Video Game / Pharaoh
Build a Kingdom. Rule the Nile. Live Forever
is a Simulation Game
developed by Impressions Games
and published by Sierra
in 1999 and part of the City Building Series
. It's a sequel to the Caesar
games. As its name implies, the game is set in Ancient Egypt
, and in campaign mode it follows the exploits of several dynasties throughout history. You'll get the chance to construct massive Mastabas and Pyramids, battle against the Nubians, cultivate the fertile banks of the Nile, and even have to appease the various Egyptian gods to avoid retribution and receive blessings, or, alternatively, curses.
It received a minor Expansion Pack
, Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile
. Both can be purchased
This game provides examples of:
- 0% Approval Rating: You can actually fall into this, with the logical consequences. In what is probably a subversion, the approval rating that matters more is the one from the Pharaoh, not the people: piss him enough to 0% Kingdom Rating (i.e. by not paying tributes several years in a row) and he will send his armies against your fair city (fed-up citizens just up and leave). This also happens if you are the Pharaoh, so you apparently attack yourself.
- Your citizens, too. They will desert your city if their wages are low, the taxes are high, there is a serious lack of jobs, they don't have enough food to eat, you don't throw in Festivals every now and then...
- And then there is the approval rating from the gods. Failing to appease them properly can result in sudden drop of reputation, destruction of farms, destruction of goods, sudden death of soldiers, mass plague...
- After you become Pharaoh (for the Itjtawy mission) you have this as everyone thinks you stole the title from the previous Pharaoh after his death. In our history, Itjtawy was founded by Amenemhat I, the first Pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty, who did indeed usurp the throne.
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Buildings are built instantly, but they can't actually produce anything until they have workers and materials.
- Labor is taken from the workforce as a whole - shut down an industry and all those previously working there will be employed elsewhere, regardless of the nature of employment.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "To the marsh we march, for the reed we need."
- Almighty Janitor: The Pharaoh will entrust the building of his new capital and eternal resting to a mere Royal Architect - simply because you (and your descendants) are just that good at city building.
- Alternate History: The game is more-or-less historical from the era of the Naqada culture and Thinite confederacy prior to 3000 BC until approximately 2000 BC, and the beginning of the Twelfth Dynasty. At that point, the player's dynasty takes control of the throne of Egypt and holds it for the rest of the game, into what our history records as the Eighteenth Dynasty; the last missions you play in the vanilla game are clearly intended to represent the exploits of Ahmose I, who reigned in the mid-sixteenth century BC.
- The Cleopatra expansion quietly retcons the notion of a single dynasty holding Egypt for half a millennium, and the first mission has you building a tomb - the very first tomb - in the Valley of the Kings for Thutmose I, Ahmose's grandson from the historical Eighteenth Dynasty. From then on, every Pharaoh is historical. However, the game does revisit alternate history, as the very last mission in the game is the Battle of Actium. The win condition is a victory by the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra. In our history, Octavian won the battle, and went on to become Rome's first emperor.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Even buildings. The Sphinx is the most noticeable (it ends up doing a 180), and only mastabas are exempt.
- Amusing Injuries: When working on an obelisk, stonemasons will occasionally fall off the scaffolding.
- Anachronism Stew: You use the modern calendar, despite being in Ancient Egypt.
- Ancient Astronauts: Actually a cheat code in the Expansion Pack. It gives you significantly faster monument construction.
- Ancient Egypt: The game takes place in Egypt and its sphere of influence during the three milleniums that predate the Christian chronology. The expansion ends with the Roman interventions in Egypt in the late first century BC.
- Annoying Arrows: Archers are very underpowered, and become mostly useless after chariots are invented. Charioteers for their part can also function as mounted archers, but they are much more effective charging and in melee.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- Invading armies can be lured to head straight for your soldiers instead of destroying infrastructure.
- When a request for a large amount of goods comes in, they don't care whether you produced the good or imported it, allowing you to respond to the request much faster. For some reason, the Pharaoh doesn't just make the request of the city with the surplus...
- When you go in to debt, you will receive a 'rescue gift' from Pharaoh, which becomes nearly essential on Very Hard. One mission - and only one mission - denies this to you.
- Strongly averted, as keeping at least one stockyard full of whatever your city produces (that's one stockyard per resource) is very much a necessity, in order to respond to the increasingly unreasonable requests made by other cities. It helps that resources stored this way don't spoil despite being left out in the Egyptian sun for years.
- Hoarding is even encouraged through the salary mechanic: by paying yourself a small salary every month (the game informs you that taking money from the city and into your family's coffers is embezzlement), you can accumulate money that can be used in later levels in an emergency or bribe your way to a higher Kingdom rating, although the price of the bribes doubles every time. The only steps taken to prevent this are to reduce your salary to zero once you've completed all mission objectives, and making the Kingdom rating collapse if you give yourself a higher salary than your rank allows.
