Review: How Does Project Highrise Rate in 2017?

 

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This review is for Project Highrise plus the available DLC (Las Vegas, Miami Malls and Tokyo Towers). I purchased this game as a bundle on a Steam sale which included the available DLC and the base game Project Highrise.

Initial Observations

Contrary to what I have read, Project Highrise in my opinion is not much like the old 1990’s Sim Tower.  Yes, you can build a tall building and yes there are animated people walking around and yes there are offices, hotels, restaurants and apartments but for me that is as close as those two games get to being the same.  I consider Project Highrise more in line with a city builder such as Cities Skylines because of the required planning and management aspects to it.

Tutorials are Helpful

For me there has been a slight learning curve to discovering the game’s mechanics.  The included tutorials are extremely helpful although they only scratch the surface for how the game operates.  Playing with unlimited resources I found has given me the best experience and the most fun in learning the game.

DLC Adds Variety to Game

As of this writing, I have not played Project Highrise (PH) without the DLC but as far as I can tell, the added DLC (Las Vegas, Miami Malls, and Tokyo Towers) are welcome (essential?) additions in making PH an enjoyable experience. The DLC gives the game depth and variety with its added hotel building expansion which includes casinos, stores, art galleries, event venues, in addition to apartments, office and multi-level lobbies. Who doesn’t want to add stores, hotels, casinos and event venues to their tower?  Get it all with a Steam sale and you can’t go wrong.

Additional note about DLC (Las Vegas, Miami Malls and Tokyo Towers):  As catchy or flashy as the DLC titles may sound, their function is simply generic in the game.  What I mean is the Las Vegas DLC adds generic hotels, casinos, and event venues as options to PH (all things one might see in Las Vegas). The Miami Malls expansion adds generic mall related spaces such as mall security, demo booths, or a mall directory with a variety of stores to choose from. Tokyo Towers adds a generic Japanese flare to apartments, art, and lobbies within the game.

Choose the kind of buildings you wish to create

In Project Highrise you get to choose the direction you want to take your building beside just up, whether it be by adding hotels, apartments, stores, businesses or a combination of all of these (must have the DLC).  It’s up to you (mostly) because you get to choose the types of tenants who will make up your tower. (This is different from Sim Tower where in that game I believe the specific types of food eateries, restaurants and establishments were randomly chosen for you.) PH gives you much greater control and variety in who will move into your building. (A pizza place or a Mexican restaurant? A pet store or an electronics store? You get to decide from a list of choices.)  Again, this is why I highly recommend the additional DLC.

Graphics and Sound

Both the graphics and sound of PH are decent but are nothing earth shattering. The game could do more with additional animations and sound effects which would add a little more vibrancy to the game.

Unlimited Money and Resources Game-play Option

In the main menu, there is an unlimited money feature which allows for more creative and faster building from the start. In my opinion, this feature alone makes the game worth a purchase.  However, it’s important to note that even with the unlimited money and resources option enabled, not all in-game building options will be available at the start (although plenty will be). This applies to things like 2 floor apartments, large luxury apartments, large hotel suites, casinos, large offices, metro transit, etc. (See Your Tenants can be needy people below.)

Not to fret though because having the extra money, prestige, buzz, and influence available are also important for greater possibilities to growing your building faster, bringing in consultants, fulfilling contracts and opening up a variety of future tenants.

Depth of Gameplay

Consultants are an essential part of PH and add an enormous amount of depth to the game.  With influence the player can add consultant offices which in turn will open up more available options for constructing the perfect building.  There are four types of consultant offices and tracks to choose from: Aesthetics, Politics, Operations and Tourism. Aesthetics pertain to art, sculptures and galleries in your building and also to its general appearance.  Politics consultants lift some limitations and codes on building heights and will allow for public transportation.  Operations pertain to the inner workings and maintenance of your building such as the number of workers available and the speed at which they build. The Tourism consultants open up the building to allow event venues, hotels and the construction of casinos.

Buzz allows for campaigns or ad’s to be placed to bring in more people to your tower, lower the costs of building materials or improve the overall moral of office workers among other things.

Prestige stars reflect the level of the good in your building and the happiness (or sadness) of your tenants and visitors. You gain and lose prestige stars by forming various actions in game or allocating space for specific tenants.  Unhappy tenants and other factors can lower your Prestige level (the number of stars you have).

