Monday, January 16, 2012

Too Much Reality in Fantasy Game

Most people play games to escape from reality. I play games that make me feel as though my decisions are important even for a little while. Perhaps my favorite are the "god-games" like Civilization where you command a civilization, lead and watch it grow from the Stone Age to the Modern Era. You screw up, spend too much time in warfare or not enough developing science and culture and you could find your civilization third-rate or (worse) vanquished by a more advanced civilization.

Recently I bought Children of the Nile from Steam. It's not a new game, but I'm fascinated in Ancient Egypt and the idea I could rule Egypt and build great monuments was tempting. Over the course of the game you can build great temples and wonders like the Pyramids, the Great Lighthouse or the Library of Alexandria. The attention to detail is impressive down to watching your people work in shops, tend the fields or construct buildings. You can even "follow" an individual as they walk around the city and chat with fellow inhabitants. What mires Children of the Nile is not enough fun and too much economics. You need farmers to feed your city, you need nobles to manage the farmers, you need laborers to build the pyramids which in turn need to be governed by overseers.

Prestige (the amount of monuments and wonders you build) severely limits and hampers how many elite you can have in a city (priests, overseers, scribes, commanders). Also you might have the workers but not the materials needed to build like bricks, limestone or basalt statues and steles. Sometimes you can have a ton of small statues carved but you are unable to order larger statues to be quarried. You might have to get this from another site through trade, but if you don't have a barge landing the ship will sail by without delivering its shipment. In other instances, the supplies are dropped off but the laborers never come by to pick them up and be used by the city.

The most frustrating part of the game might be that although you have the materials, it seems to take forever for the overseers to command the laborers to build something. The harvest might come and go, years in game terms might pass, and you still have an empty brick platform waiting for the statue to be hauled over and carved.

There also seem to be several "bugs" in the game play of Children of the Nile or perhaps outright labor issues. Sometimes you command your overseer to have something done, like have basalt be harvested at a local quarry. The overseer goes to visit the quarry but with no laborers to cut and haul the stone back to the city. Some overseers stand uselessly and point to the air, supposedly ordering laborers who are not there. Where the hell are the laborers? Back at home, getting pottery, dallying in the fields, going to temple - anywhere but working.

Happiness in the city also is a big issue. If there are not enough of the basics to go around (bread, pottery, worship sites) the city dwellers, especially the elite and nobles might grow unhappy and in some cases leave your service, leaving a vacancy you can't fill until quality of life increases.

As a beginner to this game, I found the controls not very intuitive and confusing. There were only a few pop up boxes you could use as tutorials. Learning to control your inhabitants and their actions mostly was learned either by trial and error or by consulting with online forums.

Children of the Nile gets mired down in endless monument building (to maintain prestige) while an ineffectual work force slows down production and increases discontent. Most games don't deal with the real life issues of lazy workers or labor management that doesn't get the job done. Children of the Nile seems to add a bit too much reality into a fantasy game, amounting to more frustration than enjoyment as you wait hours for one pyramid or monument to be built. If I wanted to get involved in book keeping I'd become an accountant, not play a slow, aggravating game.


  1. One game I couldn't grasp well was Black and White. It was a world building game and gathering resources was easy and realistic, however, the best part of the game was your creature. I couldn't manage to get him trained well enough, let alone carry myself online to fight other Gods.

    Now I'm back to my RPGs and MUDs. Kill, get coins, level up! :)

  2. That sounds interesting about having your own creature. I figure when a game goes from a challenge to frustrating it's time to find a new game. Happy gaming. ;)