking pixel-graphic sprites from the original 1999 game. Sure, they were a bit fuzzy, but they at least gave it a unique look rather than looking like n-million random mobile games on the market. It’s a minor quibble but certainly, one worth bringing up. 

The Verdict

Overall, despite any petty niggles I had with the graphics, Pharaoh: A New Era is well worth the playtime you can get out of it. If you’re into this particular historical period or just have a hankering for a city-builder with a thematic difference, then you could certainly do much worse than this one. All of that said, some of these bugs are annoying, so no one would be able to blame you for waiting for a fix. Whether you decide to take the plunge or not, we can at least say that there are the bones of a decent historical city-builder here. It just needs a little bit of spit and polish. 


TechRaptor reviewed Pharaoh: A New Era on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer. 

Review Summary

6.5
Pharaoh: A New Era has a lot going for it, and if you can get past the generic graphics and occasional bugs, you'll find a deep city-building experience in here. (Review Policy)

Pros

  • Sizable Campaign
  • Complex and Involving gameplay
  • Simple to learn mechanics that evolve naturally

Cons

  • Graphics are a little generic
  • Occasional bugs can get in the way of the experience

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at tips@techraptor.net


Will wearing an Odd Future shirt.
| Staff Writer

Will has been writing about video games professionally since 2016 and has covered everything from AAA game reviews to industry events and everything in… More about William