Kalypso has already conquered island nations with Tropico, a series of city building and management games. Now they've set their sights on Europe, where upcoming PC simulation game Urban Empire will allow players to build a city and manage its political machinations over time.
Creating a dynasty
Although Urban Empire shares some similarities with Tropico 5, this one comes from a different developer: Finland-based Reborn Interactive. Urban Empire is a city building game in the vein of Cities: Skylines or Sim City. Don't confuse it with basic free-to-play mobile city builders. Reborn and Kalypso are creating a serious (but approachable) simulation game that won't suffer from an abundance of in-app purchases.
One of the key differences between Urban Empire and other city-building simulation games is that this one has a strong political component. You don't play as god; instead you're the mayor, beholden to the people and the emperor of Swarelia.
The campaign actually begins in the 1820s during the Industrial Revolution, although players can choose to start during later eras as well. You'll select from four distinct characters, each the leader of his or her family dynasty. They all have unique stats that affect how they will deal with their citizens and competing political parties. For example, one family favors traditional, old-fashioned values and resists technological and social advances. Others favor working class citizens, inventions, etc.
The game starts out in the 19th century but will eventually move into the present day. As time passes, your leader will be replaced by his or her successor – each family has a total of five mayors who will rule over the course of the game. Successors have their own personalities as well. Some will stay close to the founder's values, whereas others prove more individualistic.
Having named your new city, you'll build the city's first district. The building process has been streamlined so that you don't usually place individual buildings and infrastructure components. Rather, players select from different grid layouts with varying densities of residential and commercial buildings.
Pick a layout, click and drag to create the shape of the district, make sure it's connected to a road, and the game will automatically fill in all of the buildings and infrastructure for you. You'll still be able to place individual important buildings like universities later on, once research, funding, and the city council permit. Each district also has several stats to observe and maintain, including population, traffic, employment, happiness, and more.
Power over the people
Just as important as the game's building component is its political component. In Urban Empire's world, there are five political parties vying for control of the city. Much of the player's interaction with them will take place in the city council building. You view the council from a first-person perspective, with members of the five parties seated throughout the hall.
All the major decisions you make must be put to a vote before the council. For example, if your city is spending more money than it brings in, you'll need to raise taxes. You can choose how much to raise residential taxes and business taxes. The various political parties will feel differently about your choices, so the tax increase might get struck down if a consensus can't be reached. Of course players can try to curry favor with specific parties by taking them to dinner, agreeing to their proposals, and more.
The game's event system also brings opportunities for political power. There are over 800 dynamic events that take place during historically appropriate eras. For example, the issues of child labor or women's suffrage may come to a vote. You can vote with your heart or choose based on your current political needs. Gotta keep the parties happy!
The only way to lose in Urban Empire is to be voted out of office. But there are also five ways to beat the game:
- Science Victory (Establish a Science Center)
- Economic Victory (establish a Stock Market)
- Political Victory (have average Happiness at 'superb')
- Remarkable City Victory (have a movie made about your City)
- End of Time Victory (stay in power beyond the year 2020)
The early version of Urban Empire that we saw looked very promising. The city building portions seem quite intuitive, whereas the political system and voting mechanics have a fair amount of depth.
Urban Empire is scheduled to launch on Steam on January 20, 2017. Preorders get a 15 percent discount and an exclusive DLC pack with seven buildings from pre-1820s times.