Remember that game Pharaoh and the Caesar series? Well, Nebuchadnezzar is basically that, but 2021. I’m a huge fan of such games (Caesar III is a personal fav of mine), so this was definitely something I had to check out.
Now I feel like some expectations need to be set here. This is not a full-blown strategy game with warfare, diplomacy, and the like. Rather, it’s more of a straight city builder with a heavy emphasis on building and expanding, one developed by a two-man team at that. Despite that though, there is a surprising amount of depth here, both in the building and management elements. Having now played the game for over a dozen hours, I’ve grown to enjoy this little indie city builder.
So let’s start with the presentation. Nebuchadnezzar goes for that same isometric viewpoint that the classics did, albeit with the ability to rotate. The graphics follow suit and are generally low-res across the board (which becomes very apparent when you zoom all the way in). Granted, this is likely by design and it never felt off-putting. The music is comparable, nothing too great there – but not bad. I hardly noticed it during my many hours of playtime, so I guess it’s doing its job as just something to have on in the background.
However, as this is a 2021 release, Nebuchadnezzar also brings some modern upgrades. Most notable would be its support of higher resolutions up to ultrawide 4K – although I played at 1440p. My only problem there is that the UI cannot be freely scaled. There is an option to enable a 4K UI, but nothing if you just want to adjust it a little bit – the game could really use a UI scale slider. The entire experience is also capped at 60 fps, which was a bit disappointing to see, but at least it was a stable 60 fps.
Then there’s the gameplay – and there’s a lot to say there. Most of my time was spent in the campaign mode, which itself is made up of a bunch of scenarios connected by a light story based on history. The goals usually involved reaching a certain population, prestige, or smaller stuff like having a set number of a certain building or completing a monument. There is a nice learning curve in that you’re only introduced to a few new goods and buildings with each scenario, giving you time to get acquainted with them before repeating the process with the next.
By the end of the game there is a ton of stuff to juggle, including multiple social classes that can only work specific jobs, a dozen or so different buildings needed to craft certain goods, and an involved house upgrade mechanic that will have you setting up a ton of different worker paths in order to get goods where they need to go. As I said before – there’s a surprising amount of complexity here. Despite this, it doesn’t go overboard and the core loop is very satisfying once you get the hang of things.
It has a similar feel to something like Factorio or Satisfactory, where you spend all this time setting up harvesting and manufacturing of one good, just for that to open up paths for you do to the same with even more goods. It never gets old seeing this small village become this massive web of buildings, farms, and workers travelling all over. And you can even do a bit of decorating on top of that, with a fleshed-out monument builder and a bunch of plants, statues, and other objects that not only serve as décor, but are also used to raise the land value required by certain home upgrades.
Nebuchadnezzar is also unique in its approach of difficulty. As there is no warfare, crime, or disasters of any sort, the challenge is instead shifted to how well you can optimize and make effective use of the space provided. You can just slap down some buildings, connect them together, and call it a day, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in coming up with the most efficient farm layouts, the shortest possible pathing for distributing goods, and the most profitable trades with other cities. This just so happens to be my favorite thing to do in city builders, so I felt right at home here in Nebuchadnezzar.
I believe the biggest flaw people are going to find with the game comes in the form of its lasting appeal. Once you’ve completed the campaign and scenarios, there really isn’t much in the way of replay value. At least, not from the base game itself. I say that because there is a mod manager and, with time, I could easily see the game becoming more robust through all the different stuff people add to it – so that’s something I’m excited to see.
Aside from that, there’s also the issue of quality of life – and let’s just say that Nebuchadnezzar has some room to improve there. Being able to copy-paste routes across different merchants would be my most-wanted feature, but it would also be nice to be able to delete bridges over canals without actually deleting the canal along with it. Minor stuff for sure, but improvements to be made nonetheless.
With all of that said, I would recommend Nebuchadnezzar. As a fan of classic city-builders like Caesar and Pharaoh, there’s a lot to like here. There’s the polished and satisfying core game loop, the heavy emphasis on building and expansion, and even the more unique stuff like the house upgrade system. Sure, it’s not a challenging game and could still use some quality of life improvements, but it’s a fun experience overall and impressive given that it comes from just two people. If you’re a fan of such city builders, it’s worth a look.
Quote: Nebuchadnezzar is a very polished homage to the city builders of the past. The core loop is incredibly satisfying and it never gets old seeing a small village turn into this massive, sprawling city.
You can buy Nebuchadnezzar on Steam here. The game is also available through GOG.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.