There’s a fascinating beauty about skyscrapers. They inspire awe and embody the ability of Man to create, to dream, and to build. I am always struck by their sophistication and sheer size. And yet, their inner workings have always remained somewhat of a mystery to me. How are they conceived? How are they built? What’s inside of them, and what happens in those places? Who gets to plan and decide all of this? Project Highrise may not answer all of these questions, perhaps not any of them, but it certainly gives a beautifully imaginative and complex glimpse into the steel and concrete superstructures that dot so many landscapes.
Constructing a skyscraper in Project Highrise takes three basic commodities: space, people, and money. On the surface it sounds simple, but SomaSim has ensured that it’s not just a cakewalk. Acquiring space takes money, attracting people to fill that space requires more money, and keeping them there requires yet more money. And what about making money? It’s true that you’ve got to spend money to make money, as they say, but money alone won’t get you anywhere without the space or the people. Sure, I’ve boiled the formula down to its most basic elements, but Project Highrise’s success comes from the way it progressively complicates this most simple equation.
Just as I explained in my earlier preview of this game, you’ll start with the ability to build only the most basic apartments, businesses, and the space they need. Other than essential utilities like electricity and water (phone, cable TV, and gas come later), these entry-level tenants don’t require much. After your tower has earned itself a reputation and some publicity, you’ll start to unlock more residential and commercial options. These new tenants offer more towards your bottom-line, but expect you to return the favor in the form of services, beginning with things like: couriers, bottled water, copy services, file storage, etc. The list grows proportionally with each new level of tenant that can be attracted and gets all the way up to ridiculous services like limousines, helicopters, and wealth advisors. It’s frightening how quickly your tower will expand and your bills grow, but immensely satisfying looking back at how far it’s come.
Keeping your varied tenants around is just as important as convincing them to rent in the first place. Restaurants might get upset if they don’t have trash facilities on their floor. Apartment dwellers will understandably become unhappy if a business next door is making too much noise, and no one likes living or working in a worn down, dilapidated dump, so you’d better be on-the-ball with maintenance and upkeep. The economy might be in a slump, which means that some will, no doubt, be moaning about the exorbitant rent you’re charging them. Even something as seemingly lazy as the distance from the nearest elevator can piss certain people off. All of these are realistic complaints, and thankfully, Project Highrise does a good job of making them impactful without them becoming a nuisance. This is due, at least in part, to the excellent overlays for happiness, utilities, and more that can be toggled to diagnose or prevent specific issues.
It’s also worth mentioning that Project Highrise’s tenant system was created in way that allows you to build a completely commercial tower with no residents of any sort, a skyscraper that is tailored only for residential dwellings, or some combination of the two. Services, utilities, and the prevailing economic climate, however, will always rear their ugly heads no matter which you choose. If those pesky payments get out of hand and you suddenly find your bank account in the red, loans are always available to help bail you out. City contracts, which require you to fulfill certain long-term population or building goals, are also a good source of supplementary income. The city will front you some cash to start, and once you’ve met the terms of the contract, it will dole out a more hefty sum as a reward.
Once you feel as though you’ve mastered the art of constructing and managing your own piece of concrete jungle, SomaSim has also included a healthy dose of scenarios to choose from. Some are fictitious and others are based upon historical structures, but they generally place you in a failing building in serious need of rescuing. Your abilities may be severely limited and your choices for space and tenants might be slim. The economy might be in a massive slump as well, just to ensure that when it rains, it pours. Imagine trying to find tenants during the Great Depression, for example. I found these scenarios to be a welcome change of pace, and as I got further, a decent challenge too.
Other than the repetitive background music, finding something to complain about in Project Highrise has been tough. The tutorials are straightforward and helpful, the interface attractive and intuitive, and watching the progression of your structure feels both satisfying and empowering. Between the creativity allowed by building your own tower, the challenging scenarios, and the newly announced modding support, there’s quite a lot of replay value in this game. If building, designing, and creating are your thing, prepare to get sucked in
For the curious and the creative, brimming with replay value, and fairly priced, Project Highrise is the game that SimTower should’ve been.