With Pharaoh A New Erathe Breton developer Triskell Interactive wants to give a facelift to a mythical city-builder released in 1999: Pharaoh. The result is a remake of very good quality that manages to give us back the sensations of the time while modernizing its most old-fashioned aspects.
Builders of Egypt, Sumerians, Nebuchadnezzar… ancient city-builders are all the rage lately and today, it’s the turn of Pharaoh A New Era to go out on our PCs. This is the remake of the cult 1999 game (Pharaoh, from the Sierra studio at the time) developed by the French Triskell Interactive and published by DotEmu (TMNT Shredder’s Revenge). We were able to take it in hand. Here is our quick review.
The principle of Pharaoh A New Era is simple: at the head of a city, you must make it prosper, increase its population, its production and make it a major megalopolis. You would have understood it, the particularity of the game is to transport us to ancient Egypt. Through a long campaign, you will have to show your management skills over 3500 years, from the Thinite period until the time of Cleopatra. Each mission will teach you the intricacies of urban planning and Egyptian life, while giving some history lessons along the way.
Pharaohan excellent remake
The 1999 game (as well as its extension Cleopatra Queen of the Nile included in the remake) offered many subtleties that made it a flagship management game of its time. The player must think of a thousand things in the construction of his city: the supply, the production of wealth, the management of food stocks, the terrain, the floods of the Nile, trade… all this while taking care not to offend the gods. The thing could scare novices, but don’t forget a very intelligent margin of progression which teaches us all these mechanics smoothly over the missions.
The gameplay has changed very little in this remake, since Triskell focused above all on the graphic part. It is undoubtedly a great achievement. We abandon the big pixels of the time for a very effective artistic direction that focuses on the cartoon. Zooming in, you can see the villagers making their living in the busy streets. History fans will be satisfied by the precision of certain outfits (the villagers are dressed differently depending on their profession or their social condition), and enchanted by the detail of the buildings.
More than the graphics, Triskell has strived to restore certain mechanics while taking care to keep the very essence of the game. We think of the problems of pathfinding, of certain inconsistencies in terms of resource management, of the addition of the nilometer but also and above all of the interface. The latter was taken from scratch for our greatest happiness. It must be admitted, it was not the strong point of the original game and here, everything is simple, clear, intuitive. Each menu is limited to its simplest expression without lacking information. Very nice work. Finally, it is impossible to mention the music, re-orchestrated here by Louis Godard, honey for the ears.
With all these tools in hand, we therefore spend hours and hours managing our small towns, chaining missions. Pharaoh A New Era is typically the kind of game that never wants to let go. There are constantly things to build, adjustments to think about, optimization to do, problems to solve… touching the slightest aspect of your city can drastically destabilize a hitherto perfect organization, prompting us to review every detail. It’s hard to get off!
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The rigidity of the years is sometimes felt
Triskell Interactive may have reworked the packaging, but the content remains the same. Inevitably, the august game of management shows the weight of the yearss. It is true that some aspects seem old-fashioned, even antique. We think in particular of the system of progression of dwellings, sometimes obscure, or even of a card in a box which reveals a rigidity far from the current norm.
More so, some novice players might be put off by a difficulty that sometimes seems unfair at first glance (it is not uncommon to go bankrupt without understanding why). You have to grope, experiment, make mistakes in order to absorb all the subtleties and mechanics of pharaonic management. Something we are more used to seeing today.
Finally, we regret some technical choices that have a taste of missed act. For example, the game is not compatible in 21:9 and we have no possibility to switch to the “old” Pharaoh with a touch, as is the case on remakes such as Diablo Remastered or those of Monkey Island. Too bad, it’s always nice to see the difference.
A candy for the old timers, the new ones will have to hang on
Pharaoh A New Era is above all a needy tribute to a game that is now cult. The work is very neat and will immerse fans from the first hour without difficulty. However, it could be quite opaque, even old-fashioned for novices. After all, the city-builder has evolved a lot in twenty years! Still an excellent title who deserved this second youth. We were totally charmed and spent far, far too many nights on this remake. Sleep is overrated.
Pharaoh A New Era is available on PC (Steam) at 22.99 euros.