Developer: Revolution Industry
Publisher: Freedom Games
Available on: PC
Airship: Kingdoms Adrift is an open-world, single-player RPG adventure game with elements of management and strategy games. The game combines elements of high fantasy with steampunk and early Industrial Revolution-era aesthetics, creating a rather unique setting where pegasi and griffons are used in battle alongside howitzers and rockets. The game takes place in a world where the crust of the planet shattered into countless floating islands a long time ago in an event called the Great Cataclysm, making airships - not zeppelins or balloons, but rather flying naval ships - the primary means of travel and transportation.
You are able to choose your own nationality and background, but the basic premise of the game is that you are a captain seeking new ventures and opportunities after the Great Sky War recently came to a ceasefire. The story campaign begins with you receiving an invitation letter from the Silverblum Trading Company, a large corporation in the Suthseg Archipelago where the game takes place. After accepting the invitation and eventually establishing your own trading company as a subsidiary of Silverblum, you are soon drawn into a game of grand politics and schemes in a turbulent post-war society.
In terms of gameplay, there are currently more than 30 different airships available, and you are also able to fully customize your ships with your own choice of weapons and other equipment, such as engines and shields. While it is not possible to design a new ship layout from scratch, you do have great freedom in refitting existing designs. There’s a wide range of ship parts and equipment, but each location has its specialties, and you have to explore the world to discover them. For instance, one town may specialize in fast engines, while another may focus on heavy cannons or shield systems. In most cities, there are also ‘commission stores’ which are initially locked and can be accessed by completing quests. These stores offer rare or exclusive ships and items that are direct upgrades to common equipment.
An important aspect of airship design is finding the balance between mobility and protection. Heavy armor plates and big turret guns can soak up a ton of damage, but the weight can really slow down your ship. On the other hand, a lightweight ship with minimum armor will be much more maneuverable. While even a single enemy volley might destroy your important modules, it is also much easier to just run away from encounters due to their speed.
In addition, there are also a large number of unique NPC companions you could appoint as officers in the game. Each of them comes with their own passive buffs and active skills that become stronger as they level up. Many of them will start appearing around the world once you progress to a certain point in the story. Most companions - especially those not related to the main story - do not have a fully developed companion questline as of yet, but they will likely be added in future builds.
The developers have put care and thought into enriching the roleplaying experience. For instance, each settlement on the world map has a brief description of its history and current role in the society of Suthseg. As someone who actually read through most of the miscellaneous books in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I loved the worldbuilding and lore these little tidbits provided. Similarly, rather than assigning a random cargo for freight transport missions like many other RPGs with repeatable quests, the freight I carry is always thematically appropriate - a mine will ship ores and metal to towns, a farm or orchard will send out produce and receive fertilizers, and industrial centers will send munitions to military forts. These kinds of minor details go a long way for people who are more invested in the roleplaying experience. I remember playing Starfield recently and doing similar quests, but the item name and the destination were randomized, and sometimes the product you were carrying had little to no relevance to the location - once, I ended up delivering hundreds of tons of illegal and expensive tech parts to the in-universe equivalent of a rustic historical village. In contrast, Airship: Kingdoms Adrift provides quite an immersive experience as an RPG.
It should be mentioned, however, that the game is rather slow-paced. Similar to games like Euro Truck Simulator 2, you will spend most of your time traveling around the skies and only stopping by once in a while to resupply, trade, or upgrade your ships. Personally, I enjoyed the sense of voyaging and exploring what this world had to offer since the developers had put a lot of effort into creating a vibrant world filled with interesting locations. I also found it quite relaxing to look at the landscape and see the little towns, farmlands, and train tracks from far above while traveling, especially at night when you could see the towns light up. Still, this game may not be your cup of tea if you dislike grinding or prefer a more fast-paced environment.
The combat of this game is also quite challenging, especially in the early game when you have fewer, smaller ships with limited firepower. However, a big part of the game’s difficulty comes from the ‘mark’ mechanic. When you fight enemies that belong to a faction - which includes not just navies but also major pirate gangs - they will put a mark on you, and stronger fleets belonging to said faction will spawn when you are passing their territory. Moreover, if you manage to beat an enemy fleet, the ‘level’ of the mark will increase, and an even stronger fleet will spawn. The highest mark level in the game right now is 3, and while the mark will disappear if you destroy the strongest fleet that can spawn from the mark, they can only be reliably beaten with mid-to-late game ships and equipment. Because of this, it is recommended to either avoid combat or surrender and pay the enemies until you are prepared to fight strong fleets.
While I liked the concept of the mark mechanic, I did have some frustrations with the implementation due to the ‘rubberbanding’ of enemy fleets. In this game, ship encounters will respawn near your location if their distance from you becomes too large. However, this also applies to the enemy fleets spawned by the mark mechanic. When you are not strong enough to fight them yet, this makes it quite tedious to constantly avoid them due to their large detection radius.
Another issue I had was with the capture mechanic of the game. When an enemy ship surrenders before getting destroyed completely, there’s a chance that you may capture the ship and add it to the roster of your fleet. However, this mechanic is completely RNG-based right now, and there is no way for the player to affect the chances. This was probably done for balancing reasons since larger ships can fetch a hefty price, and being able to capture all ships like Starfield could ruin the economy of the game. Still, it can be frustrating when some of the most powerful ships in the game can only be obtained through capturing.
Overall, Airship: Kingdoms Adrift is an immersive and well-crafted game with an interesting open world to explore and engaging gameplay. The combat offers plenty of tactical complexity, and there’s plenty of lore and worldbuilding to satisfy players who care about reading up on the lore and setting of the game. I definitely recommend playing this game if you are interested in RPGs with an interesting setting or enjoy playing games with a relaxing atmosphere and slower pacing.