Sky kingdoms and airships have long been a powerful fantasy device in video games, so much so that the entirety of Bioshock Infinite took place on a vibrant sky city. It’s an enticing concept, and Airborne Kingdom implements these ideas within a strategy simulator genre. It’s the kind of game which seems daunting at first, but it is beautifully simple in execution and progression. Although it’s been a popular PC game for quite some time, the experience translates smoothly onto Xbox.
Airborne Kingdom has a mysterious set up and premise; you actually don’t quite know what the context is or how it has led to having a civilisation relocate to the skies, and yet the cryptic opening sets a fascinating tone and mood which immediately intrigues. Despite the mystery, the game world feels vibrant and alive, and there is both an organic world and lore building as you progress through the game. Basically, this kingdom has been forced to relocate to the skies, and this where you as the player step in to craft the kingdom from the ground up. Hang on, what I mean to say, from the sky… up?
The logistics of it aren’t easy, and just because the kingdom is in the sky doesn’t mean it absolves reliance on the land. In fact, the land serves as a lifeline for the kingdom as you need to collect timber, coal, and all sorts of other resources. Of course, your inhabitants need nourishment too, and so plenty of water will need to be drawn from the land too. Although the titular airborne kingdom itself is dependent upon the land and its spoils, it does have one major advantage, which is that if resources run scarce in any location, the kingdom can literally fly elsewhere. It’s like living in a caravan except it’s an entire civilisation suspended in mid-air.
Speaking of civilisations and managing them, Sid Meier’s Civilization is probably closest comparison here, and in the past, we have seen the amazing Civilization VI translate comfortably onto Xbox, and Airborne Kingdom manages to do the same as controls map nicely onto the standard gamepad and it’s easy enough to grow accustomed to all the different menus and systems. The only tricky bit is the main cursor and pointer, which can be quite difficult to notice at first, so it’s just a matter of making sure you know where it is as it tends to be a faint white shade. Other than that, there are no major issues to hinder the experience and letting players become cosy with the game loop.
Cosy is right; this a game designed to be a relaxing and non-threatening city building simulator. There are no invading enemy forces here and instead your main concern is making sure your kingdom not only grows at a steady pace, but that it’s also constantly on the move to discover new resources. Of course, no kingdom would be complete without a thriving citizenship, and so making sure your residents are motivated, happy, and fed is essential. This involves ensuring there is a sufficient supply of water, and that there is enough housing to go around.
Construction is the name of the game here, and this goes hand-in-hand with research and development to enhance existing projects. Everything from housing to research centres need to be carefully planned and upgraded. Although it is a simulator, the pace is actually quite quick and chances are the positive feedback loop of progress will keep you glued to the game. It’s especially satisfying to see your air kingdom slowly but surely come alive, and it can be a bit of a Tetris experience as the various building projects are interconnected like puzzle blocks. It’s all customisable too, as players can modify the aesthetic appearance of their kingdom, and may even want to make sure the kingdom layout is symmetrical from both an aesthetic and logical standpoint.
Speaking of aesthetics, Airborne Kingdom has a great vibe going for it with its use of Middle Eastern styled mosaic art. The game world itself is presented in a surrealist and abstract manner, and the music in general is sweeping and orchestral in its delivery. It’s easy to lose yourself in this fascinating setting as you get caught up in the comfortable yet highly engaging gameplay.
Airborne Kingdom on Xbox is a unique experience for the platform, and one that executes its gameplay ideas comfortably on console. It’s got a great vibe and setting, and the gameplay itself is engaging as you relish in the satisfaction of seeing your sky kingdom come alive. It also helps that the hands-on gameplay has plenty of depth to it, complemented by a fascinating lore. You’re unlikely to find an experience quite like it on Xbox.
Airborne Kingdom is present on the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S