- Apathetic Citizens: The apothecary's walker only cares about whether a malaria outbreak's likely; the architect also speaks only of buildings in poor condition, despite having the full allotment of soundbites.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: There can only be 6 legions of 16 units and 6 warships total on a map.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Manors and Estates give ridiculous amounts of tax money and greatly improve the Prosperity rating, but their hundred-plus inhabitants are taken out of the workforce and take up a lot of space. As this level of housing requires dozens upon dozens of workers to support, they tend to devolve very quickly.
- Badass Preacher: With the upgrades to the Temple Complex of Seth or Ra, their priests will attack robbers.
- Bag of Spilling: With an exception or two in the expansion, nothing from one level carries over to the next.
- It quickly becomes thoroughly ridiculous in the Cleopatra expansion. You have to build Alexandria three times (named Alexandria, Ptolemy's Alexandria, and Cleopatra's Alexandria) from the ground up. You keep the landmarks from the previous iterations of the level, except everything else has completely vanished.
- Alexandria is in 331 BC; the mission directly after, Ptolemy's Alexandria, is in 305 BC. Alexandria (the first one) ends in 319 BC, and 314 BC if you govern for five more years. So the capital of Egypt became entirely deserted in nine years? Seems legit.
- The introduction to the second Alexandria mission only enhances the hilarity; the advisor proudly proclaims that "Alexander's great city continues to thrive", and "the city has become a powerful commercial hub". A city with no buildings or residents is clearly a thriving one indeed.
- The main exception is that you can give yourself a salary, which will pass on to your descendants. Normally this isn't too important, as the main use for personal funds (giving gifts to other rulers to boost your kingdom rating) has their costs based on a percentage of your funds, you can give some of your money to the city coffers, thus quickly gain a ton of money if you feel like sitting around for several years growing filthy rich.
- In an example of The Dev Team Thinks of Everything, your salary is reduced to zero if you choose to keep governing after winning (to prevent you from greatly increasing your salary for a few years, safe from the threat of losing).
- Of course, in most missions there's nothing preventing you to delay indefinitely the completion of a mission by, say, delivering only 9 out of 10 linen rolls to a monument... for the next 100 years, all the while receiving your salary.
- Been There, Shaped History: Your in-game family is apparently responsible for building several Egyptian capitals (such as Memphis, Thebes and Alexandria), in addition to constructing all of the famed monuments (Djoser's stepped pyramid at Saqqara, Snefru's bent pyramid, Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza, etcetera).
- Big Fancy House: The higher-level houses, as well as your dynasty's mansion.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In the beginning cutscene, the narrating Pharaoh tells his son that he was born just as his father was being prepared for the afterlife.
- Blasphemous Boast: Averted with the Priest of Ra, who says that only the afterlife is better than your city.
- Blood Knight: Set's priests will be the only ones happy about an incoming invasion.
- Bolt of Divine Retribution: Or rather Plague of Divine Retribution if you don't worship Bast enough. Seth and Ptah will set forts and storage yards on fire, and Osiris takes away floodplain farms.
- Boring but Practical: Sing the praises of the humble roadblock, for it prevents the nightmare of walkers going anywhere they please.
- Bast; she is hardly ever the Patron God, but her blessings are invaluable, and hardly ever useless (unlike Ra's Kingdom rating, Osiris improving a perfect flood or Ptah filling already-filled Storage Yards).
- Ra's major blessings are a big boost in Kingdom rating or prices on exported goods for a year. Useful, yes, but in the long run far less good to have than his minor blessing, which causes trade cities to trade more often (permanently, unless an event causes a city to cut back on a single good at a time). This gets you more money than usual anyway, but more importantly, nearly doubles the amount of importable goods a year, very important on levels with monuments requiring huge amounts of building materials.
- Bread and Circuses: Throwing festivals and making sure there's enough food can keep your citizens from leaving or revolting, usually due to your incompetent leadership.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: In-Universe. If your kingdom rating isn't high enough, you can send expensive gifts, paid for with your own money, to make it rise. However, the less you wait between sending bribes the lower the increase (and the price of the gifts double every time).
- Brick Joke: "Mothers all over the kingdom name their children after you" to "Mothers use your name to frighten their children" at high and low kingdom ratings. One has to wonder what happens to the poor children now bearing your name...
- Build Like an Egyptian: Often the goal of a campaign includes building certain pyramids.
- But Thou Must!: When famished neighbouring cities start begging you for food, you better provide. If you don't, then they won't trade with you products that your citizens need, thus preventing you from reaching high prosperity, thus preventing you from completing your mission. If you have the heart to refuse them? Too bad, your popularity drops, the people of Egypt begin to doubt your patriotism, and if you don't repair their opinion of you, Pharaoh will send his army against your fair city.
