They don’t make them like they used to—and developer and publisher Dotemu is well aware of this. That’s why they’ve made a name for themselves by revitalizing old games either through sequels, or in the case of Pharaoh, a remake. Developed by Triskell Interactive, this revitalization of Pharaoh is exciting for retro city builder enthusiasts, but I don’t think this remake is going to bring Pharaoh to a much wider audience.
Pharoah: A New Era is a city builder and management game based in Ancient Egypt. In it, you play as an architect trying to please his Pharaoh and balance the needs and desires of the people to create prosperous cities. As with any city builder, the goal is to efficiently juggle multiple different resources, including money and people, while expanding or completing objectives in the campaign mode. What makes Pharaoh so unique—and beloved—are its systems that deal specifically with ancient Egypt. Not every city builder has you managing flood plains while appeasing gods, and eventually creating giant Pyramids to honor the Pharaohs.
There are a few ways to play Pharaoh: A New Era: in its sprawling 100+ hour campaign mode. Play individual missions or challenges, or play in sandbox mode. Campaign mode works as both a tutorial and a challenge mode. Missions in the campaign range from establishing settlements, to creating military strongholds, spanning over 50 different missions. The missions included in Pharaoh: A New Era includes those that were originally included only in the Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile expansion pack. There is also a sandbox mode that allows you to create your Egyptian city as you see fit, under conditions that you control.
Developer Triskell Interactive did a lot to bring Pharaoh into the modern era. For a game originally released in 1999, it looks pretty good with its new high resolution graphics. Each building was redrawn by hand and even certified by an Egyptologist for historical accuracy. The UI has also been redesigned and streamlined for better quality of life. This includes an overhaul of the overview screens—it’s now much easier to get information on your city and its citizens.
Much of the city building in Pharaoh: A New Era relies on roads. As such, each city ends up being extremely grid-based—and that means dense cities. A lot of the newly made assets are lost in the clutter.
I didn’t play Pharaoh when it originally released, so I don’t have nostalgia goggles coming into this review. I found Pharaoh: A New Era to be a little rough around the edges. The quality of life improvements really help to make Pharaoh: A New Era feel more modern, but it never quite manages to feel like a modern game.
Overall, developer Triskell Interactive did a fantastic job updating this classic city builder. However, Pharaoh: A New Era is a niche game that will probably appeal most to those who enjoy city builders and retro games. Pharaoh: A New Era is a beloved classic for a reason, and is worth checking out by a modern audience—even if it does feel a tad archaic.
Pharaoh: A New Era is available today on PC via Steam.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review