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El Dorado: The Golden City Builder – Prologue Review (PC)



El Dorado: The Golden City Builder Promotional Art

Developers Gameparic and Hobo Bunch have, after several months of rolling our bite-sized trailers and short gameplay snippets, released a prologue for El Dorado: The Golden City Builder for PC. The game, which just so happens to adopt a classic city-building blueprint, entrusts its players with a vacant plot of land—a wooded utopia that’s rife with natural resources and Mayan mythology. To put two and two together — this land is yours for the taking, and it’s up to you to not only develop and embellish it, but prove to your father that you’re the rightful heir to the throne. Simple enough, right? Right.

Like a lot of city-building games in its pedigree, the goal of El Dorado is to spiral along a rags-to-riches pathway, and essentially establish the foundations for a bastion of power—a bustling metropolis that even the Gods will reach out to celebrate. Unlike its sandbox-based adversaries, however, El Dorado is slightly more lenient towards sacrilegious, although admirably time appropriate behavior, such as sacrificing victims for the sake of pleasing the Gods, enslaving neighboring communities, and pledging to those who bear the power to wreak havoc on your city.

It is worth pointing out at this moment in time that El Dorado is still in active development, so before we delve deeper into its worldbe aware that it won’t be a “complete” passage, but rather an in-depth overview of the Prologue. All noted? Then let’s dive right in.

The Mayan Calendar, Reprised

Peninsula in El Dorado: The Golden City Builder

El Dorado starts out like a lot of sandbox games: with an empty plot of land, a selection of resources within the vicinity of your central hub, and one heck of a to-do list to shovel through as a fledgling ruler. As mentioned earlier, the goal is to elevate the city’s economy and create a culture that’s not only inclusive of its citizens, but the Gods who watch over and judge your every move and crucial decision. And that brings us to our first issue: the Gods — they aren’t the types to let you get away with reckless behavior; they’re hungry, and if you choose to ignore their demands, then they’ll conjure a cataclysm or two to reduce your progress to smoke and haze.

Of course, the primary objective in El Dorado is to build a settlement that not only produces an infinite cycle of resources, but also keeps its citizens from derailing and succumbing to the threats opposed by other warring nations. Aside from the Gods watching over your progress, there are also neighboring villages constantly seeking for new ways to exploit your newfound riches and status — two shadows that can either make or break you, depending on the actions you make as the elected leader. Suffice it to say, you have your plate full, and if you can’t locate a remedy to keep it clean, then you’re probably going to fall short at the first hurdle. That’s city-building for you, though.

The opening portions of the Prologue task you with establishing the infrastructure for your empire—a feat that involves flushing resources and coin into the development of housing projects, barracks, sawmills, and of course, temples. It’s something we’ve seen a dozen or more times before, but with its inclusion of religion, it does have its own identity.

To Build an Empire

Farmland in El Dorado: The Golden City Builder

Nobody ever said that laying the groundwork for a prosperous nation would be a walk in the park, and El Dorado is a perfect example of that. With little to no hand-holding in the Prologue, the initial phases of development are mostly spent either cycling through trial and error scenarios, or finding the sweet spot to keep the Gods at bay and the global catastrophes from rewriting your progress. With that said, if you’ve ever so much as grazed the tip to the iceberg of any sandbox building sim ever, then you’ll no doubt have a rough idea of what’s needed to get the ball rolling, so to speak.

To build an empire, you first need a steady flow of capital, whether it’s lumber for the sawmill, coin for the barracks, or an unfortunate soul for the seasonal sacrifice. Like a lot of games of its kind, the decisions you make throughout your journey all bear eventful consequences, whether it’s for the greater good, or for the sake of allowing one empire to fall in order to benefit another. The Prologue, whilst keeping a lid on a huge portion of the world’s components, allows you to take full advantage of the tools on hand, giving you free reign over your first plot of land and the citizens who call it home.

What makes El Dorado the treat that it is, really, is the fact that it doesn’t settle for generic gameplay with linear progression, but rather a rollercoaster of a journey that’s simply rife with inescapable curveballs and genuine consequences. With the Gods forever watching over your shoulder, you’re always on the verge of losing a battle — even when things appear to be steering in the right direction. To say that you’re always on your toes is an understatement, truly.

Worlds Will Fall

Blessings in El Dorado: The Golden City Builder

I’m not about to say that El Dorado is on par with the likes of Frostpunk when it comes to its difficulty, because it’s far from being anywhere near as brutally competitive. With that said, worlds will fall, and there’s a good chance that you’ll have to rewind the clock and start from scratch — mainly down to the fact that Gods, rather annoyingly, can be a little melodramatic. But even then, El Dorado does more than enough to reel you back in, even if it does mean having to rebuild from the grassy roots up and assert dominance for the umpteenth time.

The good news is, you can, providing you’re able to keep up with the constant stream of updates, muster up enough confidence to begin anew in as little as an hour or two. And while the game does feature its fair share of complex tasks, it does present you with all of the right information to get you on your feet—a wealth of knowledge that, from the looks of it, will be needed when the game does decide to hit the shelves as a full-fledged product later this year.

Aside from the fact that there are, as expected, a couple of visual flaws in the Prologue, the game does operate to a substantial level, and it doesn’t make a habit out of sporting half-baked design choices or shoddy performance, either. So again, while it isn’t exactly complete, it is, for the most part, an excellent introduction into the South American culture and lore.


Local farmland in El Dorado: The Golden City Builder

Given that this is a prologue, and not to mention a tiny piece of a much, much larger picture, El Dorado does manage to capture a promising concept, and one that, in all honestly, I’m excited to unravel and weave together over the coming months. And while it could do with one or two minor tweaks, particularly in the textures and camera department, the game is, more or less, a cleaner version of its original form that aired back in 2023. There’s a lot to write home about with this one, that’s for sure, and I think I speak for everyone who’s recently taken the opportunity to study the technical intricacies when I say this: Age of Empires fans are in for a real treat with this love letter to the Yucatán Peninsula-based period.

It’s early days yet, so while we can’t really comment on the product as a whole, we can reinforce our initial impressions and promote the Prologue — despite the fact that it’s still ironing out the preliminary details and working tirelessly to serve a far more ambitious project. Needless to say that, as far as first impressions travel, our expectations have been exceeded, and as a result, caught our undivided attention for what’s to come in later updates.

To cut a long story short, if you are looking to plunge into a city-building game that’s as equally rife with traditional components as original ones, then there’s a good chance that you’ll get a kick out of El Dorado: The Golden City Builder. If, however, you’d rather hang fire until the Gods have taken their rightful place atop the throne and embellished the Yucatán Peninsula with a few last-minute touches, then you might want to consider giving it a few more months before sporting the crown.

El Dorado: The Golden City Builder – Prologue Review (PC)

The Future is Bright

El Dorado: The Golden City Builder shows an enormous amount of promise, even though it has yet to roll out the red carpet for the Mayan calendar in its entirety. It’s slick, compelling, and a real sight for sore eyes for those hunkering for a hearty sandbox city-building game with a new twist.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.