- Taken to ludicrous levels in the final level of the main game. You get requests as early as three months in to the mission.
- In the Egyptian Civil War, you must support the southern Inyotef dynasty. This is despite Henen-nesw, the northern claimants to the throne, being a Custom Mission, tagged with "So You Wanna Be Pharaoh?".
- Cleopatra's Alexandria has recurring luxury goods requests from Rome. Compliance nets you gifts of weaponry from Rome; refuse, and you get invaded by Roman legionaries, the toughest units in-game. Tough choice.
- Catch-22 Dilemma: A recurring situation where your housing starts devolving because it no longer has access to some services, most often because of a worker shortage. When housing devolves, several citizens are kicked out, reducing the workforce even further, causing the housing to fall to an even lower level, and so on. The only way to fix the situation is to increase the workforce and improve the services, which can only be done by getting new workers to move into the area...
- Even worse when conditions are so bad people are leaving of their own accord, since there's no one immigrating to the city.
- Cats Are Superior: Bast. This is Ancient Egypt we're talking about, after all. She is the most helpful of the gods.
- Chokepoint Geography: Averted. While you can build defensive chokepoints, the enemy can and often will simply go around them, and that's not even getting into the problem of waterborne troops.
- Civil War: Halfway in the game, between Lower Egypt (Northern) and Upper Egypt (Southern). Naturally enough, your side (the southern city of Waset/Thebes) is cast as the good guy.
- Possibly justified- at several times, the guy giving you the pre-level exposition is stated to be a high-ranking official. It's perfectly possible he's an Unreliable Narrator. Indeed, the only time the Pharaoh himself (Mentuhotep II, in this case) gives you instruction is prior to Menat-Khufu or Kebet.
- Comically Small Bribe: Inverted: The costs of sending gifts to Egypt is a percentage of your total savings (up to half!), while the amount your kingdom rating goes up by does not (and sending multiple gifts in quick succession decreases it as the recipients grow used to them), so it's more of a Comically Huge Bribe.
- The cost of festivals doubles with each one.
- Comic-Book Time: Your character's descendants succeed you after every level... except your character is seemingly immortal during the level, which can last for decades.
- If you take long enough on a mission, it is quite possible to end the current mission after the starting date of the next mission.
- Command & Conquer Economy: The citizens show very little initiative. Not only do you have to build everything for them except housing (which you merely designate plots for), they do not even go to the market themselves to buy food and goods; a peddler has to walk past. Owing to the vagaries of the walker system, you risk losing a lot of workers to an entire street being deserted due to a priestess failing to walk down it sufficiently often. Obviously, the Egyptians going to the temple themselves is out of the question.
- Could Say It, But...: A deleted line from the bazaar buyer.
I won't complain about this city. ... But I could!
- Critical Staffing Shortage: A game mechanic, and quite possibly the single biggest headache in the game. Services that have less than full staff work slower, and since housing and industry depend on these services walking past, this creates a Catch-22 Dilemma: housing is devolving because the lack of services, so people are kicked out. This lowers your population, and in turn the amount of available workers, which means services suffer, which means devolving housing, which... Compounded by the fact that some buildings don't work at all with even a single worker missing, to the point where the game considers that up 5% unemployment (out of thousands) to be fine, a mere 10 workers is a major cause for alarm (when it's quite common to see shortages in the hundreds).
Thankfully, there are several Acceptable Breaks from Reality to deal with this: workers are taken from the workforce as a whole, so closing a mine frees up workers for farming or training musicians, you can order entire sectors to be fully staffed at the cost of others, and you only need a single house near the industry to get workers to it instead of a fully-supported neighborhood.
- One level starts you off with a pre-built city on the brink of destruction, made worse by the fact that the various worker categories have been ranked (so some industries have zero workers and others still don't have enough).
- Cultural Translation: You can choose to use either the Ancient Egyptian or Classical Greek city names. The Classical Greek is what we are used to, but - fittingly - the Egyptian is set as the default.
- Some cities actually don't have Classical Greek names. Itjtawy, for instance, because it is currently undiscovered.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: War chariots literally mow regular infantry units under their wheels.
- Military units against nearly anything else, policemen and hunters only slow them down but can't kill them unless present in overwhelming odds.
- Cycle of Hurting: Some housing lots become this during times of worker shortages, evolving quickly thanks to a walker moving by, then devolving when he doesn't come by enough. Especially obvious with the multi-square housing.
- Deadpan Snarker: The monument construction foreman is impressively sarcastic in his reports.
I suppose these bricks are going to magically assemble themselves. That must be your plan, since you haven't built a bricklayer's guild.
No peasants have reported for work today. Maybe your work camps are more like sleep camps.
With no carpenters to builds ramps, I hope you're planning on a very short monument.
