Children of the Nile review

Reviewed by PC Gamer's resident mummy's boy...

One of the quickest methods of generating prestige is spending bricks and food - CotN's equivalent of cash - on a few home improvements (frescoes, statues, Nationwide sun awnings, that sort of thing) for the royal residence. A very quick way to lose it is to neglect your own funeral arrangements.

In the 20 single scenarios, fifteen of which make up the contents of the three grand campaigns, time limits are rare, meaning that games can run for centuries and span the reigns of several kings.

When you periodically pop your sandals, if you don't have some sort of tomb ready, be it a humble brick 'mastaba' or a giant limestone pyramid, then your name will be Nile mud, and your mummy will wander the map for all eternity scaring small children.

Yes, the roaming mummy thing isn't completely true although it wouldn't be an altogether bad thing if it was. Apart from the odd street protest and small-scale enemy raid (see 'Into each reign a little rain must fall') CotN is rather short of drama and difficulty.

With military activity conducted off-screen and with Pharaoh's admittedly fairly unrealistic critter plagues, firestorms, and building collapses banished, there's not much here to bring about defeat or push your pulse rate from 'pipe and slippers' to 'panic stations!'.

Malaria outbreak? Make sure the apothecary is manned. Strikes over shortages? Build a bakery and a few shops. Prestige ebbing away? Knock up a mastaba or two.

After a few days of play it's still utterly mesmerising growing your city and watching its populace live-out their intricate, interconnected lives, but it's all, well, a bit too comfortable, a bit too easy.

It doesn't help that the Nile dwellers are a remarkably tolerant lot (quite prepared to live cheek-by-jowl with brickworks and mortuaries, for instance) and that their needs change very little as settlements swell.

But perhaps I'm being too critical. CotN's plate-spinning might be relatively stress free, its scenarios a little samey, and some of its rules somewhat opaque (despite tutorials and a detailed integrated help system there are still buildings whose function I don't totally understand) but it's been compelling enough to keep me monogamous - games-wise - for the last four or five days.

With tougher difficulty levels, a more interesting martial dimension, the exclusive relationship might well have continued for longer.

As hinted at earlier, CotN's pitched battles consist of a desert-dry odds sheet, some quick behind-the-scenes number crunching, and a brief victory/defeat announcement. It's pretty uninspired especially when you consider that Tilted Mill had a fine 3D engine at their disposal.

A riposte to all those ill-informed media pundits who characterise computer games as violent and instantly gratifying, CoTN is going to be too slow-burning and somnolent for some.

I'll keep playing for some time yet, but look forward to an add-on that introduces frog plagues, grave robbing, chariot mayhem, and a mummification sub-game. If you're reading this, Tilted Mill, feel free to poach any of these excellent and practical ideas.

Children of the Nile is out now for PC

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