Optional Contracts

Project Highrise features optional contracts which are basically a checklist of goals and achievements you can obtain depending on the particular deal or contract you sign. For example, one contract might be to bring in a specific number of people into your tower (grow your population). There is no time limit to complete this task and when your tower reaches that number in population as specified in the contract, you will receive a cash reward for completing the contract.  Note: Fulfilling contracts help build your wealth faster especially if you are not playing with unlimited resources

Your Tenants can be needy people

Tenants who you might wish to occupy a space in your tower will have needs or requirements that must be met before they can be placed in your building. Some have few needs like electricity and water while others have many.

This is very important in understanding who can move in immediately and who will have to wait. For example, a luxury two-bedroom apartment might need special cleaning services, handyman services, trash pick-up and more variety of restaurants and cafes  placed in your building before a luxury apartment can be placed in your building. IMO the necessity to check these needs of prospective tenants adds a great deal of depth to the game-play.  For some players, meeting these needs might become frustrating but for me it added an awesome element of realism and depth to the game.

Prestige stars are also necessary in order to bring in specific tenants.

A little bit like SimCity or Cities Skylines

Offices, stores, apartments, hotel rooms and other selected tenants need electricity to run and be happy.  Some of these tenants also need water, a phone line, cable TV or Air Conditioning (hotels). Therefore as you might guess, planning and setting up your buildings infrastructure is important in Project Highrise.

Unlike Sim Tower, elevators in PH do not need to be monitored for capacity and usage times.  However, their location does matter depending on what type of tenant you choose to locate nearby.  Some businesses or apartments for example may not be happy if placed next to the elevators.

In addition, smells, noise levels etc, must be monitored to keep your tower dwellers happy.

Lots of Space

One awesome thing I love about Project Highrise is the amount of space you have available to build your tower or towers.  The player is actually given a few options in the main menu. There is Standard, Narrow, Short and Wide or Extra Large.  I found the Extra Large option to be a wonderful amount of space to build a huge (or spread-out) tower or even multiple ones! Of course, if you choose the smaller play areas (which aren’t that small at all), the option to expand your building opens up with a building permit which you can obtain by adding influence and the proper consultant offices!

Room for improvement

Like many games which are good, Project Highrise also has room for improvement.

Poor in-game music

PH lacks music options during game-play. In fact there is only soundtrack available and IMO was a poor choice for this game. Unless you enjoy repetitive elevator music, you may agree.  However, allowing a music style selector (or mod) available would greatly enhance the music options. Fortunately, the music can be turned off completely.

More animations and visuals to enhance the game quality

The current animations and sound effects in the game are fine but having additional animations, visuals and sound effects would further enhance the game’s overall quality, likeability and charm.  For example in the pet store, it would be wonderful if the cat and dog moved and we saw people actually purchase items from the stores or sit down and eat at the restaurants rather than just stand or walk through them. (Yes, there is a very large hamburger that appears on the tables but I didn’t always see anybody eating them.)

Store names don’t always match the in-game graphical representation

Now I realize this is a game and not to be taken too seriously but I still noticed when the model train store had dolls in it instead of expected model trains and that some restaurants look eerily similar.

Why not display all tenant needs and requirements from the categories menu?

The game could do better job at how it displays the requirements and needs for tenants in general. Currently (as far as I can tell) the player must first allocate tenant space (at no cost) in order to view the needs of that prospective tenant only to find you need to delete that space because your tower doesn’t yet fulfill those requirements.  There should be a way of displaying the needs of tenants from the categories or selection menu before anything is placed in the building. While it doesn’t cost anything to allocate the space, it is an unnecessary extra step the developers might want to consider eliminating to make the game-play less tedious.

A faster third speed would be nice

Waiting for things to develop can be a looonnng wait.  The current speeds available are normal and fast.  Sometimes fast isn’t quite fast enough.

Escalators and Parking Spaces

Wish there were escalators and parking spaces.  Some two story malls stores include an escalator already but it would great to be able to add one in addition to the elevators and stairs.  Where are the parking spaces for cars to park?  This little nugget was part of Sim Tower and I miss it.

A big picture view

When your tower gets big sometimes it can be difficult to spot what is making someone upset in your building and it can be especially tedious to search for specific tenants or that elusive recycling bin or eatery to check its stats.  Having a view available which displays all tenants located in your building each broken into categories with specific stats, might go a long way to making them easier to find especially when something goes wrong.

