Project Highrise is a 2D building and management simulator, reminiscent of SimTower and other building strategy games, in which the player designs, maintains, renovates, and improves a highrise skyscraper building. Released by Kasedo Games on September 8th, 2016, the folks over at SomaSim games have done a fantastic job creating a title with exceptional polish, sophistication, and complexity, which could very well end up as a favorite go-to blend for many gamers in the Simulation and Strategy genres.
Welcome to Time-Management, 2D Design, and Strategy!
Project Highrise is one title I have been looking forward to for some time, and I consider myself a fan of strategy and simulation games while being weak in the time management department. After logging nearly a dozen hours in the weekend following launch, I feel as though I am only now starting to get my feet under me in terms of optimal performance here in Project Highrise, and there is so much left to master and unlock in the future!
Players begin by choosing whether to start a new save from scratch, selecting one of four difficulty levels and numerous sizes for their map, or by picking one of the beginning scenarios for a more structured experience. Having logged quite a few hours in both modes, I quickly determined that I seemed to do better in the freeform mode rather than working with set objectives; I found myself too preoccupied with achievements in the latter, and Project Highrise is one simulation and strategy game in which you benefit greatly from taking your time and giving yourself ample opportunities to let your building “pay for itself” as your revenue increases.
There’s so much going on in either style of level that it’s difficult to explain it all here in a concise, orderly fashion, but I’ll give it a go: In a nutshell, you’re designing a magnificent skyscraper, down to the bare bones of the blueprint, complete with running electrical, phone, and cable wires, plus water and gas pipes, and filling it with a variety of commercial or residential rooms. You can focus on office spaces, with legal teams, marketing staff, and other office-dweller renters, or you can switch over and prioritize apartments. The bigger the rental unit, the more requirements the tenants have – the small offices, for example, need basic utilities and things like copy services and IT repair staff, which you can stash as a resource elsewhere in the building. However, once you start adding the large office areas, your tenants require restaurants that serve dinner, catering services, file storage, and other demands. The challenge is balancing expansion with revenue gain, flipping your income and turning it into a higher income potential, without going bankrupt in the process.
Tips, Tricks, and Bonus Feedback
As with most strategy games, there’s a lot of choices here that can greatly sway your experience, especially early on. A lot of players recommend starting off with a boat-load of small offices, and foregoing things like elevators in lieu of staircases until you have more than three floors for your tenants to navigate; little things like this end up making a huge difference in the early hours of your design, and making mistakes can cost you big towards the end. I found that utilities are one sneaky thing that you’ve got to keep an eye on and plan for from the get-go; instead of placing a lot of single-tile units, I tried to plan for upgrading them all to 3-4 tiles later on, so I tried to leave empty space next to them in order to make that transition easier town the road. There are city contracts you can take out – mini quests, if you will, which give you Influence, money, and the like – and you even have the option of taking out loans for an influx of money, though I strongly recommend using these sparingly.
I would have loved an Undo button, because accidentally placing something in the wrong space can cost you quite a bit of money if you need to demolish the space and start over, even if that meant the Unto feature was only available while you remained Paused (sort of like the Buy/Build mode over in The Sims titles). There’s also a Fast Forward feature, so you can skip through the in-game day faster, but I found that this often wasn’t quite fast enough; I would reach a point when I was just waiting for my money to increase, slowly, over the course of several days, and being able to skip a day or two – perhaps with a built-in halt if something blew up or caught on fire – would have saved me a LOT of time when I was just sitting and twiddling my thumbs while waiting for money to add up.
The nifty, clean graphics are one of the first things I noticed about Project Highrise, and I love how detailed each individual room is when you zoom in on it. I’d love to see more variety these spaces, but I’m excited that the Steam Workshop is enabled, and the community is already creating amazing custom content; the developers even released a guide to modding prior to release, and it’s a lovely, simple bit of instructions to get people started on making original content. The music is pleasant and simple, and I didn’t encounter any bugs.
A word of warning, however: Make sure that you are manually saving your game, because the AutoSave feature is limited to 3 slots, and it will overwrite itself and delete your content if you aren’t saving it manually, something that I learned the hard way.
Project Highrise is charming, complex, and a ton of fun, but there are definitely some aspects that need some tweaks. I’d like to have less time sitting and waiting for things to escalate, though; still, as with any time-management simulator, there is plenty of stuff going on that you can choose to micro-manage in the background. There’s definitely a learning curve here – it doesn’t take long to get started, and to figure out how to operate your skyscraper, but it does take a lot of practice and skill to master the whole picture. I love that the scenarios lend extra replay value, and I hope that in the future the community can add more via the Workshop for even more additional content.
I have loved my time in Project Highrise, designing skyscrapers and keeping my buildings running smoothly, and that says a lot from someone who isn’t proficient at turning a profit and keeping things working orderly! If you’re a fan of simulation and strategy, not to mention the ability to create custom content and upload it into the Steam Workshop, then I highly recommend this title as a fantastic addition to your time-management library.