Thursday, June 24, 2010

Video Game; Pharaoh

One of my all-time favorite games across all genres is Pharaoh; a city-building game set in Egypt.

Note: The screen-shots throughout this review are taken by myself.

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The wikipedia entry for this game starts thus; "Pharaoh is an isometric city-building game set in Ancient Egypt created by Impressions Games and published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows-based computers. It involves the construction and management of settlements and cities in ancient Egypt, and is the first such themed game in the City Building series.

"The game was released on October 31, 1999, and was later complemented with an expansion pack, Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile, developed by BreakAway Games the following year. Both the original game and expansion pack are commonly referred to, and may be purchased as one, under the title Pharaoh and Cleopatra."

This trailer is poor resolution, and doesn't show the beauty of the game, but here's the 'official' trailer anyway;

Caesar vs. Pharaoh

Pharaoh has the same game engine as Caesar III, also by Sierra Entertainment, and operates on the same principles, but has many improvements and exceptions. One major difference is that Pharaoh incorporates the construction of massive monuments.

I personally think Pharaoh is much more fun and enjoyable. I like the music, appearance and game-play better all around in Pharaoh; even better than Caesar IV and CivCity.

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The campaign takes you through the ages of Egypt in a mostly accurate way. Your family rises up through the ranks as you complete the various city-building scenarios. Once you make it past the first few missions (which are essentially tutorials) you begin to have a choice about which side of the Campaign you take; military-based scenarios or economic/cultural-based scenarios.

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All scenario objectives must be met before the next city in a campaign can be used and played. Each mission sets five targets for the city, each being a value on a rating scale. A higher target along the scale represents a higher difficulty level for the city.

There are five rating scales: population, representing simply the number of residents in the city; the culture rating, representing the population's access to city services; the monument rating, which represents monument completion; the prosperity rating, which represents the city's financial success; and the kingdom rating, representing the city's relations with the Pharaoh and other cities in the kingdom.

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Your People

All of the buildings except for Shrines, and Statues generate people, if only just to find employees. Most buildings generate an employer who walks down the road until it comes across a house with some unemployed citizens. These citizens then become employed at that venue. Most venues will then immediately generate a 'walker' who then roams the city.

The 'walkers' come in two types. Those with a destination, and those that wander. (The walkers are not playable, but where they go can be controlled by roads.)

Click to Enlarge - This Screenshot shows a Locusts Plague

Walkers with a destination are generated at one point of the city and take the most direct road to another one. The most common destination walker is the delivery man, who takes goods and products from a place to another.

Wandering walkers are generated by a building and roam around the city following the roads laid by the player. Usually the purpose of those characters is to have an effect over the houses and/or buildings they pass by. The player may prevent roam walkers from going by a certain road by using roadblocks (which do not stop walkers with a destination, nor remove the road itself).

A few characters can have negative effects over the city, such as thieves or diseased people. Some animals may attack the walkers as well.

Soldiers are the only characters that the player can control directly. A full formation is made up of sixteen troops and they come in Archers, Infantry and Chariots.

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The game is as fast-paced as you desire. You can adjust the speed to nine different levels, the highest of which looks like fast-forward, and the third-highest looks about like a 'normal pace' and the lower speeds looking like various speeds of slow motion.

  • Osiris, the god of the Nile.
  • Ra, the Sun god.
  • Ptah, the Craftsman god.
  • Seth, the god of War.
  • Bast, the feline-goddess of the Home.
Worship of the Gods through temples, shrines, festivals and the large and expensive Temple Complex will make the Gods pleased and therefor bestow upon you blessings, including aids in your monument construction. Displeasing them, however, brings plagues and other such unwanted issues.

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Got an itch to manage goods and create a smooth economy? You'll find that itch thoroughly scratched while playing Pharaoh. The further along in the campaign you are, the more trade cities open up. There is a long list of raw materials and output products including flax/linen, reeds/papyrus, clay/pottery, gems/jewelry, henna/paint and copper/weapons. On missions where the raw good is not available, sometimes it can be imported.

For example, you may not be able to build any barley farms on a certain mission. But there may be a trade city that sells barley. You may then import the barley to a storehouse, and then ship the barley to the brewery and create beer. Assuming one of the trade cities desires beer, you may then export it for a profit.

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One of the most fascinating and gratifying aspects of the game is housing. Your houses start out as a sign sticking the ground to let immigrants know they can settle there. They start out as huts, but given all of the requirements, they can evolve up to 'palatial estates.'

The first 'evolution' happens after they get water (from a well or water-bringer), the second after they receive food (from a bazaar). At various stages they require entertainment, religion, health care, pottery, beer, luxuries, and education.

After playing several missions you begin to become familiar with what stage requires what and simply glance at an area and know what you need to build to cause the homes to evolve. If you are not sure, you can right-click on a house to discover what it require.

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You can custom-create your own missions and select from a number of single-play missions outside the campaign. There are dozens of missions overall, each with unique win requirements as well as a unique combination of events. Lots of replay-ability.

Screenshot Gallery

To see all of my Pharaoh screenshots you can view my Pharaoh Screenshot Gallery.

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