My Rating of Project Highrise

Overall, I would highly recommend this game especially if you enjoy city builders and a Sim Tower style game.  My nine-year-old daughter can also attest to the fun factor this game provides.

Get the game plus DLC in a bundle on a Steam sale for $10-$15 and it’s a great deal.

At the 10 dollar price point, my rating for Project Highrise (with DLC) is 4 stars (out of 5)

Have you played Project Highrise? Did you like it? Dislike it? Let me know what you think of the game in the comments below.


Project Highrise on Steam

Project Highrise Bundle Steam

Simcity 5 in 2017

Raising the Bar in Gaming

Police 10-13

What’s so great about Cities Skylines?

FullyFreeFilms.com

 


Image source is my own in game screen capture

 

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It’s Now 2017: What SimCity 5 (2013) Could Have Been

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SimCity 5 – What it could have (and should) have been

I enjoy building miniature model cities on a computer and I especially enjoy the detail and charm of SimCity 5 (also known as Simcity 2013).  (For the remainder of this post I will refer to the game as Simcity 5)

For me and many other SimCity fans, Simcity 5 had a lot going for it.  Great looking graphics, cool animations, offline mode, and an overall attention to detail.  However, Simcity 5 lacked (and still lacks) one major thing:  A larger playing area (map) to build that sprawling city!   Of course one could introduce a mod (bugs and all) into the game which sort-of allows for a larger map size to build on but that’s not quite the same as having a native game that already includes large maps.

Game Creators Say No To Fans

So why did Maxis refuse to create large map sizes in order to build large cities in its game?  As far as I can tell they skirted around the issue a bit and didn’t specifically address map size but simply claimed larger cities would be difficult to play with on an older computer.

“We’ve put months of investigation into making larger city sizes, reworking the terrain maps, changing the routing algorithms of our agent-based system and altering the way that GlassBox processes the data in a larger space,” general manager Patrick Buechner explained.

“After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn’t be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn’t achieve it within the confines of the engine….”

Really?  So that’s it?  What about including options?  How hard would it have been to create at least two different map sizes, some large and some small, or even customizable maps (even DLC) that the user could choose from?   The reasoning behind Maxis’s decision to not allow larger cities doesn’t work for me.  What is clear is that they didn’t really care it’s us, the consumer and user of the game.  Now it’s 2017 where technology has grown so much that SimCity 5 with larger cities would run great on any gaming computer.  Where’s the vision Maxis or EA? Anyone?

Sadly, we may never see another American based city builder game as charming as SimCity 5 but one that allows players to build larger cities.  And yet, it needn’t be this way, when SimCity 5 was close, so very close to being that game already.


 

Simcity 5 and Cities Skylines

What’s so great about Cities Skylines?

FullyFreeFilms.com

 


Image source is my own in-game Simcity 5 screenshot

 

What’s not to like about SimCity in 2016? A look at SimCity 5 (aka SimCity 2013)

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What SimCity could have been in 2017

SimCity Complete Edition

Although the mass of dust of displeasure over the forced multiplayer online only use in order to play SimCity 5 has mostly settled,   Electronic Arts finally added single-player mode (offline mode) a year later.    And now that it’s been nearly three years since the initial release of SimCity 5, there has been a significant price drop on the complete edition of SimCity,  so I have decided to jump in to see how the latest SimCity stacks up with Cities Skylines.  Cities Skylines it should be noted has received rave reviews by many and even has been proclaimed by some the city builder SimCity should have been (Read my experience here).

Keep in mind that at the time I reviewed/experienced Cities Skylines, I did not own SimCity 5 so my comments related only to my experience with CS.  Now that I own a copy of SimCity 5 let me cut to the chase and tell you what I do like about SimCity and what I don’t like so much.    Along the way I also hope to note a few similarities and differences as it relates to Cities Skylines.

The Good

First it is important to note that I have been playing the complete edition of SimCity with included expansion pack Cities of Tomorrow along with some others (see the complete list here).   With the complete edition of SimCity in single player or offline mode, I have found the game pleasantly fun to play,  slightly challenging (especially as one gets use to the various specializations available) but the game does not involve too much micro management to still have fun and for me the graphics and sounds have been a treat for the eyes and ears alike.

