STAFF REVIEW of Project Highrise: Architect's Edition (Xbox One)

Saturday, December 22, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Project Highrise: Architect's Edition Box art I’ve always been drawn towards Sim games; be it based on theme parks, hotels, towers, ants and of course, cities. I’d actually be curious to know how many hours I’ve sunk into Sim City as a kid, as this was the first game that made me realize how much OCD I have when it comes to symmetry and creation. I needed roads to be an exact length apart, perfect square blocks, and god forbid if a natural disaster occurred and wiped out all my hard work.

While Sim City is generally the king of the genre, Sim Tower was another that I used to play on my PC way back in the day (I’m showing my age). Instead of a massive and complex city, you were instead tasked with creating a massive and profitable building tower instead; same concept, different execution. While simply glancing at Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition, you may assume that it’s a simple copy of Sim Tower, but you’d be wrong. Sure, same premise, but there’s incredibly deep and challenging mechanics buried within that I didn't expect.

Do you want to construct a massive skyscraper that would make building in Dubai jealous? How about a massive apartment building, a casino, mall or even a hotel? The choice is yours, but it won’t be a quick or easy path. Not only do you have to contend with simply creating the infrastructure like water, gas, electricity, HVAC, phone lines and more, but you’ve also got to do so on a strict budget, slowly growing your building to become more and more famous and popular to entice more people to frequent.

While building a city is grander in scale, don’t let the thought of only having to design and plan for a single building will be easy, because it isn’t. The layers of complexity luckily are unveiled in small chunks, starting with a handful of tutorials to learn the basics, and luckily, the largest and grand creations you can include are locked behind a progression system, forcing you to grow your highrise naturally and at a slow pace. Sure, you could jump into the unlimited money mode (which disables achievements), but I found the most enjoyment came from being able to grow and budget accordingly myself, complete with restrictions.

Previously released on PC, the console Architect’s Edition includes the original game plus all of the DLC that was released post launch. The DLC’s are as follows: Las Vegas, Tokyo Towers, Miami Malls, London Life and Brilliant Berlin. Each of the packs are obviously themed after their real world counterparts, adding their own backdrops, items, shops, styles and more. It’s a lot of added content, so there’s plenty for you to delve into and start to figure out how you want to build.

Inspiration no doubt derives from Sim Tower, but there’s a ton of depth within Project Highrise, almost overwhelmingly so. Not only do you have to build your skyscraper and fill it with tenants, each tenant will have different wants and needs that can alter how you build the rest of your monstrosity. For example, if you rent to a lot of businesses and law firms, they may require a water bottle service, fax room, couriers or more. Certain people may not even move into the large upscale apartments until you have a wide variety of food and restaurants available as well. There’s always some sort of prerequisite for nearly every action, and it’s the planning ahead of time that will save you in the long run.

Luckily you’re able to control time here. Pause time whenever you wish if you want to get some things built, or simply want to step back and plan out how you want to proceed, or even fast forward time in double speed, hurrying along the building process or rent collection. If people are starting to get upset and move out, you’re best to pause time, figure it out, and fix it, before resuming, or else you risk losing even more tenants and visitors.

If you wish to simply jump in and play, you’re able to do so, choosing the backdrop and a few other options. There’s no real direction here, simply letting you build and design however you like in a sandbox. For those that want a little more direction, Scenarios are where you’ll want to start out. Here you’re tasked with very specific objectives, such as reaching a certain population or popularity before unlocking the next scenario. Others will be much more specific and the needs to be met, each having its own unique challenges, budgets and more. With nearly 30 different challenges, there’s tons of content to try, though I do wish they weren’t progression locked, as I eventually hit a brick wall for difficulty (and my patience).

Luckily, not every option if available to you at the start for items, art, designs and more. This is because they are gated behind your progress relating to popularity and reputation. The better you do, the more options will open up to you, allowing you to thus bring in more crowds. Some of the end-game options become very complicated and advanced, especially if you’re going to go the casino, mall or hotel route with multi-level lobbies, escalators, parking garages and more.

It took me a few hours to figure out that you want to progress at a slow and steady pace. I kept trying to build as much as I can, as fast as I could, and I kept running into money issues. Expand at a steady pace, learn what your tenants want and how to do so efficiently and you’ll become a great mogul in no time. Sometimes cutting someone’s rent in half is the cheaper option, rather than having them move out and trying to find another tenant to take its place with different needs.

I for one need all of my floors perfectly organized; stairs in one area, elevators in another, certain floors of apartments, another for business, etc. What irked me was that there was no simple way to move or swap rooms that have already been built and moved into. You can shuffle them around if there’s empty room, but it’s a bit convoluted to do so, and my OCD was kicking in when I accidentally rented an apartment on my business floor.

Gameplay is slow and steady, very menu heavy and strategic. Some won’t like the monotony of the gameplay, or having to figure out why one floor suddenly wants a cable TV line installed, but if you can delve into the mechanics and menus and solve tenant issues, there’s some rewards to be had. Sure at times it feels a bit of a grind, but when you start hitting that stride with rent coming in, in the positive, you'll want to expand bigger and better.

I’ve always loved my Sim games, and I’m glad that I can add Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition to that list. The complexity within is quite astounding, as even after a handful of hours of tower building in, I’m still learning and figuring out how to be a successful landlord. While I don’t find it as addictive as some of the more classic Sim games, the enjoyment and replayability is here without a doubt. Even if you don’t want to get hardcore into the building strategy side of the menus, casual fans too can build some low rise apartments or malls should they desire.

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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