by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Grow and mature
Few games are born deep and intricate. Take Civilization for instance. The first game was complex for its time but it pales in comparison to the complexity of Civ 5 - and that’s the instalment that had the brush taken through it to an extent not seen in the history of the franchise. Strategy games especially need to grow and mature. And while there is plenty of room for Urban Empire to still mature after it makes its debut early 2017, it starts its life off as a teenager of drinking age. We spent a fair bit of time talking about the game back in June but I for one wasn’t done - I needed more. I got it at Gamescom.
An important element I did not get into in my previous article, were the families. You rule your city representing one of four families, each with different philosophy to how a city should function and evolve. One family for example, will stand up for the working class, another has more of a military inclination. Not only do you choose a family, you also choose from one of 5 characters within that family. While your choices do not lock you into a specific play style, the traits and characteristics that come with them do nudge you into a particular direction. Some choices suit a more liberal perspective, others would be more conservative, or even slightly dictatorial. And none of it is set in stone either - new character traits are assigned as the city population gauges both your behavior and performance. Really? Really.
Visual and technological progress is mostly achieved through research, but it’s not just technological advances that cause change. Time is also a factor. The level of taxation, for instance, is initially equal for every citizen. In a later era, however, you will be able to tax each class differently. A player could potentially tax only the poor working class while leaving so many loopholes for the rich that they will effectively not pay any taxes at all. You know, all fair like. Each era brings visual changes as well so that everything fits within the right timeframe. At some point you will even see your council members traipse about with tablets in their hands.
In my previous article I quickly touched upon the ability to pay for new buildings from your own pocket. Your… discretionary fund is, however not a bottomless pit. To add money to your personal stockpile, you will have to ask the council if they are willing to part with some of the city’s fund. One more reason to try and not piss off too many people.
Urban Empire has a bit of humor tucked away in various places - Penultimo gifted us a Llama, good for a chuckle from Tropico fans - but also broaches some more serious topics. I already mentioned exploiting the poor for one. Others issues that you will be dealing with include the prohibition of alcohol, prostitution and child labor and your decisions will, of course, be reflected in your city and its citizens.
Good first impression
I could talk about the game for hours, and listen to the developers for longer still. I am genuinely excited and how could I not. The list of never-done-before-in-a-game features is impossibly long and each item on it is intriguing, interesting or both. Kalypso and developer Reborn are taking a few months of extra tinker time to add more polish, which I can only applaud. The game already looked very solid but as the first game in what will hopefully be a longstanding series, it is important to make that good first impression. It already did on me, I can’t wait until they show it to the rest of the world and we can all talk about it together.