A featured image for Project Highrise

Preview – Project Highrise

One of my very earliest PC gaming memories is playing Sim Tower at my mate’s house, way back in the heady days of 1994. My nine-year-old self was captivated, watching the little computer people going about their lives, and it opened my mind to the possibilities of PC gaming beyond the consoles I’d played at home.

Since then, the skyscraper simulator has been a sadly neglected genre – but that’s set to change with Project Highrise. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent a few hours with a preview build, provided to DarkZero by publisher Kasedo Games and developer SomaSim.

An established building in Project Highrise

Project Highrise lets you build the skyscraper of your dreams – then run it into the ground

Anyone familiar with Maxis’ tower-building classic will find themselves immediately at home with Project Highrise – not that it’s terribly difficult to get to grips for newcomers. You’re presented with a side-on view of your humble tower, just one storey high and a shell inside, and are tasked with assigning offices, shops and apartments, finding tenants to get that rent rolling in, and – of course – building ever-higher to cram more of them in.

But as the developer’s blurb states, a skyscraper is more than just steel and glass: it’s an intricate ecosystem. And as the building’s chief architect, it’s your job to make sure that your tenants are happy and manage the building’s infrastructure. I’m not so sure that this is an accurate depiction of an actual architect’s job description – but it certainly makes for a well-balanced games.

Office tenants will need photocopying, courier services and the like – as well as places to have lunch. Restaurants themselves thrive in areas of high footfall, even shutting down if business is terrible. As for residents, occupants of cheaper apartments will put up with a lot in the way of noise and smell from your facilities and other tenants – but if you want to make serious money from fancier flats, you’ll need to place them wisely.

Night time in Project Highrise

A day-night cycle drives the game’s rhythms – and it’s great to see your tenants come and go

It all adds up to a fairly challenging juggling act, and combined with the maintenance of your tower’s infrastructure – lifts, plumbing and electrics to name a few – there’s always something calling for your attention.

The game’s scheduled for release in September, but it’s already looking fairly polished. There are full in-game tutorials, which are delivered with character and humour – a little touch that really helps to ease you into the various mechanics. The cell-shaded art style isn’t flashy, but it’s detailed and clear. That said, I did find myself wishing for a little more colour at times.

It’s too early to tell whether or not its constant balancing act has staying power, and I’d love to have seen more of the tutorial’s character and flavour come through in the game proper. But aside from these minor reservations, Project Highrise is shaping up rather nicely. It’s not without a few minor bugs and rough edges in the interface – but more importantly, it’s already a lot of fun to play.