GAME PREVIEW: Project Highrise

The elevator is billowing smoke, eight apartments have lost power, two tenants have just sped away in disgust, and I don’t seem to have enough money to fix any of it. Welcome to life in Sky Spire, my attempt at creating a utopia for people to live in, work in and, if recent events are any indication, get mightily annoyed in.

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It’s definitely the elevator smoking I assure you.

Project Highrise is the latest PC game from Chicago based devs SomaSim, and it gives the player the role of architect and developer, charging them to build mighty sky-scrapers that are desirable and aesthetically pleasing, while also ticking all of those pesky day-to-day concern boxes like “the elevators should work” and “the building should have power”. Any fans of the Maxis game SimTower will likely have their ears prickled with interest by now, a game that one of the devs, Matt Viglione, says in an interview with another website, proved an inspiration, but certainly had its flaws (or should that be floors?).

Whether you are coming at the game with memories of SimTower, or arriving at it fresh faced and bushy tailed with no prior sky piercing experience, Project Highrise is a game worth looking at. It has a sandbox style mode in which the player still has to unlock stuff, but can pursue the areas they choose. The game also has a scenario mode which drops the player into a number of challenging situations and charges them with making a success of things. Whichever mode you choose, as you would expect, money makes things possible, and one of your primary concerns will be having enough rent coming in to cover your daily costs, and still have enough left for making upgrades. Various contracts are available that will pay you for achieving varying goals such as getting x number of small offices inside your building, or y number of visitors. You can also take out loans of varying sizes, just in case you find yourself struggling to afford a sandwich, let alone adding a new floor.

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Some offices getting a little bit grotty here…

As far as the building itself, the player can add floors both above and below ground, and each type of room or utility takes up a number of spaces. Part of the puzzle involved with Project Highrise is getting the most out of the space you have, especially if money is tight. The tenants themselves are a varied bunch, an assortment in both status and size. Offices, apartments, shops and restaurants all have their own particular needs and effects. As you try to attract higher quality tenants, their requirements go up. As an example, the smallest office space, rented to an insurance firm, will probably let you get away with just a power connection and access to a copying service. Something that pays a higher rent will likely need phone-lines and other building services in place, such as a courier or water bottle service. These are all things that need an eye kept on them too, as they can get to a stage where they cannot cope with the building’s demands.

Besides money, there are other metrics that gauge how attractive your highrise is. Prestige is the general, well, prestige of the place, the more stars you have helping you to attract higher paying clients and make use of larger design options. Buzz is another figure that slowly builds as people use the building’s shops and restaurants. When you have enough Buzz, you can spend it on various media campaigns that bestow benefits like a 24hr reduction in floor building costs or utility charges. The final figure that you need to keep an eye on is Influence, a currency that you can spend on various building improvements that will help you to push the design and function in ways that you want it to go.

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A snippet of the great tutorial.

The challenge in Project Highrise comes from trying to keep everything running properly with an eye to expanding and upgrading in a sensible, future looking way. It is certainly quite addictive. When I first ran the game, I just intended to take a short look, maybe do the tutorials (which are pretty good when it comes to teaching you what’s what) and maybe start a highrise. Two hours later I finally left the game and muttered something along the lines of: “Yep, seems good!” From its clear and clean art-style, to its various interplaying systems, Project Highrise is a slick and interesting game that gives the player their own concrete ant-farm to lord over.

Project Highrise is set to be published by Kasedo Games sometime during the Summer. The price is yet to be confirmed.

Project Highrise Screenshots © Copyright SomaSim

Links: Project Highrise / Somasim Dev Blog / Dev Interview With

GS Blogger: Casey Douglass

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