Do you expect this monument to be built by gods from the sky? Build more work camps immediately!
- Decisive Battle: Several times. This usually means you must build a heavily fortified city in a strategic point with poor resources, constantly besieged by the Nubians / the Hyksos / the Sea People / what have you. The Cleopatra expansion gives you the Battle of Actium.
- Additionally, every battle Pharaoh tells you to send reinforcements for is apparently this, as defeat becomes your fault (you should have sent better/more troops).
- Hilariously, one mission like this, Serabit Khadim, can be completely bypassed. You need a Kingdom of 80, a population of 2000, and nothing else - so just spam houses everywhere until you get a high enough population, send a gift to Egypt with your family savings, and get out of there before the first invasion.
- Despair Event Horizon: The advisor who gives you your mission briefings sounds absolutely devastated in Iunet and On when Khufu takes the throne.
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Your salary is fixed at a certain quantity of debens per months, no matter how well the city is doing. The game informs you that you can't just shovel money from the city to your own account, as that would be embezzling. Try to go above your allocated amount, and your kingdom rating is lowered (so, if you are Royal Governor, don't take a Pharaoh's salary). Annoyingly, this means that by the end of the mission, you can be making thousands of debens each month and have nothing to do with them, as you aren't embezzling fast enough.
- Difficulty Spike: The Middle Kingdom. It's telling that the it begins with a very hard mission (Waset) and a Nintendo Hard one (Thinis).
- Dummied Out: Going into the audio files reveals that architects, bazaar buyers and workers have a lot more quotes than the one or two lines they normally give. And the architect was apparently called an engineer previously, with a flagrantly-overdubbed "architect" added.
- Dynamic Difficulty: The difficulty can be changed at any time from the mission briefing.
- Earthquakes Cause Fissures: One custom mission (NAFTA) has an earthquake strike, causing unremoveable fissures. It just happens to hit in the place you've most likely placed the pyramid complex you have to build.
- Egopolis: Bubastis is named for Bast, the patron goddess.
- Entitled Bastard / It's All About Me / Jerkass / Rich Bitch: The scribe walker produced by high-end housing, in spades.
Plague could break out at any time! I hope it stays in the poor parts of town.
How can so few workers properly cater to my needs?
Look at all those idlers. Why don't they get jobs?
These festivals would be so much better if they were by invitation only!
- An Entrepreneur Is You: About half of the game is this.
- Epic Fail: In a fire, you could occasionally see your water supply being burnt to the ground.
- The Epic: The Rags to Royalty Generational Saga of your dynasty; from a humble village elder to the almighty Pharaoh.
- Everybody Hates Hades: Averted, Set is one of the five available gods. If pleased, he will watch over your soldiers and even strike down any invading warrior. If displeased, he sets your forts on fire.
- However, he's definitely the least pleasant of them all. Where other gods are pleased by your respect and devotion, he appreciates your fear and obedience.
- Exposition Break: Between levels the state of the state is discussed. Since the screen also has goals for the next mission, it can be reread to help with a Now, Where Was I Going Again? problem.
- The Extremist Was Right: You usurped the throne, but Egypt became the foremost civilisation on the planet under your family's rule.
- Fake Difficulty: Some military scenarios are made artificially harder by not allowing the construction of defensive towers.
- Feuding Families: The Reunification of Egypt arc, between the rulers of Henen-nesw (Herakleopolis) and Waset (Thebes).
- Firewood Resources: Averted, the trees are skinny, man-height and are brought back one at a time, though they turn into planks when sitting in your storage yards.
- Food God: Both Bast and Osiris fill this role.
- Bast can provide additional food and goods to houses and decrease the rate those goods are consumed. If angered, she will do the opposite, as well as angering the people in general.
- Osiris can increase the potency of the Nile's flooding and increase the size of the harvest. If angered, he will withhold the flood and reduce the harvest sizes.
- Four Is Death: Missions 14 (Rostja) and 24 (Hetepsensuret or Rowarty) are the longest missions in the game.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Events are scripted, and have no bearing on your actions - so you can answer a request for food from a certain city, for instance, and then have a scripted famine occur in that same city a month later.
- In Thinis and Waset, you still answer to "Pharaoh" - despite the actual Pharaohs being the Henen-nesw rulers, whom you are fighting against.
- Game-Breaking Bug: In Thinis, caravans will dump barley in your storage yards. Since it's not on the list of goods for that mission, you can't stop buying it, you can't turn it into beer since you don't get breweries, and it slowly fills up the yard instead of beer if you don't keep a constant eye on the yards to destroy them as they fill up.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: While gods need sacrifices or festivals almost constantly to keep them happy, ignoring them only makes them angry. Cue earthquakes, plagues, floods, failing crops... On the other hand, keeping them happy also brings benefits.
