Published on August 3rd, 2016 | by Jonathan Beck3
First Look – Project Highrise
Project Highrise appeared seemingly out of nowhere a few months ago claiming to be a modern take on the classic SimTower. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game as someone who spent an inordinate amount of time on the original as a kid. What’s changed and what’s the same in this new interpretation of a skyscraper simulator? Let’s dig in and find out.
The core gameplay is going to be very familiar if you’re a SimTower fan. You’re still constructing each floor of your building, filling it up with offices, apartments, stores. Then below ground your maintenance workers, storage areas, parking and now various utilities. The first biggest change to the formula is the need to make sure each floor and their occupants have the utilities they need to do business, or just survive.
Offices for example usually need phone service, and someone to come swap the bottles in their water coolers. Restaurants and shops often need gas hook ups to cook meals. Small apartments just need gas, water and electric, but more expensive apartments require luxuries like cable television, and nicer markets to shop in.
This new addition of utility management affects how you layout and build your tower, and forces you to look at the building on a much grander scale, even as you’re starting. You’ll need to get each utility to have one of several different systems that access the cities main grids, then connect a switching cabinet directly above it on each floor you expect to have power. The same goes for water, gas, phone, cable.
Thankfully, these switching cabinets for each floor combine several services into one cabinet. Phone, Electric and Cable are all in one cabinet, Gas and Water in a second. It makes the planning phases simpler but I’ve still managed to run into situations where several floors up, what I thought would be a good place for the switching cabinets ended up getting in the way of some of the larger offices and attractions you can have built in your tower.
Having this extra management gives the game more depth, but starts to feel a bit tedious. As your building grows, remembering to go back and run all the right lines, and to make sure they’re connected to where the resource comes in, and that each of those connectors has the capacity to support your new expansion. It’s a lot like laying out a new residential or industrial zone in SimCity. I like that there’s more to planning the floors, but it can be repetitive if you’re expanding upward quickly.
While we’re talking about what you have to maintain to make sure your tower is in good shape, the maintenance workers in the game are surprisingly well done. You build a maintenance office below ground with your construction workers, storage and utility areas. Then you can send your workers out to fix up and repair apartments and the like that are wearing down. I was afraid this was going to be cumbersome with larger towers, but you can actually just click on the maintenance office and automatically queue all the repairs the building needs at once and let the game send your workers off. If you don’t have the cash to do everything, you can pick and choose what to work on first while you wait for the next deposit from your tenants.
As more people inhabit your tower, the more your prestige goes up. Prestige is used to attract high end tenants and open up growth options for your tower. Things like hiring in decorators, political offices, art studios and more to help make your tower classier and offer additional benefits. I’ve had the decorator crew and the art studio in one of my towers and it expands what you can decorate with in an effort to draw more people to stay at your building.
There’s also the Buzz system that retail locations, restaurants and some offices can help you generate. As you build up Buzz, you can spend it on media campaigns to attract new tenants and business to your building.
The one management system they’ve added I’m not sure how I feel about yet is how you actually select which tenants get to live or work in your building. Any time you build a new apartment or office, you select a tenant or company to come in and inhabit the space, and they tell you what they’re willing to pay in rent. This is great if you want to really dive into the minutia of who and what is allowed in your tower, but once you start building giant skyscrapers with lots of units per floor, going through and picking each tenant individually can be tiresome. Perhaps at some point you’ll be given the option to take an entire floor full of offices and select something like “Accept anyone who will pay more than X price” and all of them will be filled at the same time. However, with how well the game plays this is a minor gripe.
On top of all of this, the team at Kasedo Games have given Project Highrise a lovely coat of paint. Think of the Mad Men theme song, or any episode of Archer and you’ve got the aesthetic. It works very well and gives the game a unique personality. Paired with the fact you’re spending more time in this game interacting directly with your tenants by selecting who can move in, the art style lends well to investing in each tenant or office built.
So now you’ve built a tower, and it’s getting up there, but how do you tell if people are happy or not? Do you like overlays Johnny? Do you? Have I got overlays for you. The game can show you everything from which tenants are happy with their rent and position in your tower, to how noisy certain places are, where the biggest traffic problems lie, how effective your elevator layout is, how grimy units in the building have become, where the most smells come from, how much trash is located in each area. The short of it is, if you need to see an overarching view of what’s good and what’s bad, based on nearly any metric, the game has got you covered and it makes keeping your tenants happy much easier.
Sadly, the only thing I didn’t get a chance to mess with is the game’s Steam Workshop support, which isn’t ready yet as the game hasn’t released. I can’t wait to see what kind of buildings and new features the community will add once the game it out.
Project Highrise is slated to be out this Summer, with no firm date or price available yet. You can find it over on Steam now if you want to add it to your wish list, and I’m happy to say it has run perfectly fine on my main PC, my iMac and my MacBook Pro, so you shouldn’t have any issues building the tower of your dreams, unless you’re one of those Linux weirdos (Sorry Sean).
If you were a fan of the original SimTower, there is no reason you shouldn’t buy this game as soon as it’s available. It scratches the exact tower building itch SimTower offered so many years ago.