Nebuchadnezzar – A new indie city-builder

Released on February 17th, this retro-style game did receive mostly positive reviews, but also drew some valid criticism.

Nebuchadnezzar is an isometric city builder and resource management game in a very similar style to the late 90s-era Impression games, including such classics as Caesar I and Caesar II (1992 and 1995), Pharaoh (1999), and Zeus (2000). Immediately recognizable for most Millennial gamers, these games involved playing as a minor noble serving their liege in various missions with victory requirements of varying complexity levels.

Nebuchadnezzar’s gameplay has some very notable changes, however, compared to the older games. The first major difference is that you must be much more aware of how close certain buildings are to others. Resource producers like farms and claypits can’t be too far from the warehouse, which also can’t be too far from the manufacturers like bakers and potters. Haulers for industrial buildings and markets are much more picky about how far they’re willing to go to pick up a resource than in the older games.

The second major difference is that you can control walkers’ pathing like water carriers and food vendors. On the one hand, this means that houses are much more stable and less prone to degrading into a lower tier (which means people will leave the town and you may have a serious labor shortage), but it also makes the game a little too easy. Because of the lack of randomness, you both have to spend more time making tedious changes to the pathing of each and every walker, and you no longer have to be particularly conscious of how you lay out roads.

Nebuchadnezzar - Screenshot #1

One rather serious void in the game is the absence of any risks like fire, building collapse, crime, warfare, or even while animals. Because of the virtually non-existence of any threat whatsoever, you can throw the game speed up to its max of 12-times, and you could theoretically walk away and leave it for hours, come back, and literally everything about your town will be perfectly fine. So, where is the sense of urgency?

Well, it seems like the only real threat is to run out of money before reaching the victory conditions for your mission because the only way to make money is through trade as there is no ability to collect taxes. Even that is not really that threatening because for most of the missions, they start you off with more than enough money, and the only way you could run out is if you were basically trying your hardest not to meet the victory conditions.

Another issue is that the city is a little bland and lifeless. There are no entertainment requirements, so there are no musicians or jugglers, and while there are temples you can build, there are no priests that walk through your town, and because there is no crime, it means there are no constables or magistrates because there are no disease concerns (even without the presence of potable water) there are no doctors or dentists, there are no educational needs, so there are no teachers or librarians, no risks of fire so there’s no fire brigade, and the end result is your city seems like a ghost town. The only signs of life are the occasional sudden burst of a sound effect that resembles a large and busy crowd, but with no people on screen, the sound is disorienting and non-immersive.

Now Nebuchadnezzar is an early access game. There certainly may be missing elements that they plan to add later, but in my honest opinion, you might be better off keeping your $20 and waiting until they release some additional content to give life to a game that so richly deserves it.

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