- Grand Vizier: You hold this title for only one mission (either Menat-Khufu or Kebet), it having been granted to you by Mentuhotep II, who reunited the two Kingdoms of Egypt and founded the Middle Kingdom (this is also the only time in the game that the Pharaoh himself addresses you). He emphasizes that he considers you his most trusted and capable subject. In the very next mission, Ijtjawy, your dynasty has taken the throne at last - though amid rumours that you had usurped the throne, in the grand tradition of this trope. In fact, the first Pharaoh of the Twelfth Dynasty, which reigned from Ijtjawy, did indeed usurp the throne from Mentuhotep's descendant.
- Grimy Water: In the expansion, one of the curses is a river of blood, which will disable all wells and water supplies until it passes.
- One of the random events is that citizens have taken ill from something in the water, illustrated by dead fish. If your health isn't well regulated, it leads to plague.
- Guide Dang It: The pyramid complexes in some levels require you to have a causeway leading out to the water (and it cannot be a small creek either). This obviously limits where you can place , so unless you check the Monuments list or a walkthrough before you start, you may wind up having to delete a number of houses or industries to squeeze it in.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: "Pharaoh is about to fly into a rage" because you haven't sent him whatever it was he wanted.
- Hammer Space: Trade caravans can fill up an entire storage yard in seconds.
- Harder Than Hard: The hardest difficulty setting is called "Impossible" in the internal files, but in-game it's just named "Very Hard."
- Hello, [Insert Name Here]: You must name your dynasty to begin playing the game, and it even provides a list of male and female Egyptian names that you can choose, if you so wish. This is a tradition from Caesar which is then passed to Emperor. The game then refers to you as the current head of your dynasty, such as Nyarlathotep XIII.
- Healing Hands: Priestesses of Bast can be upgraded to heal the sick if she's the patron goddess.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- It is said of victorious troops that "their numbers may be diminished, but their sacrifice was for the good of Egypt!".
- Despite having no chance of success, policemen will still move to intercept enemies, holding them up for a short amount of time.
- Hold the Line: What police officers do while you (hopefully) order actual troops to deal with the threat.
- Idle Rich: Scribes, who inhabit the most opulent houses, have no function in the city other than consuming lots of goods and paying lots of taxes.
- Sort of subverted though, in that if industry walkers are walking past manors and estates, they are still able to access the labor force.
- Industrial Ghetto: Placing any form of heavy industry near housing will quickly devalue the property and cause it to devolve unless you put a ridiculous amount of statuary nearby.
- Building these often becomes a vital strategy due to the short distance the walkers looking for employees will walk. A small housing block (or even just a single house) placed adjacent to the industrial buildings will never evolve past a hut, but will supply workers.
- Intrepid Merchant: The trade caravans.
- Instant-Win Condition: As soon as all your rating, housing and population requirements are met, you win (though you can continue to govern on later missions). It's possible to leave the city on the verge of collapse thanks to this.
- Instrument of Murder: The musician mentions beating the enemy over the head with her sistrum if you don't start looking into improving the city's defense.
- Interservice Rivalry: The monument builders rely on one another to make progress, and the foreman is all too happy to snidely tell you which ones are slacking off. He gets rather passive-aggressive when buildings materials are stockpiled or production is ceased.
- In the Blood: Twenty-four generations of your family are city-builders. They're so good at this, that they go from a village elder to the almighty Pharaoh.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: Averted, citizens have no problem with paying their taxes, but won't do so until prompted by the tax collector. Though if they're set too high, they'll leave.
Emigrant: I'm surprised they didn't tax me for leaving!
- Jumping Fish: How fishing locations are marked.
- Large Ham - Several walkers, especially if they're particularly happy about your management.
Juggler: There's NO PLACE I'd rather juggle!
- There's also a couple during festivals, particularly the juggler.
I LOVE WORKING THESE FESTIVAL CROWDS! EVERYONE'S SO HAPPY!!!
- Level Editor
- Logic Bomb: It's possible to end up with the game telling that your city both needs workers and that people hate you because you're not providing enough jobs. All the while armies of recruiters are trying to hire people who are fleeing the city as buildings are collapsing/catching on fire around them because no one's hired to tend to them. It's also possible to make more money from taxes (which vary from 0-25% of the wages) than is actually paid in wages. This is because of the absolutely obscene amounts of tax paid out by scribal housing (Manors and Estates); the trade-off is that they aren't part of the workforce.
- Lost Forever: Some missions only have one city that sells a certain good; if you fail a request to that city, the trade route will often shut down. This can lead to unwinnable missions, such as in Saqqara.
- Slightly subverted with Rostja: if you fail the requests for troops to Dakuhr, you are unable to access some goods that are needed mainly for burial provisions, however after some time the trade route will open regardless.
- Played for Laughs in some levels - the Dunqul Oasis, for instance, almost immediately gives you a request to send an obscene number of weapons to Buhen. It's just an excuse to shut down that trade route.
