First released in 1999 by Impressions Games and published by Sierra Studios, Pharaoh is an iconic city-building simulation game that has stood the test of time. Now, more than two decades later, this legendary masterpiece has been revived with the title of Pharaoh: A New Era. In the wake of this revival and our celebration of games during We Love Games Sale, we want to take a closer look at the game’s history, as well as what both versions offer to its players.
Attention to historical accuracy in unique and interesting setting, engaging and rich gameplay, beautiful audiovisuals, dedicated community and incredible influence that can still be seen in modern city-building games. Pharaoh is a testament to the enduring appeal of the genre, as well as the overall power of video games to educate as well as entertain. But how did it all start and is A New Era another example of a brilliantly executed remake? Time to find out!
History of 1999’s Pharaoh
The development of Pharaoh was led by the same team that created another excellent and hugely popular city-building game, Caesar III. In fact, the game release happened at a time when the genre was at the peak of its popularity. Impressions Games was known for creating intricate and detailed simulation games that were not only entertaining but also educational. And Pharaoh was no exception. Critics and players all over the world praised it for its attention to historical accuracy and the level of detail in its innovative gameplay mechanics.
One year later, in 2000, after the game’s great success at launch, Pharaoh received an expansion pack titled Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile. It added new content, including a new campaign with 15 new scenarios, new units, mechanics, as well as new buildings and resources, and of course new challenges for players to overcome. It focused on the reign of Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and, just like its predecessor, brought great attention to historical accuracy. The expansion featured over 100 new structures, many of which are based on historical designs and drawings.
Overall, Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile expanded upon the already greatly successful gameplay of Pharaoh and added new content making the game’s reception even better than it already was.
Gameplay of the original game
Like the majority of city-building simulators, Pharaoh featured an isometric perspective. Its 2D graphics were considered state-of-the-art providing an excellent, detailed and immersive view of the game’s world. Pharaoh’s depiction of everyday life in Ancient Egypt, from the clothing of citizens to the livestock in the streets is impeccable.
The gameplay itself is split into two main modes: the city-building mode and the campaign mode. In the city-building mode, players are given an empty plot of land and must build a glorious city from scratch. Management of resources such as food, water, raw materials, and building essential structures such as farms, homes, and temples.
But where Pharaoh shined the brightest was its campaign mode. Players take on the role of a pharaoh, and each mission is a new scenario where they must build and manage a city in a specific location, under specific conditions. These scenarios range from building a settlement in the desert to constructing a massive pyramid, all while managing resources and battling the enemies.
As mentioned before, one of the most appealing aspects of the game lies in its attention to historical accuracy. Within the outstanding setting of Ancient Egypt, players can learn a great deal about the culture and history of the civilization through the game’s content. With over 50 different buildings and structures (just in the base game) based on historical designs, ability to research new technologies and governing all aspects of the exotic Egyptian, from culture through religion to trading, Pharaoh can be played for hundreds of hours and entertain its players.
It also included many features never before seen in a city-building game, such as a farming model based on the flooding of the Nile, naval warfare, giant monuments that are assembled over time, unique dynastic progression, and variable difficulty levels.
Intellectual challenge combined with huge amounts of fun, as well as perfect execution of things like a unique soundtrack composed by Keith Zizza that blends Egyptian-inspired sounds with ambient music made it an instant timeless classic.
Although the original Pharaoh stood the test of time quite well, after over 20 years such a gem deserved a proper remake. This task was taken on by Triskell Interactive that worked on its development and Dotemu that were responsible for its publishing. Now we can finally enjoy this beloved simulator in its full, remade glory.
A New Era remained true to its original while bringing plethora of improvements, from 4K HD graphics, through menus overhauls to reorchestrated soundtrack. What’s also great is that it contains content of both the original base game and its Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile expansion. Returning players who pick up the remake will certainly feel the old magic that made them fall in love with Pharaoh all those years ago while providing a more smooth experience. Players who discover this masterpiece for the first time can enjoy an amazing city-building strategy simulator that’s fully adjusted to modern gaming standards.
Principles of gameplay with its two modes remained the same. What’s changed are improved graphics that look even more gorgeous than before, redesigned captivating soundtrack that is still an absolute feast for the ears, and enhanced mechanics with quality of life tweaks.
Pharaoh: A New Era presents a new reworked UI with overhauled menus and a fully rebuilt UI. With those modern refinements its classically inspired fun feels like second nature to play. Managing the population of cities has been easier and more efficient with new and redesigned mechanics, like the Workers tooltip, the Fixed Worker Ratio or the Global Labor Pool. Cities themselves can now also be developed with pleasant ease due to the ability to quickly copy-paste buildings.
Another key element of the remake is its new Nilometer Indicator. In Pharaoh you farm on the river’s flood plain, the workers feverishly harvesting before the waters rise and deposit more rich silt. Setting up supply chains to work in rhythm with this rise and fall came naturally to its players. The Nilometer Indicator enables an option to track the flood season and how fruitful it’s going to be, allowing players to plan for lean times and adding another layer of strategic thinking.
All those changes combined with small things like ability to disable predators for a chiller experience or intricate hand drawn art that enriches visual experience made A New Era a great remake. It smoothes out some of the rough edges of the now 24-year-old game and makes playing it even more fun. It’s a great experience for both seasoned Pharaoh veterans and completely new players.
A worthy remake
It’s safe to say that Pharaoh: A New Era is a solid work and a worthy remake of a beloved classic. And as game enthusiasts it makes us incredibly happy. Celebration of games, whether they are cult classics, hidden indie gems or modern hits, is something that we dedicate ourselves doing. And one of the testaments to that is our We Love Games Sale, where you can find thousands of discounted titles to share our passion and keep falling in love with games. Make sure to check them out and discover amazing deals on all kinds of titles. Classics? Remakes? New? At the end of the day, we love and care for them all.