Review – Highrise City

Highrise City was unveiled by Deck13 (already a good sign of having gone through some sort of quality curation) as a deeper, more complex take on city builders, the genre still trying to linger after the death of Sim City and the eternal wait for Cities 2. After playing a lot of simplified or arcade-like takes on the genre, I was ready for something that was supposed to be meatier, something more akin to the void left by Sim City 4 way back in the beginning of the century.

Highrise City land plots

You start off with a ridiculously small plot of land, but you are able to purchase more terrains further down the line.

Things looked promising from the start. Highrise City boasted some impressive lighting effects, and the terrains available for me to start plotting my new metropolis were actually based on real-life locales, such as Cape Town, Vancouver, and New York City. I then decided to undergo its small tutorial, and this is when all hype and hope quickly turned into confusion and disappointment.

First thing you have to do is build a power plant and a water tower. Sure thing, every other game tells you to do the same. Next thing, create a power distribution center. Unusual, since most games skip this in favor of practicality or just wires, but sure, let’s go with that. The distribution radius felt a bit small, but the starting area you are given to play with is also very small (you are expected to develop a small chunk at a time and then buy additional plots of land to continue your expansion), so I didn’t mind that a lot. The next task was to create factories based on the resources available in the vicinity… and that made me feel a bit worried.

Highrise City quarry

Don’t mind the quarry built right in the middle of our beautiful town…

Creating factories to process overworld resources is an innovative take on city builders, but that’s something I’d rather see in a survival RTS, like Gord, for instance, as the availability and posititoning of said resources directly affects and hampers your overall city planning. Imagine if your bauxite mine is located right in the middle of your map; you’re absolutely screwed. Worse… imagine if you spawn at a map with no resources. Your only choice will to then create farms, as those do not require anything but immense plots of land. But then there goes your entire neighborhood’s building planning. You’ll be running a rural boondock of a village.

You also have to create and manage logistics lines, such as ensuring that products that come from your farms reach your local supermarket. I like the idea in concept, but this became a hassle in an instant. What was supposed to be a city builder ended up becoming a logistics simulator, and as someone who had previously worked in the ungrateful hellscape that is the logistics business, I really did not have fun doing so.

Highrise City logistics

Hooray… logistics…

Furthermore, constructing other sectors of your city feels a bit confusing. Instead of separating your residential/commercial zones by their density, Highrise City separates them by income. You have to make houses for employees, engineers, bosses, etc. The problem is that the game does a terrible job at explaining which buildings need which kinds of employees, resulting in widespread unemployment in certain areas and not enough workforce in others. To top it off, the amount of additional buildings, be them services or leisure ones, is actually quite sparse. There isn’t a lot of variety in display. Sure, modders can and will be able to add more buildings to Highrise City, but as of now, the game feels a bit bare bones.

What I can say about it in a very positive light is that the foundations are decent, and technically-speaking, the game is impressive. Loading times were small, and the framerate was stable even with a sizeable city, and with DLSS options turned off. Yep, an independent game like this one also features DLSS support, which was also a neat little surprise. The sound department was also decent enough, both in terms of music and voice acting. It’s not going to annoy you, but it’s not going to impress you at all, either.

Highrise City issues

Get ready to see a lot of those icons, just to remind you of your terrible mayor-ing skills.

This ain’t it. There are good ideas in Highrise City, but the game is just plastered with nuisances that result in it not being as relaxing or accessible as other city builders. It is too deep in its logistic mechanics, almost to a fault. The beginning of each new save is also painfully slow, poorly explained, and convoluted, meaning that this game also lacks the “pick up and play” aspect seen in Sim City or Cities. It tried, and I respect that, but it needs an extra phase of fixes before I can call it a city builder worth hanging out with the other big boys.


Graphics: 7.0

The graphics are good, but not spectacular. The game manages to retain a pretty good framerate, even when the city is packed with buildings.

Gameplay: 6.0

A lot of convoluted, logistic-based mechanics hamper what could (and should) have been a deep, but straightforward city building experience.

Sound: 6.5

Serene music and some voice acting. It’s not going to annoy you, but it’s not going to impress you at all, either.

Fun Factor: 5.5

It sells itself as a deep city builder, but it is too focused on logistics to let you have fun with your crazy city planning ideas. It is also packed with unnecessary options in some areas, and shallow in content in others. An unbalanced experience that demands a lot of attention from the player, and not exactly a simple pastime or “pick up and play” experience.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Highrise City is available now on PC.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB..

A copy of Highrise City was provided by the publisher.