- In Thinis, you begin with a pre-built settlement, with the Temple Complex to Osiris and your mansion already there. If they collapse, however, there is no rebuilding them, even if you're making thousands of spare debens per month.
- Luck-Based Mission: Some invasion entry points are randomized, which affects some missions greatly on the hardest difficulty levels. Iken is considerably harder if the powerful Kushites enter from the southeast, hitting the settlement with the gold mining operations, which is hard to defend and can lead to losing the scenario.
- Marathon Level: Rostja - otherwise known as Giza. Naturally, you are made to build the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Sphinx - but this takes at least sixty in-game years, longer than just about any other mission.
- Mighty Glacier: The Infantry, like the Legionnaires in Caesar. They're really slow but very strong.
- Mook Chivalry: Units in melee combat will only attack one on one, leading to fifteen soldiers watching the remaining one fighting a Duel Tothe Death. Ranged units can fire at a single target as long as they're not attacked themselves.
- Narrator: The missions are narrated by several different people, with one voice actor for each period of Egyptian history. The background music played as the narrator speaks also changes with the times. For the Cleopatra expansion, only one narrator is used, and the various music cues are chosen seemingly indiscriminately, although he does affect an "Egyptian" accent in the New Kingdom and Late Period missions, and then a "Greek" one for the Ptolemaic missions. Oddly, the narrator for the Saqqara mission (in which you build Djoser's stepped pyramid) claims to be Imhotep (the architect of that design), even though the same voice actor is used for all other Old Kingdom missions, set long before and after Imhotep's lifetime. The only other historical figure who serves as narrator is Pharaoh Mentuhotep II for the Menat-Khufu and Kebet missions, though he is played by a different voice actor than those used for most of the other missions (he had narrated the Predynastic missions at the beginning of the game, but he uses a conspicuously deeper voice for Mentuhotep).
- Nepharious Pharaoh: Averted for the most part, unless you're really bad at answering requests (in which case Pharaoh will send his armies against your fair city). Trying to be this yourself generally gets you a game over.
- Khufu, however, most certainly is. The advisor who gives you your missions sounds as if they have crossed the Despair Event Horizon in Iunet, when Khufu takes the throne.
- Nice Hat: Quite a few professions, notably the priests (priests of Seth get a donkey head) and tax collectors (cobra headdress).
- Nintendo Hard: The average missions require somewhere between 3000 to 5000 citizens and decent economy, but some endgame missions require you to have 10000 citizens, high prosperity rating, palatial houses... while finishing a Grand Pyramid Complex. This can be a Guide Dang It for some people.
- The last mission of the Expansion Pack is not this, instead being an Alternate History version of the Battle of Actium. The one mission before it is quite complex, requiring 10.000 residents and a very thriving city.
- Summed up nicely prior to Menat Khufu.
Pharaoh Mentuhotep: I know I that I am asking much of you... but I also know that you are the only one in Egypt capable of doing what I have asked.
- No Indoor Voice: Happy jugglers are loud.
- No Recycling: Collapsed/burnt-out Granaries and Storage Yards take everything with them when they die. Particularly aggravating for the Storage yard, which consists of a flat lot for the goods and a shaded booth which would at best fall on the receptionist, and Shipyards, which are a ramp leading to the water and a place to hold the wood.
- Not in My Backyard!: Houses won't evolve to the next level if close to unsightly buildings like bazaars and industrial buildings, despite the fact that they need those buildings to provide whatever goods and services are required to keep them at that level. Bazaars actually provide the best desirability if they're nearby but not next-door.
- Number Two: You eventually become this to Pharaoh after he names you Vizier. He even tells you there's no one else he trusts more.
- Numerical Hard: Increased difficulty increases the price of construction, in addition to enabling events (like robbers and malaria) that don't happen otherwise.
- Odd Job Gods: Minor gods provide benefits if they have an altar or oracle in the temple complex. Some empower their patron god's priests (Bast's become healers, Ra and Seth's become crimefighters), others can accelerate production or reduce consumption of goods.
- One True Faith: Some gods may not be worshipped in certain areas, but every god always has the same purpose when worshipped. None of that Bast turning from sun god to housekitty god over the years here!
- Palette Swap: "Egyptian armies" look the same as your own, but with tiger-striped (for some reason) shields and red clothing.
- When building a Sun Temple or Gatehouse, the decorations will match the level's patron god.
- Perpetual Poverty: Poor housing is condemned to this.
- The Plague: Caused naturally by not enough food and medical care, and supernaturally if you piss off Bast. Malaria works much the same way, but only on higher difficulties.
- Plague of Good Fortune: Happy gods can be annoying in their own way, like repeatedly interrupting you to tell you your kingdom rating has increased (when it's already maxed out) or filling up your storage yards with materials, preventing you from storing other products that are more urgently needed.
