by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
The ground floor
SimTower, Tiny Tower… Project Highrise is not the first attempt into creating a skyscraper management game, but it is promising to become one of the deepest.
You start where you would expect, on the ground floor. After drawing the basic outlines of your first few floors, workers come and prepare each segment to a barebones state. It’s not exactly turn-key at this point, that’s done in a second stage in which you assign blocks of space that will eventually become offices, apartments, shops or restaurants. Placing businesses, you get to decide who will move in by picking from a list of tenants interested in what you are offering. Some will pay a little more than others but they may also have more needs and requirements so the selection is not completely straightforward. While almost any business will want you to supply them with electricity, some won’t function without water, gas or a phone line. And then there are the services. A law firm will want to have easy access to courier services and upscale residents will riot without on premise housekeeping services.
Your modest start will go largely unnoticed by large businesses and wealthy residents. By providing the small fry tenants with the services they require, and especially the ones they desire, you gain the prestige that you need to attract big league players. Once you have set yourself up with enough smaller occupants and are able to keep them all happy, larger ones will come knocking on your doors. They will be gone just as quickly though. It takes companies of all sizes and of every variety to satisfy the needs of all those living and working in your building.
The real money is of course found in high-profile rentals but to get to that point and, more importantly, to stay there, you will need to create a healthy ecosystem of businesses that don’t just coexist but thrive. Allow too many dentists to move into your building and their bottom line will suffer along with your own. Your tenants will want breakfast, lunch and dinner but some of the businesses offer more than one of these and can be competing with one another. Providing the right mix that allows everyone to make a buck without competing each other into oblivion is a key element of the game. If you do not, they may decide to pack up and leave, potentially leaving the needs of other tenants unmet and causing a cascade exodus.
As you can see, there are quite a few interdependencies, not unlike what you would expect to see in production chains of city building games. Fortunately, Project Highrise offers enough ways to track what is going on to allow you to ease into the management of your tower while slowly getting used to the ever building responsibilities involved.
A matter of taste
The build that I had available for this preview is stable and pretty much bug-free. This does make me wonder what the developers have left to do to get the game ready for release. Polished to this state, I mostly enjoyed my time with Project Highrise. The ‘mostly’ in there has a lot to do with the game’s aesthetics. Micromanaging the financial success of a piece of real estate has its ups and downs in involvement, challenge and entertainment. Personally, I’d enjoy a brighter, warmer and more colourful palette, especially during the quieter moments. I realise that is a matter of taste, it will not be an issue for everyone. Besides, I actually have a chance to do something about it; the main menu has a big shiny button on it that says “Mods”. Maybe I will just go and paint the tower red.