Urban Empire is a game that promises to combine a great city builder with deep political roots. Does it stand up to its claims or bury itself in the ground? Let’s find out:
Author: Abhigyan (BANNED from SoQ)
Developer: Reborn Games
Publisher: Kalypso Media Digital
Release date: 20th of January, 2017
Urban Empire is a game which tells you about the game that it was meant to be, not the one it actually is right now. A game with good city building mechanics like Cities: Skylines and having deep political mechanics like Crusader Kings II has been a dream game for many of us. To some extent, Urban Empire is a showcase of such a game. It starts off with style and intrigue. You choose one of the four races that are going to rule the city. All four of them are given proper backdrop and their lore differentiates them from one another perfectly. One might be a dictator type civ that believes in forcing rules on people to run the city peacefully while another is one that excels at communicating with people but is relatively new in politics and does not have much clue what is going on. These strengths and weaknesses of the four races help you get invested in the start of Urban Empire. After selecting one of these races, you can choose who is going to be the leader of the family and who are you going to play as. Till this point, Urban Empire makes you care about these factions and their leaders but it starts to falter when it comes to actual city building.
What we enjoyed about 2015’s Cities: Skylines and city builders of such quality are non existent here. Building and managing your cities is confined to some very simple mechanics . You place a district on the map, manage the cost it takes to maintain the district and bam you’re done. There is little to no customization about this aspect of the game, a thing which sticks out as an open wound. The cash flow you get for building these districts is pretty nice and you don’t need to worry about running out of cash until late into game when industrial revolution and such comes into play. The cities you build do not feel like actual cities which you built but more like cities which were made by themselves when you placed the order. No management of roads or actual in depth city building is present here.
What is the saving grace of the game and more or less the selling point is the political system. It is far deeper than the city building mechanics and offers some challenge. As you move further in the game, factions start to split up and cause mayhem. You can select how your successor is raised and how they control the dynasty in the next era. It is not without its faults though. While the political system offers challenge and inserts some character in its dynasties, it is way too repetitive. You cannot expect to replay the game and see drastic changes from your first playthrough. Political parties more or less behave the same and do not offer anything different. You don’t want to pay the price for a retail game and then expect such short replayability from a game of a genre which is known for its replayable games. There are also some really long sections in the game where it feels like a monotonous affair without much achievement. The tutorial present in Urban Empire is also very short and does not introduce you to some of the major mechanics in the game. While Urban Empire has an interesting political system, just do not expect it to be on par with games like Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis. A lot of bugs and crashes also dampen the experience of the game. It constantly crashes to desktop or back to menu which deletes your progress constantly and makes it a frustrating experience.
Urban Empire impresses with its visuals. From the get go, you are introduced to a clean UI in the main menu. The faction logos and leaders are represented really well visually and shine throughout the game. The cities are dense and full of small details. They look good and are vibrant in nature. Colours pop out at you while you build and manage cities and the events, while plenty, never clutter up the screen to provide a pleasant gaming experience.
One Word: Excellent. What Urban Empire doesn’t show in its gameplay, it shows it in its sound design. From the ambient and epic soundtrack to the tense build up in the courts, Urban Empire provides solid sound design which complements its visual design very well.
Urban Empire promises much and falls flat. From the bland city building aspect to the somewhat interesting but ultimately repetitive political system, Urban Empire never reaches up to the hype it creates for itself. If it was a game which was released for a cheaper price and less promises, I would’ve recommended trying it. But at a price like this, I expect more from a game. It needs polish and deeper systems. I would recommend getting this game in a sale where you can test it out for yourself but not in its current state.
Intriguing political mechanics
Solid visuals and sound design
Repetitive in nature
Plenty of bugs
(click on the image to see the rating explanation)