Does anyone remember the infamous Sim Tower game? Personally, I never played that but I did play Smooth Operator which has a similar concept, only your building and running a call centre rather than a commercial tower. Well, Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition is basically your modern-day Sim Tower experience which has just landed on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC which includes the base game and all previous DLCs which were released. It’s a resource and strategic management sim in which you must build more facilities as you advance vertically or horizontally all whilst listening, and adapting to your tenant’s requests and needs.
Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition is developed by SomaSim, a team that has released one other city simulation game previously. It’s also published by Kasedo Games, a division of Kalypso Media – a publisher who needs no introduction with their incredibly long list of micromanagement and resource management titles such as Tropico and Railway Empire.
Project Highrise, at its core, is a free-for-all open sandbox for you to live out your architectural dreams and create the skyscrapers you think about every time you close your eyes. However, for those of us with little to no imagination, you can just as easily create a stumpy looking building which is the equivalent to the first-ever house you build in Minecraft – a cube built out of random parts you had lying around. Both work fine, only one will look beautiful and the other looks messy but still kind of works.
So, what do you do? There are two modes in Project Highrise, the aforementioned sandbox mode and a list of Scenarios. Let’s talk about the sandbox first, as it’s the mode everyone will jump into first as they get to grips with the game and learn what they can and can’t do in order to be more efficient. Once you’ve selected the ‘New Game’ option, you’re given a few choices which will make it easier or harder on yourself. You can name your tower, choose from four difficulty levels, each one offering less money and more picky consumers, pick the size of your ‘lot’, and also pick the backdrop. As this has all the previously released DLC, backdrops include places like Las Vegas and London – although I don’t think this alters gameplay in any way other than visually. You also have the option for unlimited cash at this point – but enabling this will disable all your trophies/achievements.
Once the game begins – do whatever you want… Your ‘goal’ in the sandbox mode is to create the most profitable tower you can without going bankrupt and losing everything. I’ll cover the whole mechanics later one, but essentially, you have to build offices, shops, apartments and facilities for these tenants in order to generate money and keep them happy. As you bring in more people, you’ll need bigger facilities, more resources to supply them with the required needs, and you’ll also need to think strategically. For example, rich residents won’t live near noise or smells, so placing them near a bin or food court is a big no-no! It can get tricky and there is a very steep learning curve, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you can easily bring in tonnes of money.
The second mode in Project Highrise is the long list of pre-defined Scenarios for you to play through. Again, as this edition has all previous DLC, a lot of the missions in here seem to have come from those DLC packs. In total, there are 29 scenarios to play through, each with three medals that can be earned based on your outcome within each challenge. The issue I had with these though is you can’t just play any of them – you have to do them in order. For example, you can do “The Merchandise Mart” first and once you get at least one medal in that one, two others unlock. Upon getting one medal in those unlocked a few more for each one etc… So there is a sense of progression as you get given progressively more difficult scenarios to play through but only after you’ve completed earlier ones.
At first, I didn’t like this as it reminded me of the ‘three-star progression’ methods used in mobile games and a lot of console games these days. A process I’ve been quite vocal on previously for disliking. However, when you step back and look at it, you could see the Scenarios as Project Highrise‘s form of a campaign as you’re learning new things and getting better as you utilise skills you obtained in previous missions to overcome the later ones. I’ve dabbled in these for a few hours but I wasn’t very good so I went back to the sandbox mode, which is where I’ve spent about 20 hours so far as I’ve worked on three towers.
As mentioned above, Project Highrise does have a steep learning curve if you’ve not played a simulation/management game like this before. There are a decent set of tutorials that are all hands-on and informative, but you’ll pick things up faster if you run through them and then jump into the sandbox and have a mess around. What you have to remember is that each new tenant – be it a residential or business occupant – will have their own set of wants and needs which must be provided if you don’t want them to get up and leave. For example, if you want a mini shopping market then you’ll need a free storage bay in the basement and if you want to entice some lawyers to come and work in your offices then you’ll need a copier service and a courier.
You don’t have to only supply the structural needs, you’ll also have to remember to pump water, gas, electric, phone lines and other supplies into the various rooms as well. This is where resource management comes into play. In the basement, you’ll build various supply cabinets which will supply 10, 50 or 150 rooms with a certain resource. Each one is progressively more expensive and costs more to run each month. If you aren’t supported for the number of rooms you have – your occupants will all begin to get angry. These resources are distributed throughout your tower via small supply cabinets. You can’t just pop these down on each floor willy-nilly, they either need to sit on top of each other, or you have to wire up the resource so that the pipes/wires reach the cabinet on the upper floor. I found stacking them in the same place made it a lot easier.
As you progress, gain prestige and influence with the tenants, you’ll be able to build new, unique rooms. These will allow you to spend your excess influence points on new abilities/rooms. For example, you can unlock an underground metro station which will be used by people who live/work in your building as well as random people who are passing through who may want to visit your shops. You can also unlock the ability to have more than one building facility and maintenance workers – which is essential once your tower begins to get big. Similarly, you also gain Buzz from people as they shop within your walls which can then be used to promote various aspects of your tower to generate more traffic, lower prices and more interest.
