At first glance, Urban Empire looks just like another city-building game. And while it has all of the elements of those games, it distinguishes itself with a game mechanic I haven’t seen before – politics.
At the start of the demo, the developer said their short description of the game is “Civilization meets House of Cards.” Basically what you’re doing is building and governing a city as it grows from the time of the Industrial Revolution all the way into the year 2020. The first thing you do is select a family to play as. When selecting them, you can see what their political leanings might be and look at the line of succession in the family. Once you’ve got your family in place, you can start building.
The early parts of building the city are pretty much what you’d expect them to be. In Urban Empire you build “Districts.” These can vary in shape and size. Your first district is basically the founding of your city. It’s the only district you’ll be able to build without approval from your citizens, and this is where the politics come in. After founding the town, all of your actions, including new districts, taxes, and other things like funding schools and other services will have to be voted on and approved by the city council.
There are three political parties in the council. One is liberal, one is conservative and the other is independent. As you propose legislation, you’ll start to get a feel for how each of the parties feels about you. You’ll quickly learn that navigating the waters of the politics is pretty hard. In order to get certain propositions passed, you may have schmooze parties who aren’t likely to vote in your favor. If you don’t like this approach, you can simply choose to govern with an iron fist.
As I started to dig down into the mechanics of the game, I was surprised at the amount of depth that was there. I almost didn’t want to step away from the game even though I was hungry and it was time for lunch. It had the same effect on me as a Civilization game, where I would start playing at noon and wouldn’t realize how long I had been playing except by seeing the sun go down.
Urban Empire is slated for release on PC in early 2017.