New City-Building Game

At first glance (and for much of his tutorial) Urbek seems more ambitious than that! He is an urban planner, but you also have to set up farms, cut down trees, extract coal and build factories, which, I know, seems like a lot if you care about the usual things (building houses and roads), but it turns out that the real experience is much colder.

Because while Urbek presents itself as a fairly complicated City Builder, it’s actually more of a simple puzzle game, in which you’re asked to solve some basic challenges, such as placing buildings on top of each other and building some of them. Meet these basic requirements and all you have to do is just pure sandbox fun, especially since this is a resource-based game, not money-based.

I wondered when I first started the game what the problem was with its voxels, because it seemed like a strange art style for a genre that is normally more comfortable with cartoonish shots of the real world. The Quick Play answers this question, because the main point of Urbek is that you do not just build a city, you watch it develop before your eyes, while your buildings transform and grow in response to what is happening around them.

Put down a house at the beginning of the match and it’s not much more than a wooden hut. Upgrade it manually (meet other building requirements, see my comment on light puzzles above) and it’s a nicer house. Build a few together and it’s a villa. Put a park in the middle of a few others and it’s an apartment.

I know most city builders have some degree of this, but Urbek’s pliability is so much more fluid and noticeable, it’s wild. Add to that the fact that the game can slightly customize its appearance depending on the buildings and their surroundings, so houses near the water/docks are totally different from those near a coal mine in a forest—and you have something that has the potential to make you super expressive and creative with your constructions, which is really what many people are looking for in this genre in the first place.

Among other interesting features, progress is not an indisputable inevitability, because some improvements and unlocks difficult moral decisions you may not want to make, and the ability to choose a “biome” to build your city creates different challenges depending on the climate.

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