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Graphics and Sound

I think graphically speaking,  SimCity looks better as a whole and the models are rendered cleaner than they are in Cities Skylines.   Out of the box the colors are certainly rich,  vibrant and more appealing in SimCity and the buildings and city models are fun to watch and hear.    To me it’s as if the player is watching a quality Disney/Pixar movie animation unfold that you get to be a part of!    The sounds in SimCity are also well done.  They are light and fun as if I was a kid playing in a toy store with bells, whistles and thematic music to top it off.  And for me the game is not filled with over-the-top repetitive or annoying sounds at least that I have discovered yet.     And with the expansion packs, a player is allowed to direct and form the kind of city he/she would like to build, whether it be amusement oriented, a gambling touristic mecca, trading hub, futuristic style, etc it’s up to him or her.   These are all reasons I love what I see so far in SimCity 5.

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My Lower End Machine Experience

Another thing I like about SimCity is how well it seems to run on my lower end machine with a not-so-great graphics card (gts 250).    Even with lower in-game graphics settings the game still renders a fantastic looking game.   In Cities Skylines with mods, it takes a toll on my lower end computer and gpu.  In CS on my computer the edges of buildings for example cannot be rendered smooth as in SimCity even with a mod to do it.

 

American Made

A final reason I like playing SimCity is….get ready for it…….drum roll please……….well, it’s American based!  I didn’t think this would be such a big deal but after playing Cities Skylines for many days and hours I noticed I was beginning to feel a little culture shock.  Weird?  yeah I think so too.   With SimCity being American made, it shows.    For me, it just looks, feels and plays like a Pixar movie complete with a fantasy style rendering of a classic American city.  And out of the box without the use of mods,  default American style buildings, vehicles and train tracks makes SimCity feel like something I might find in my backyard.    Cities Skylines even with mods, still feels European with an old-style glaze to it (I’m gonna take a wild guess here and say this is probably due to the fact Cities Skylines was made over seas and not in America).

 

The Not-So-Good

There are at least a few things I have discovered about SimCity that I do not like.   For starters, SimCity comes with small map sizes available to build on.  This can be frustrating when one just wishes to build a larger sprawling city rather than a small city that can only go up.    The map size department is where Cities Skylines got it right.   These types of large expandable maps are what SimCity needs to make it even better than it already is.   However, I will note that SimCity allows for the creation of multiple cities that connect to each other within a region.   This is a neat feature of the game because you can simply move around a region to create different cities each with its own style and specialization or you can simply create various (although small land wise) cities to try out new features.   Cities Skylines on the other hand allows the creation of one mega city in a region which can get overwhelming with the micro-management necessary to keep the city healthy.   This one reason as it sits right now, that if you want the best of both worlds you have to play both games.

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Map size in SimCity
Although SimCity now has a Single-player/offline mode which definitely should have been part of the game from the start,  I do wonder why EA decided keep us linked so closely to an Origin account.  In fact in order to play the game you must log in to an Origin account (where the game was purchased) and keep the same Origin ID as your mayor name for every city you build.   This seems silly especially if you wanted to build multiple cities in a region under a different mayor name as was the case in past SimCity games.

One other thing that SimCity lacks is great modification abilities by users (such as is the case with CS) for mods in-game such as regions, expanded maps or more roads and buildings.  I also wish the game speed was a bit slower or at least a mod was available to slow it down as is in Cities Skylines.  The mod complaints I have are only minor because if SimCity was built with larger maps or with the included option to create larger maps in the first place the game would be nearly perfect without mods.

(UPDATE:   I implied that mods were not much a part of SimCity 5 but after getting more involved with SimCity have since discovered I am wrong about that.   There ARE actually quite a few decent game changing mods that make SimCity 5 even better than the vanilla game.   Some notable mods I have found are Larger Map Sizes aka Project Orion (although a bit glitchy it still works), RCI plop mod (project Avalon) which allows all buildings available and ploppable, project Akar (more roads and new user interface), and many other game enhancements.  If you are interested about modding SimCity 5, a great modding location is Simtropolis or SkyeStorme’s site.)

So how does SimCity 5 compare to Cities Skylines?   I think it probably depends mostly on you, the game player.  Since each person is different, we like and dislike different (or similar) things about a game.  But as it stands right now, I think it’s great to be able to play and enjoy both games.  Therefore the simple fact remains, both SimCity (2013) and Cities Skylines are very different games (aside from being city builders) and are far from being the same!


What SimCity 5 could have been in 2017

SimCity (2013)

Cities Skylines

Simtropolis

SkyeStorme Mod Site

Project Akar (SimCity UI enhancement mod)

Audacity Movie

180movie


images are my own in-game screenshots