From time to time, you’ll also be given the chance to participate in a few ‘missions’. These are accessed by tapping R2 and consists of ‘reach X amount of people’, ‘Earn X amount per day’ and ‘have X amount of Y building in your towers’. With each of these, you get an upfront payment and a bigger one delivered on completion as well as a possible increase to your prestige.
One thing I’ve not mentioned yet because I’ve not tried it personally is the fact you can actually create a hotel rather than an office building or residential tower – if that’s what you wish to do. It gets quite in-depth as well with its own version of Trip Advisor where the guests leave comments on what they thought of their stay which you can use to make your hotel more pleasant to stay in. Not only can you create a front desk and rooms, but you can also create luxurious multi-levelled hallways with magnificent handing art and various items scattered around to entertain your guests upon arrival. There really are a lot of choices and whilst in the sandbox mode – you’re free to do literally whatever you want.
Visually, Project Highrise is a rather simple game. In a way, it reminds me of the art style used within Symmetry with its bold colours and striking shadows. Some of the walking animations are quite funny as well, they remind me of Monty Python’s Ministry of silly walks! But, it does the job! From the zoomed-out view, you can see what everyone is doing and easily make out what every single room is, and when you zoom right in, you get to see all the little details like the office workers sat there reading a paper instead of working, or your residents going to the shop.
I also found the UI easy to use but there are a few fiddly bits. You can only use the Left Stick to move in the options, the D-Pad adjusts the speed, which I always forgot. Also, L1 and R1 move through menus but L2 and R2 open different menus on the side – so I always got those confused too. It’s most likely just me, but I did find it a little fiddly at times. However, from a glance you can easily see the money you have coming in, how many people are there, what missions you have on the go and how many influence/buzz points you have. It’s all very clean and sharp as well.
The sounds in Project Highrise are a little strange. When you’re zoomed out, you get a relaxing music track being played to you – it reminds me of elevator music in a way as it’s got a good beat to it and you’ll be humming along with it after a few hours. However, if you zoom right in, to the max, the music fades out and you can now hear what noises are happening in the room you’re centred on. For example, I have a Chinese tea shop that is playing stereotypical music along with the tapping of cups, the offices have ringing phones and typing, and the residents have their music on sometimes.
This isn’t just a fun extra to hear what’s going on – if a tenant is saying it’s too noisy, you can zoom in, hear the noise they hear and then try and pin-point it and either move them or fit a sound-proof door. Which is pretty cool. It’s like the developers have thought of everything in regards to constructing the perfect hotel, business, commercial, and residential tower.
Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition is a very slow, yet addictive game. Just building one tower and having it run at an efficient level will easily take you a long time, especially if it’s your first tower. There is a lot of strategies that goes into building the perfect layout with its very picky tenants, various needs you must attend too, and carefully planning where you should place certain facilities in order to optimise their traffic and workflow. If you’re a fan of simulation games, especially ones which are big on resource management such as Tropico and Railway Empire, then you’ll love Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition – if you’re more into the simulation side without too much of the micromanagement and overlooking of everything that’s happening, then this game may frustrate you until you’ve unlocked the automation facilities.
I’ve had a lot of fun playing Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition as I’ve put in about 20 hours. Initially, I jumped right in and didn’t enjoy the game as I skipped the tutorials and presumed I would know what’s going on as I played the iOS version a few years back. Big mistake. I took a step back, swallowed my pride, and put on the tutorials and ran through all of them. After I’d done that, the game was a million times better for me as I knew what I was doing and the help which was given was practical hints which I could use within my own towers. I’ve made three towers so far, one failed, one isn’t doing too well and the third is making about 10k a day now, which is pretty good considering I’ve only spent about 3 hours on it.
My advice, don’t rush – if you start rushing and building more and more offices or residential buildings before you’ve seen if you have enough resources and the things they want, you’ll end up losing money and being unable to buy what they need. That’s the advice I stuck too on my third tower, well, towers as I have one just for residents and one for offices, and it’s going alright so far!
Me, building a new tower:
Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition is one of the best resource management simulation games I’ve played. The 29 Scenarios will keep you busy for hours upon hours as you work your way through them and aim to obtain all three medals in each case, but the sandbox mode is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. You’ll easily lose an undetermined amount of time as you strive to build the best tower you can, based on the knowledge of all your previous failures. Every playthrough will be a new adventure for you, with the same challenges yet an infinite way to go around completing them.
Project Highrise receives High-praise from me and a strong recommendation to all resource management and simulation fans out there!
Project Highrise: Architect's Edition£34.99
- Gets very deep with all of the customisations and various tenants you can move in
- 29 Scenarios with three medals to earn in each
- You'll lose hours upon hours within the sandbox mode
- Nice relaxing music which changes to what a particular room hears if you zoom in
- Every playthrough is different
- It does have a rather steep learning curve
- Can be confusing if you skip the tutorials (Don't skip them!)