There are a handful of games that really captivated me as a child and young adult. EverQuest, The Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and a little gem from Impression Games/Sierra Entertainment that some of you might remember called Pharaoh. I played the hell out of Pharaoh and its expansion, Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile. I went on to enjoy Zeus & Poseidon, and Emperor, and still have all of these titles loaded on my computer. I have the fondest of memories playing Pharaoh, and I’m not sure I have felt the same about any city-builder since.
When I heard that Pharaoh: A New Era was on the way, I flipped my lid. Really, if I had to choose my top 3 games of all time, Pharaoh would be in it. Gaming Trend Editor in Chief, Ron, knows I am a die hard fan and thankfully let me take the lead on it. After a very long, anticipated wait, Pharaoh: A New Era launched on February 15th, 2023. I loaded it up the second I got the code, and was transported back to a time when life was much simpler than it is now.
For those of you who don’t know, the game Pharaoh was an isometric city-building game released in 1999. Pharaoh: A New Era is a remastered version of it that has stayed true to the original, changing very little about the game play. Think of it as a glow-up. You get to play through six eras of Ancient Egypt, micromanaging the daily life of your citizens, defending your city from attacks, and establishing trade routes. You eventually get the knowledge to build small mastabas, the Sphinx, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and of course magnificent pyramids.
There isn’t much to it compared to a lot of newer city-builders out today, and that might be why I still like it so much. There is just enough to manage, but not so much that you get overwhelmed. The UI is simple and to the point (even more so with the remaster), and seeing all of your overlays and problems in the city is a breeze.
Keeping your citizens happy is the first chore on the list of never-ending things to do while running Ancient Egypt. Once their basic needs are met, they want entertainment and religion. There are five Gods in the game that your loyal citizens worship: Bast, Osiris, Ra, Ptah, and Seth. Each of them cover certain aspects of daily life, Osiris for example looks over agriculture…so if you don’t build enough temples to him, he’ll make sure your crops die and your harvest fails.
Things spiral out of control really fast in Pharaoh, and Pharaoh: A New Era certainly kept up the tradition. As mentioned before, they changed little to nothing about each map and scenario. Sometimes you will have a plague hit, your crops die, a neighboring city wants all of your goods within so many days, and oh yeah…an enemy is attacking, ALL at the same time! The chaos is glorious and one of the things I love about both versions of the game.
There are 50 missions with over a hundred hours in Pharaoh: A New Era, and this includes all of the content from Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile. The graphics were all remastered and reworked with hand drawn art, and it shows. The intricate detail is a huge improvement over the original. There is also a newly orchestrated soundtrack that keeps things close to the original with some new twists. The moment I fired the game up and heard the music I got all warm and fuzzy inside.
There are some UI overhauls and improvements, one of the most noticeable to me was the Recruit System. In Pharaoh: A New Era you now have the option to pull from the global labor pool, which means that every building has access to the workforce as long as it has access to the road. So that means you can place a building far away from houses, and it’ll still get workers sent to it! You can also copy and paste buildings! The UI is still very simple and similar to the original, but works much more efficiently.
If I had one thing to grumble about, and this is me just being old, is that I kind of miss the original cinematic intro. The graphics are obviously way outdated, but I loved the way the Pharaoh shows his child all the things he rules over, including the afterlife. There were also quick little cinematics at the start of some missions that aren’t included in Pharaoh: A New Era. Those small touches are missed by me for sure. I do appreciate that they used the same voice actor and lines at the start of each mission though!
I have been having a wonderful time playing through all the missions again. The maps and missions themselves have not changed at all, and I have not seen some of these for probably fifteen years!
You can pick up Pharaoh: A New Era on Steam today on sale for 15% off until March first for just $19.54 (regularly $22.99).
Holly Hudspeth is a best-selling author living in Fort Worth, Texas. She has six published novels to date; The Skyy Huntington Series, which is an epic dark fantasy adventure, and One Small Detail, a stand-alone medieval fantasy. Holly also enjoys writing fan fiction based on her avatars from games such as EverQuest, Elder Scrolls Online, and World of Warcraft. Her first major purchase at the established age of nine was the NES, and she has been gaming ever since. She enjoys fantasy games, city builders, RPGs, MMOs, SMITE, and The Sims franchise. Most nights she is in SMITE with her husband and friends, or playing ESO. When she isn't gaming, she is probably either at Disney or planning her next trip there.
Pharaoh: A New Era
It’s obvious that Pharaoh: A New Era was a labor of love by Triskell Interactive and Dotemu. I am sure there wasn’t a massive demand for this title, but there are some die hard fans out there (like me) who enjoyed and appreciated this game beyond comprehension. It keeps the heart and soul of the original Pharaoh, while making just enough tweaks to improve upon a timeless classic. The nostalgia factor is high on this one, and if you liked any of the late 90s to early 2000 city-building titles, then picking up Pharaoh: A New Era is a must. My only request: please consider remastering Zeus & Poseidon!