Top Critic Average
Urban Empire's premise of focusing on the political tumult that's usually behind city planning is a good one, and the emphasis on four families allows for some lightweight roleplay in how you guide your city to greatness. Unfortunately, the personal approach tends to stumble as each game more or less plays out like the last, and the constant juggle of votes makes for an experience that's more exasperating than exciting.
Urban Empire is a dense city-building simulation with a twist. It focuses not just on zoning and taxes, but also on building your own political dynasty.
By sticking on a rigidly deterministic (and, thus, politically questionable, however well-intentioned) reading of two centuries of European history, Urban Empire fails to tap either of those joys, revealing its incessant march towards the present is not an ongoing process actively shaped by individual players, but a foregone conclusion simply waiting to be ushered in.
Urban Empire aims to offer an interesting mix of political intrigue with city-building creativity and management. However, it doesn't give anywhere near enough information or allow enough freedom to make it as compelling as the idea could have been.
Urban Empire's focus on politics and invention through history provides an interesting take on the genre, although it can get a tad repetitive in the later parts of the game.
Urban Empire takes from kind of titles, like Cities: Skyline, Civilization, Democracy and Crusader Kings, but its interpretation of the city building games is not completely successful.
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Overall, Urban Empire is a solid outing for Kalypso and has a nice blend of city building and political management that players of the genre should find interesting. It has flaws but its new perspective on an old formula is something that can be explored further in the future.
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The stronger Scenarios can't rescue Urban Empire from being disappointingly average however. A few quality of life tweaks here and there could have achieved a great deal in making Urban Empire a more engaging experience. With little noticeable cause and effect you're stuck prodding buttons until you hopefully stumble on solution, which sadly flies in the face of strategy as we know it.
For now, I would strongly recommend this game for those that enjoyed Cities: Skylines and other similar simulators such as Tropico. For the almost £30 asking price however? You are better off getting Cities: Skylines if you wish to simply focus on a producing a productive and interactive city. In a few more patches this game could be something great.