Picture House of Cards as a video game in your mind’s eye. Go ahead, just try it. Ok, now think of your favorite SimCity. Take those two visions, modify the House of Cards image to include a parliamentary-style government (like the original House of Cards) and mash them up in a quasi-political, community planner-ish mortar and pestle. The resulting strange video game amoeba that I’ve hopefully implanted in your mind, the one that’s morphing just frequently enough that you can’t quite put your finger on it, is Urban Empire.
If you’re not familiar with House of Cards or the SimCity series, developer Reborn, previously Fragment Productions, calls this game a political city management/city ruler title. At the beginning, you’ll have a handful of famous European business families to pick from, each offering their own set of advantages and disadvantages, which by extension will alter your play style as well. Set in the 1820’s and sprinkled with historical events and references throughout, you get to plan, build, and scheme your way through five unique eras all the way into the 21st century.
The presentation for Urban Empire left me intrigued, excited, and sad that I didn’t get to see more. I saw an immensely complex game that quite accurately simulates how difficult it is to design, build and run a community of any size. Just because building a fire department is a good plan, or even the right plan, doesn’t mean people will like it. Or maybe feelings on the matter at hand will be split and you’ll have to wine and dine (yes, this actually happens), schmooze, cajole, threaten or blackmail (who said anything about legal?) those who are against your plans. And, if all else fails, you can just give them the finger and execute your plan despite their objections, sacrificing political clout and personal fortune in the process. I saw disagreements like this over things as necessary as schools and ports, as well as further arguments about how much funding should go to each.
Whether you fancy yourself more of a dictator or a diplomat, a builder or a bastard, you’ll have ample opportunity for both in Urban Empire. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on if Reborn has plans for a Trump: One Idiot’s Triumph of Fear Over Reason expansion, but who knows, it could be in the cards. Look for this comprehensive community management title in early 2017.