Tycoon PC game Airport CEO shows piles of potential

I have a soft spot for tycoon and management games and have lost countless hours growing towns in Cities:Skylines. If you've never heard of Airport CEO, it's a tycoon game for PCs that puts you in charge of your very own airport. Thing is, you need to start from scratch, essentially nothing more than a flat piece of land, which can be developed into a busy international hub.

The most recent updates and its continuous development is slowly transforming the game into something special, and it's all resulting in another great example of Early Access on Steam done right. It costs around $16.

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Delayed take off

Airport CEO

An older build of the game showcasing the original clunky UI.

I've spent nearly 60 hours in the game. Airport CEO is still early in the development stages, but it shows potential to become something so much more. The actual tycoon parts of the game are far from ready. In fact, it's more of a simulation than anything, but what the team has planned keeps people playing. It's true that not much content has been added over the last few months, but this is down to the team moving to new offices and focusing heavily on optimization.

Airport CEO was a glitchy, unoptimized mess. Now it runs like a dream.

Versions ago, Airport CEO was a glitchy, unoptimized mess. Now it runs like a dream in the early game with only huge airports taking a toll on system resources and losing frames per second (FPS) to the sheer number of people passing through your terminals. The team aims to continue working on performance and making it much easier on PCs at later stages, but new features are also in the works.

Airport CEO

When it comes to a new version, I usually spend a few hours to check out the changes made and then wait for future updates. And sometimes the team has packed in a lot of improvements. Take the changelog of alpha 27.8-2:

  • Re-implement basic weather effects.
  • Added new weather station graphics.
  • Added new light pole graphics.
  • Increased loan payback days slightly on all loans.
  • Enhance the display of estimated time of weather arrival in weather panel.
  • Improve aircraft node occupation movement system to avoid long waiting time for aircraft when taxiing on same path.
  • Enable in-game settings panel to show and hide with UI components disabled to improve UI performance when animating associated panels.
  • Remove dictionary looping to improve overall passenger, employee and asset (bags) list processing performance.

On top of this list are a whole host of bug fixes, as well as a few minor features added. Next, the team has promised "continued bug fixing and various improvements" and "remote stand implementation and multi-floor terminals." For a 3D game with a fixed overhead camera position, the addition of multiple floors is going to be huge. And this is but one new feature the development team took from the community.

Adding new destinations in Airport CEO

Airport CEO

Apoapsis Studios gets it right with the development of Airport CEO with the interaction the developer has with its community. Many feature requests have been submitted and voted on and the developer took the top voted requests as a guide on what to work into the game next. The most notable being the multi-floor terminals and remote stands. Then you have de-icing, catering, passport control, connecting flights, overnight stays and hubs, and more.

Regular development posts are published on the main blog, which go into detail about changes being made to the game, and multiple developers from the team can be found on the official forum communicating with fans and taking onboard feedback. Apoapsis Studios even held a design contest for the community to submit unique carrier branding and liveries, which were then added to the game.

Airport CEO

This flight overview makes it easy to glance at potential bottlenecks in your terminal design.

It's the correct way to use Early Access and is a beacon of hope in a sea of countless dud projects. If you haven't checked out Airport CEO yet but enjoy tycoon and management games, I recommend you give it a go, taking into account the alpha state, of course.

See at Steam

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.