Project Highrise is a game about what else, highrises, skyscrapers, and in general large buildings. Manage your tower’s ecosystem and keep your various tenants happy with different systems and implementations. Much like other “City” simulators of its genre, meet your populus’ needs, fulfill contracts, and overall improve your building over the course of the game. And of course, make some money. This is SomaSim’s second game behind 1849. Another, much flatter simulator, based around the Californian gold rush period in which the game gets its name.
Obviously there are many similar games to Project Highrise. For me, the most exposure I’ve had to the genre would be Cities: Skyline. First off to get my bearings in this new world I started out with the tutorial. It features 5 basic mechanic lessons: Construction of your building, maintaining tenants’ and their needs, prestige, general maintenance, and the ins and outs of your user interface. While definitely informative and necessary, the tutorials simply don’t go into enough detail about a lot of mechanics. During the setup of my first building I decided to set up all my resource lines. I made up some rooms to build an apartment and connected them all with electricity, phone, TV, water and gas. There was some error in my assumption as all they needed was electricity and water. Things like this aren’t touched in the tutorials and many things had to be figured out on my own. When selecting the format of living space it tells you what they require, but the tutorials neglects to properly explain that. You would expecting things like TV and phone lines to be basic needs, but you would be wrong. Decoration is something that still mystifies me. Objects like statues and paintings can be put up around your building but there’s nothing to indicate how much of an effect they have on the resident population. The game drops you in with very few hints as to what to do, and possibly less information on how to do so.
After spending several hours in the game I found myself with a well-developed building and a nice sum of money to carry out any improvements. Up until then I was doing fine, I’d learned that large offices also require restaurants to be around among other things. There’s a delicate balance to be struck. Offices won’t stick around if there’s no restaurants, but such restaurants will also pack up if they find there’s too much competition. This is where I realized my grave mistake. I had started packing every floor with large offices, and the two restaurants fueling them both decided to leave at the same time due to each other’s competition. Every single company aside from maybe two cafes up and left all at the same time, leaving all their garbage behind. My maintenance of course has to go through every floor and pick it up before I can do anything else with the space. So now, my stockpiled 300k will be drained restructuring my building. Just like any sim, there’s a learning curve but that’s not the issue. As bummed as I was about my loss it just means I can make it better next time.
Overall the complexity of the game exceeds my common senses, either overshooting my thoughts on how it should work, or ignoring them completely. After spending a while with the game I have to say it’s taught me, or rather I’ve taught myself how to cope with the mechanics. One of the things I thought was going to be an option in the game was to be having a building dedicated to offices or apartments, or even a mall. Unfortunately the game requires you to have a good balance of all facets.
The UI is laid out nicely. Tabs and folders of objects work just like I’d expect, however more information about objects would have been nice. How much space they take up without having to manually count the grid placements, and things like how well an art piece affects its surrounding area seem to be lacking. The menus in the top left offer metrics on how your building is doing in categories like noise pollution and traffic frequency. Simple point and click is offered and is effectively used as you’d imagine. Left click to select, right to back out. Dragging your left click around lets you look around and the wheel lets you zoom in. In complete contrast to that however, the keybinding menu is the strangest I’ve ever seen. Rather than listing each function in a page, each keybind is packed into a single dropdown menu. At least you’ll only have to access it maybe once or twice. While aside from the technical, the art style and music suit the game quite well. Even if nothing special, it gives the game a sense of personality that I can appreciate.
Project Highrise is a game for sim players, there’s no doubt about that. The difficulty and delicacy of building your tower makes it a great game for fans of the genre, but may push away other for its intricacies. While there isn’t much inherently wrong with the game, its rigid workspace makes it difficult to grasp its concepts and may leave you wondering what went wrong.
Structural Integrity: Solid work environment.
Blueprints Okayed: Maybe not perfectly implemented but mechanics are really well thought out.
Designer Wallpaper: Visually pleasing both in UI and art direction, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Under Construction: Tutorials should be changed. Additional information must be constructed.
Windy Conditions: Once things go bad, it seems like everything falls like dominoes.
Combining the love for the managerial with strategy and some rather fickle personalities, Project Highrise, the next game from developer SomaSim looks to channel our own developer’s instinct. Much like the older SimTower, and the more recent Fallout Shelter, you spend much of the game building housing, shops, restaurants and other amenities for your residents, all while you climb higher and higher in the sky. Throw in a dash of the atmosphere found in Cities: Skylines, and you’ve got a recipe for a relaxing, if not terribly involved game.
Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are hands-on approaches to the game, especially early, when you’re constantly developing and just barely scraping by day to day on funds. As the game progresses however, your only challenges move from the financial to keeping your occupants happy. Certain noise requirements, cleanliness levels, trash facilities and more are all necessary to keep your occupants happy. But ultimately, there’s not much challenge to be found in Project Highrise. I was more than comfortable to let the game play itself, and continually renovate units, racking up cash. I’m not sure what depth the game needs, but it could use something more.
Still though, if you’re looking for a relaxing building-management sim, you could do far worse than Project Highrise. There’s plenty of different types and styles of restaurant, office and apartment to unlock and manage, and opportunities for outdoor design as well. Project Highrise is a great way to wind down after a day of work, so long as you aren’t seeking more than that.
Coming to this game after having spent a good 200 hours in SimTower and a handful of hours in Fallout: Shelter, I was expecting a fair game with possibly not many advanced mechanics as something seen in this genre. What I got, was a game that was smaller yet more advanced game than Fallout: Shelter. I had to deal with plumbing and wiring, along with keeping an eye on my budget. This I have to say is a worth advancement on the old SimTower formula.
However, lacking a verbose tutorial in the first scenario mission did leave me a little confused until I was able to figure out what was precisely needed. After that it was somewhat easier, and made even easier when I was able to figure out certain rooms require only certain utility hook-ups.
Project Highrise is a perfect game to kill some time while waiting for a taxi, or for playing on a laptop while you are sat on a train going to London, but for losing an evening, not so much. Thankfully though it is going to support modding that might not only extend the game’s longevity but playability and attention timespan as well.
Project Hightrise feels like an adult version of Fallout: Shelter where you deal with property management. A perfect testbed for future landlords.
For all those micro-managing maniacs out there, Project Highrise is a fair priced, clean, stylized approach to the ever complex sim building genre. All you have to ask is “Did you enjoy SimTower?” if the answer is yes, then get this game, it’s virtually SimTower 2.0.