- Power-Up Letdown:
- The Temple Complex of Ra makes workers happier with less pay, which translates to... 2 debens lower than the average. Hooray.
- Some divine blessings can be this. Ra (again) has an annoying tendency to increase your already-stellar Kingdom rating when you want him to cause other cities to increase trade.
- Punny Name: The police constables have names like Samspadehotep, Cuffner, Magnumhotep and Merydonut.
- Two possible names for the tax collector are Takelot and Avaris.
- Ramming Always Works: Warships can use Arrows on Fire, but this is their most effective attack.
- Real Time with Pause
- Refining Resources: A key feature. There are a large number of different resources representing both raw and processed materials; a given map will only provide the natural resources to produce a few of the raw materials, while the processed goods are the ones your citizens want. To provide everything they need and make money, you have to build an economy on the resources you've got, build the appropriate industries to refine them, and trade for the goods you have no way of extracting/producing. At a pinch, it's possible to make an industry out of Refining Resources alone (and is in fact explicitly recommended by the narrator); importing flax, building Weavers and exporting linen at a profit, for example.
- Ridiculously Fast Construction: Even when paused!note Note that while construction itself is instantaneous, getting the building to actually fulfill its purpose takes time (to get enough workers and materials).
- Averted with the monuments - unless you have the "Pyramid Speedup" option turned on.
- Score Screen
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: If you get really bad at managing the city (high unemployment, lack of food, high taxes...), your citizens will leave of their own accord.
- Soldiers' morale drops steadily as they stay in combat. If it gets too low, they panic and run back to their fort.
- Self-Deprecation: Some walkers will say the city's reputation is worse than a juggler's. One of them is the juggler himself.
- Shout-Out: The senet player references various games in nearly all his lines.
People's health is in jeopardy
. The risk
of plague is great!
This city's reputation is checkered at best.
This city should clue
in on the lack of entertainment.
- Shown Their Work: The timeline is very historically accurate... prior to your ascension, at least.
- And the game even times your accession to the throne to match that of a real life usurper, no less!
- Silliness Switch: The cheat code Side Show causes hippos to dance. Wearing pink tutus. Amusingly enough, this doesn't make them any less dangerous.
- Sigil Spam: At high Kingdom rating, "your name is carved into every public space".
- Single-Issue Wonk: Some walkers have no lines that don't relate to their profession, like the apothecary. Others with Dummied Out lines reference their job every chance they get (according to the cop, the only way to improve the city when it's running well is if the bazaar carried donuts).
- Smurfette Principle: The priestess of Bast, bazaar employees, musicians and dancers.
- So Okay, It's Average: Walkers have this opinion of the city if it has some problems but functions alright overall.
- Spiritual Successor: Immortal Cities: Children Of The Nile.
- Statistically Speaking: Some service coverage is determined by the walkers going past houses (such as physicians), but entertainment and divine appeasement is determined by number of facilities, which are inconvenent to place. By endgame, you may end up creating a network of crossroads and venues and great rows of sanctuaries and temples, all serving a five-person house to stop them from catching fire or collapsing. Your city will still be hailed as a cultural wonder and impress the gods with your devotion.
- Unemployment below 5% is no problem, regardless of how many hundred people that represents. Short 10 workers? The Chief Overseer and Overseer of the Workers are pulling the alarm bell... and with good cause.
- Stealth Pun: In Itjtawy - the first mission you are Pharaoh - the game says people believe you seized the throne. Itjtawy is Ancient Egyptian for "seizer of the two lands".
- Sterility Plague: The only way to increase population is to build/upgrade new areas of housing for immigrants. Averted in the briefings, where dynasties are kept alive through relatives producing male babies.
- Super Drowning Skills: No one ever survives a ship sinking. Or getting stuck on the rising flood plain, for that matter (not even hippos).
- Submissive Badass Family: Your family rose from humble village elders to a Pharaonic dynasty - but you still take orders from people (be it anonymous bureaucrats, or your own Grand Vizier).
- Super Strength: One storage yard carter can carry four blocks of stone, a load that normally requires half a dozen stone pullers.
- Take That: A brewery with too few workers says it can't even produce "lite" beer.
- Take That, Audience! / What the Hell, Hero?: If you let your kingdom rating get too low. Going from object of ridicule to people using your name to scare children to thinking you cause disease to jugglers making fun of you to wishing you were eaten by jackals, among others.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Pharaoh Khufu's ascension is predicted to bring disaster, and the narrator shares this opinion when giving you his mission, consisting of building two pyramids and a sphinx.
- Too Dumb to Live: So, you're a farmer with a load of grain. There's no space in the granary, so you're just going to sit on the flood plain and wait for the water to come and drown you. What's that? Go to the mainland and wait for space to open up? Screw that! You're staying and drowning!
- Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Sort of. Even though it's often partially hinted in the mission briefing, you will often have no idea what product the neighbours will request you. On top of that, the military buildings are available on most missions, but are unneeded on some. And you can't settle up everything that fast. So have fun figuring out the requests, and restart the mission to suit them.
- Undying Loyalty: At 100 Kingdom rating, the entire population wants to serve you in the afterlife.
- Units Not to Scale: All people and animals take up one square. Some buildings take up one square. Firefighters are bigger than the fire station, while most of the producion buildings were not built for the twelve-foot-tall giants working in them.
- And of course there's the ferry in danger of capsizing if it carried a single man, let alone the half-dozen men hauling stone blocks in fours.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Sometimes it feels like your citizens are all this, see Not in My Backyard!.
- Occasionally your Kingdom rating falls for no reason but that the people of Egypt are displeased. Sometimes it evens gets a "despite" tacked on in front to really rub it in.
- Unwinnable by Mistake
- In Saqqara, if you don't accept an early gift of pomegranates, you will not get to trade with a city that sells wood, which is a necessary material for monument construction in the city (carpenters are shown building ramps and scaffolding.) Since the city already produces a lot of pomegranates, and the gift comes before you've had much time to develop anything, this is a more easy unwinnable situation to end up in than most.
- Also in Saqqara, if you don't praise Ra enough, he might make people sell less stuff to you. Including making the only town selling reeds - that you need to import to get papyrus - stop. No sending the grave materials to the pyramid, no winning. And to a less dangerous and more annoying extent, more tiles of houses for the same amount of people.
- One mission has a city ask you for shipments of limestone, which you produce in great quantities since no one buys it. However, at one point they ask you for plain stone, which you can't mine for, but can't even import.
- Failing to respond to a request may create this situation, some trade routes are opened only when a request is fulfilled, and are otherwise Lost Forever.
- Perwadjyt, the third mission, is impossible to complete on "Very Hard" due to a glitch with the entertainment coverage system. Additionally, on harder difficulties, you might find yourself inadvertently going bankrupt, as it is impossible to turn a profit in that level.
- Thinis, already hard enough as it is, has a diabolical trap. Eleven years in, you will receive a request for troops from Men-nefer. If you don't send soldiers, perhaps to protect yourself from the level's notorious invasions, the trade route will close down and you will lose your only source of papyrus. Papyrus, which is needed for the Common Residences explicitly mentioned in the mission requirements.
- The Usurper: Twice over. You become Grand Vizier because you supported the usurping Inyotefs in the Civil War, and you it's hinted that you stole the throne after the Inyotef Pharaoh Mentuhotep died.
- Veteran Unit: Your military units start as "Green" and become "Skilled" with enough combat experience or after going through your war academy. They gain experience and more levels ("Veteran, "Masters" "Elite" "The best") the more they fight, becoming more deadly and resilient. The presence of Seth's Temple Complex grants an additional level to new recruits. In some scenarios it's vital that you level-up your units as you can only field six regiments since the enemy comes in overwhelming odds and some units such as war chariots literally stomp normal units.
- Video Game Caring Potential: Every time there's a famine or invasion elsewhere in the kingdom, you can send food to starving citizens or soldiers to fend off the attack.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: See above, but note that not responding to these lowers your kingdom rating.
- Video Game Time: The later levels can take decades to finish, with centuries not uncommon.
- Walking Wasteland: Houses hit by plague create a special walker, who walks the streets infecting every house he passes unless stopped by an Apothecary or upgraded priestess of Bast.
- If your Kingdom rating is too low, "it is widely believed your presence causes malaria".
- Walk on Water: See Super Not-Drowning Skills.
- Wasteland Elder: You, in the early missions: the lowest rank is "Village Elder", and most of the missions are set in the desert.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: Sort of. Gems and jewelry can usually be exported, but jewelry is the fifth-least profitable export item after chariots, weapons, and even linen and papyrus (the game says this is because it's a very common luxury good, as opposed to ivory or incense). You still need both kind of luxury good to get the best houses though.
- Zigzagged with gold. Completely averted in that, as noted by the game, a city lucky enough to have this ressource will be rolling in money. However, when a city demands goods you can't simply give them the equivalent cost, you need that amount of resources (and all the required infrastructure) or they won't take it. And since importing the stuff often doesn't work fast enough your kingdom rating can fall despite the millions in your treasury. And since bribing your way back up the social ladder is determined by your savings, not city funds, you can't even compensate for the loss imediately.
- Wretched Hive: Building these is generally a bad idea, since it encourages people to leave, increases crime and gives little in tax revenue. On some levels where Culture or Prosperity isn't an issue, however, it may be the best action.
- You Have Failed Me: And then Pharaoh sends his armies against your fair city.