Highrise City PC Review

Highrise City plays things safe and doesn’t rock the boat.

By Fragnarok, Posted 05 Sep 2023

Fourexo Entertainment has not yet released any other games publicly. Their online footprint is rather sparse, lacking even an official website. Outside of being German-based, details about the studio aren’t very clear. Are they experienced veterans or simply fans with a passion for city simulators? 

Thankfully, they are partnered with publisher Deck13 Interactive. The latter has helped to produce action games like The Surge 2, Lords of the Fallen, and, most recently, Atlas Fallen. Oddly, Deck 13 Interactive tends to rely on other publishers, so their directly backing Highrise City is a surprising first.

Highrise City|Deck13 Interactive|Fourexo Entertainment

At first glance, Highrise City is going to be directly compared to the ever-popular Cities Skylines. Both are city simulators that allow a lot of freedom in design and creativity. The former was designed as a spiritual alternative to the ailing SimCity franchise. In turn, Highrise City seems to be building off the foundation of Cities Skylines but not changing the formula too drastically.

From the start, you are able to select from several maps modeled after real-world locations. This currently includes New York City, Rio De Janeiro, Naples, Cape Town, and Vancouver. Hong Kong is set to be added at a later date. There is also an oddly named “Sandbox” map, which is situated in northern Europe. Story-wise, it seems to be some kind of forgotten region that humanity has recently uncovered.

Each map has a different resource yield ranging from wood, gems, gold, and iron. It is also clear that every map is a coastal region. This is because water and fish play a key role in Highrise City’s economy and gameplay. However, it is surprising that lakes or rivers could not be used in a similar fashion. If this requirement is further enforced, it could possibly mean that fully inland maps - including deserts and mountain ranges - will never be added.

An odd feature of the world is that despite these being existing cities, you are freely able to rename any location. In fact, the default name for any new settlement is always “Nieuw Amsterdam”, and every automatic suggestion is an unrelated real city. This could include putting Ho Chi Minh in Africa, Philadelphia in Asia, or Havana up in Canada.

Highrise City|Deck13 Interactive|Fourexo Entertainment

Before jumping into the map, you are also given the choice of picking a difficulty setting that helps determine trading costs, starting money, and research. You can also customize all of these features, creating a granular difficulty bar. There is also an option to play sandbox mode, where money and resources are infinite. For some reason, hard mode is grayed out as an individual selection but becomes accessible after backing out of a custom game. This might just be to stop brand-new players from getting in over their heads.

Highrise City offers a tutorial prompt that is highly recommended for newcomers to the genre. Oddly, this is not a bound scenario. Instead, it is much more of a manual independent of your actual actions. There are no confirmations or checks, and it is up to you to decide if you understand the lesson. The tutorial’s advice is usually to move on when you are satisfied with the outcome.

Because resources are not frozen, it is actually possible to soft-lock the tutorial mid-way through. At one point, you may be asked to build up a farm but could have used all of your wood, making too many hospitals or apartments. It is only a later part of the tutorial - after such a roadblock - that fixing the problem is explained. To avoid such situations, there needs to be a dedicated tutorial mode like the ones found in other simulators like Railway Empire 2.

Highrise City is road-dependent for all construction. No other building type or plan can be made until at least one street is built out. The next step is to build out housing so that the population has a place to live. This is soon followed by utilities like electricity, water, and garbage pickup. The electrical grid functions throughout the entire region, but water needs to flow correctly with pipes, and garbage is picked up and moved according to roads.

Highrise City|Deck13 Interactive|Fourexo Entertainment

An oddity that arises is that the water distribution center can suddenly jump to the most recent tower constructed rather than remaining centralized. This means if an industry is made in a far-off corner of the map, it could suddenly sap all of the water from an already existing neighborhood. It would make much more sense for that new remote location to be disconnected rather than stealing the entire grid.

After utilities are made, various forms of food will need to be procured. The initial options include farming and fishing. Farming requires strict zoning inside an enclosed road system - you cannot intermix farmland with residential or other commercial businesses. Fisheries require being close to the open sea to function. With a limited starting map size, it can be extremely important to plan ahead or be screwed over in later in-game months.

Thankfully, you can eventually purchase additional land in the surrounding area. This does allow a bit more freedom to expand an existing neighborhood or not be fully locked out, making a new zone. Each new square of territory can cost a sizeable amount of money. The new land also has specific resource output, which can help the city produce goods faster or cheaper.

There isn’t much guidance or events in Highrise City. You are presented with milestones, which can unlock new research and types of materials. But outside of that, most of the game is just a confined sandbox. There is no connection to the citizens, and they are just random statistics. The only semi-character is the narrator, but half of his spoken lines are a mismatch with the written text. The narrator can also talk over himself if multiple prompts appear at once.

Highrise City|Deck13 Interactive|Fourexo Entertainment

A semi-hidden feature is the ability to drive through the city. By pressing the F key, a white pickup truck is spawned that can go anywhere within the region’s zone. The vehicle reaches max speeds quickly and has overly floaty handling. However, there is no collision at all. You are free to drive straight through traffic, buildings, and people. For now, this seems to mostly be for leisure strolls but could be expanded into a standalone mode or greater focus.  

Highrise City has several bizarre interface choices. There is rarely an actual confirmation or need to double-click. If a building or zone is accidentally placed, all of its resources will be spent. There is a demolish button to undo mistakes, but in normal mode, there is no refund. Even on easy, only half of the resources are refunded, and on hard, you even have to pay to deconstruct. These restrictions are just punishing and stifle creative choices.

Another oversight is that laying down building plans does not create an actual blueprint. Instead, buildings are slowly constructed based on current in-game speed. If you play in a slower setting, it can seem as if the map is completely blank. It feels like Fourexo Entertainment is really encouraging everyone to play the game always at max speed.

The music and sound design of Highrise City is mediocre and unmemorable. Nothing stands out as enjoyable, nor does it ever become irritating or unpleasant. Most of the musical tracks feel like they were lifted from a music library or asset database. If these are original compositions, there is nothing to make them stand out as the game’s theme or mood.

Highrise City|Deck13 Interactive|Fourexo Entertainment 

Graphically, Highrise City looks fair but not outstanding. On both high and epic settings, the lighting and object quality look good. Lowering the settings to medium or low quality turns things more blurry and jagged. During actual gameplay, a stable 60 FPS is common. However, load screens and menus can sometimes glitch. While outright crashing is rare, the game can hard lock when placing down new buildings, requiring a forced quit and loss of saved data.

Fourexo Entertainment has a roadmap for additional features that may be coming to the game. This does seem to be a bit out of date and vague. For instance, it states that Hong Kong should have already been available as part of early access. The roadmap is mostly filled with headlines like “Secret feature only NASA will understand”, and then no description of what anything is. While more features could arrive after the retail release, there is also the risk that development could be abandoned at any time.

It is still unclear what Highrise City has to offer over other city simulation games. It mostly does things the same as other titles and doesn’t do much to differentiate itself. It might have been more fetching if it had been released a few years ago. Unfortunately, it is set to leave early access only a month before Cities Skylines 2. Both long-time simulation veterans and completely green players are better off waiting for that competitor. Highrise City seems to appeal to the remaining few who really need something to whet their appetite in that short meantime.

Kurtis Seid (@KurtisSeid)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Highrise City


Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Deck13 Interactive
Developer(s): Fourexo Entertainment
Genres: Simulation
Themes: City Planning, Economic, Resource Management, Real World
Release Date: 2023-09-04

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