Get ready to balance your flying city and shoot down air pirates in Airborne Empire

City-building game Airborne Kingdom was a really new, interesting twist on the genre, challenging you to balance the growth of your flying city with its physical needs: Keep it balanced so it doesn't tip over, keep it agile enough to move forward, and keep it supplied with supplies from the surface. It also had a world to explore, with a real story, ending on a cliffhanger reveal that gave your flying city a new mission. It was a critically-acclaimed city builder in the sky.

"Airborne Kingdom lodges itself in its own niche thanks to some unusual experiments and its spectacular style," said Fraser Brown in the 80/100 PC Gamer Airborne Kingdom review.

Now developers The Wandering Band are back for Airborne Empire, a game continuing the story started in Airborne Kingdom by having you unite the disparate kingdoms of the world under your flying city in order to reforge an ancient protective alliance: The Airborne Empire. The big addition this time? Fighting. Attacks by sky pirates are now part of the game world, requiring the attention of your flying city to protect both yourself and the world below.

Players will now build defensive towers and cannons to protect their city, a whole new category of technology to pursue. They'll also be able to build hangers for attack planes, no longer just sending propeller gliders down to the surface for supply runs, but patrolling their skies to keep them safe.

It also sounds like the innovative open-world features that Airborne Kingdom had going will deepen in Airborne Empire. The cool part of a moving city was, well, moving it. Flying from land-based kingdom to kingdom learning new technologies, trading, and solving problems was a huge deal in the first game and I think it'll be even more important here. Those landbound cities will need help learning to defend themselves and keep their sky-based trade routes with your city alive.

You can find Airborne Empire on Steam, where it's set to release into early access in 2024.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.