Airborne Kingdom impressions: Your nation among the clouds

We recently partook in an early look at The Wandering Bands' sky-centered city builder Airborne Kingdom to unite a world through our cloud nation.

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City and civilization building sims with a gimmick can sometimes be limited in their nature. You rarely see one that engages well past that gimmick to avoid too much repetition or detract from the ongoing progress to make or break your perfect settlement. The Wandering Bands’ Airborne Kingdom could be said to be a gimmicky city builder of sorts. After all, the trick is to build, grow, and sustain a city that can fly. However, after some time with an early build, I’m pretty happy to report that there’s a lot to Airborne Kingdom in both core building experience and progression that keeps me interested well past what I saw in my preview of the game.

Connecting the scattered world

So why go through the trouble of creating a flying city? The answer lies in the Airborne Kingdom’s world and history. The game begins with a story of a world that was once connected by a flying kingdom that served as a messenger and deliverer of goods, resources, and knowledge between other kingdoms. As time went on, selfishness and distrust sowed discord among this alliance. The ground kingdoms contracted into themselves and the sky kingdom disappeared, but its technology and the remnants of that alliance were left scattered about the barren land. You take up the role of a clan who has found that technology and taken it upon yourselves to connect the world anew while expanding your flying nation little by little with each journey.

From the get-go, Airborne Kingdom has a solid premise and natural string of progression for the motives of your building. Where you begin as nothing more than flying airship, you expand by way of exploring the world, visiting settlements, recruiting villagers to your cause, discovering kingdoms, forming alliances with them, and learning their technology. All of this progresses you towards making your little airship into a sprawling platform of residential, industrial, and technological innovation traveling throughout the sky.

Every kingdom has a quest for you to gain its alliance whether it’s bringing resources to help it repair ancient buildings, discovering an ancient artifact of importance to them, and more. And their alliance often comes with a boon of citizenry to your kingdom and resources they specialize in for you to take advantage of. It ensures that you always have a goal in Airborne Kingdom as you seek to not only expand your sky nation, but also unite the world in harmony and connection like it once was. It’s as much an adventure as it is a city builder.

Rigors of sky city maintenance

Of course, at its heart and soul, Airborne Kingdom still is a city builder, and it’s a rather unique one at that. You’ve got your usual elements to maintain here: Food, water, and housing for your citizenry, resources like wood and clay to build your paths and infrastructure, and even the likes of academies to research better buildings and economics such as helping your citizens use less food or water or the ability to stack your buildings. Everything you’d expect to find in your typical city builder is here for you to maintain.

However, beyond that is where Airborne Kingdom really stretches its legs with the sky city concept. For one, in order to collect resources, you need workers to fly down to the surface and get them. That requires construction of a hangar that will make your sky kingdom into a helicarrier of sorts, sending gliders down to grab water, food, coal, and other resources you’ll need. Speaking of coal, it acts as a sort of draining life resource for your city. No coal? No power. No power? Your city will crash. All resources matter, but if you lose track of your coal, you won’t be floating long.

There’s also the curious intricacy of the building process. All buildings have a certain requirement that begins with building them along pathing you create from your city center. Simple enough, but then you have to consider balance. Your city must be balanced as much as possible around the center or else it will cause problems that range from mild to catastrophic if you let the degree of tilt in your city get too lopsided from building on one side. Included in this intricacy is the fact that putting your housing near industrial buildings like kilns with the fumes they put out will make your citizens upset. And so there’s a delicate process of balancing the weighty industrial buildings against your residential districts to keep the whole flying platform at center mass.

Add to this the fact that each building adds overall weight to your city up to a limit and slows your overall airspeed until you can gain thrusters and propellors and you’ve got an intricate equation made for you to continue to rework until all of the puzzle pieces fit. Airborne Kingdom feels so bohemian in its traveling nature, but there’s a lot of thought put into the delicate balance of expansion versus safe functionality, and it results in a city building aspect that constantly engages you as you play.

A world united in the clouds

Airborne Kingdom feels… good… right now - especially for an early build. When you consider the current state of things at the time of this writing where our own world is so separated by circumstances beyond our control, Airborne Kingdom feels therapeutic. It’s an internal and external journey of connections and balance, bringing kingdoms stretched across a vast tapestry of barren mystery together through the sharing of things neither you or they could otherwise have. And all steps lead to the betterment of your own sovereign nation in the clouds as you continue your journey to bring that connection and balance to further lands.

Flying from land to land collecting resources, inviting villagers to join in our journey, and aiding the isolated kingdoms of the world into a state of alliance and camaraderie feels right. And though there is still so much more to see in Airborne Kingdom, I feel this sky city builder is on the right airways to a journey I want to continue. Fortunately, we won't be waiting long for the full game when it launches sometime this Fall 2020.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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