As claimed in the introduction to the game's manual, Children Of The Nile
is 'unlike any city-building game that you might have played before'. This rather bold assumption is based on the developer's design decision
to force you to focus your attention on your citizens rather than your buildings. Or, to be more precise, your aim is to fulfil each citizen's basic need for food, health, security and sandals by planning a city
and leaving them to their own devices (rather than by ordering them off to find fruit). Here, so the theory goes, if you build the right building in the right place at the right time, success is assured.
Of course, it isn't as easy as all that. For a start, there are over a dozen different resources to gather, many more items that have to be built or imported in order to keep the people happy, along with a complex social web of careers and standings that your people will naturally migrate through. Add to the mix the bewildering number of Egyptian deities that must be worshipped (often by different people at different times of the year), and you have some idea just how tricky getting the balance right can be. And that's before you've factored in the attentions of traders and raiders from outside the city walls.
Fire In Cairo
Typically, a game begins by setting out farms along the riverbank. Close to those should be your craftsmen and shops, while nearby are the nobility, more exclusive stores and service buildings like hospitals, temples and schools. If people have enough food, they start wanting shiny things - however, the richer your society becomes, the higher the danger that you might start ignoring the needs of the lower classes.
Unless you look after your labourers and their overseers, your city-state could descend into anarchy - and that elaborate pointy tomb you've been planning isn't going to get built. No pyramid, no immortality. Expand too quickly and the social ladder becomes top heavy; advance too slowly and you die before your crypt is complete. Certainly, more than any other game of its kind, knowing when to build is just as important as what and where.
Of course, when you do get the balance right and all are happy, the gods shining and the granaries full to bursting, watching the people at work has a real sedate charm. Even when things do go wrong, the game is happy to let you take your time. At least, that's what it feels like. The fact is, because you don't have to micro-manage each individual, you can concentrate on policies and problems, not arbitrary game mechanics.
Walk Like An Egyptian
Not that the mechanics are faultless. Juggling the spiritual needs of the population can be a real headache, because despite the excellent interface, finding out who worships which god requires you to click on each individual house, which soon becomes a mammoth chore. Combat is a disappointing affair too, where you have to click an icon to send an army to war, then wait to hear the result - not the sort of game you'd recommend to an Age Of Empires fanatic then.
However, if you're in the mood for some easy-to-learn but hard-to-master city-building gameplay, Children Of The Nile is as good a game as you're likely to find. Hardly as unique as is claimed, but good all the same.
- Lots of hidden detail
- Takes weeks to exhaust
- Nice leisurely pace...
- ...Too leisurely for some
- 3D graphics lack detail
- War-mongering is too simplistic