Some simulations take liberties with real-world scenarios to guarantee a fun, playable experience: using rockets to propel oneself upward, for instance, is not a good idea in real life; swimming in plate armor while wielding a greatsword – probably not realistic; political negotiations where the net result is forward momentum – totally immersion-breaking.

While at GDC 2016 (full coverage here), we got a hands-off preview of upcoming City Ruler “Urban Empire.” Urban Empire is a mix of city building mechanics and diplomatic/political negotiations, bridging two specific genres into a uniquely strategic amalgam.

Cities: Skylines is one of our favorite games from 2015, firmly re-establishing the City Builder genre with an enjoyable mix of strategy and playfulness. Gameplay expansion is spurred-on by easily obtained community mods and, now, an official "Theme Editor" for owners of the base game. Expansions "After Dark" (added night clubs, day/night cycle) and next week's Snowfall have built tremendously upon the game's existing content, but neither is required for players to use the new Theme Editor.

Publisher Atari and developers Nvizzio today announced the release date for RollerCoaster Tycoon World, its price, and its planned beta phases.

The game is targeted for a December 10, 2015 release date, priced at $50 ($60 for “Deluxe Edition”), and will include two pre-launch beta phases. We're told that the Deluxe Edition includes “two unique building maps, terrain additions, a digital art book, and the classic Panda mascot,” the last of which will be deployable to parks for guest interaction.

1999. That’s the year. I spent most of our meeting with Atari and Nvizzio trying to remember when I last went deep with Roller Coaster Tycoon – more than a decade ago. Yikes.

RCT was the product of an era infatuated with city builders, civilization management, and RTS games. The industry ebbs in cycles of these almost-episodic fascinations – it’s MOBAs today, it was MMOs in the early-to-mid years of the century, and it was isometric builders in the late 90s.

Enough of that.

Today, we’re looking at Roller Coaster Tycoon World – which I’m truncating to RCTW, for the sake of these PAX-worn fingers – the series’ first PC release since 2004. RCTW continues the game’s iconic theme park construction, management, roller coaster design, and visitor torture, introducing a number of era-appropriate features along the way. The game is developed by Nvizzio, published by Atari, and is confirmed for a 4Q15 release at price-points undisclosed.

Cities: Skylines was briefly integrated into some of our 4K gaming tests, standing-in as a representation of more zoomed-out gameplay. Secretly, when not endlessly performing gaming benchmarks and testing, Cities: Skylines is one of our favorite games to actually – y'know – play.

Paradox Interactive, publisher of Cities: Skylines developer Colossal Order, recently announced the arrival of the game's first paid expansion, “After Dark.” This expansion is delivered following a slew of free content updates output by the developers, including a European Buildings aesthetics update.

Dutch game developer Noio recently partnered with Marco Bancale of Licorice to port his Flash game to iOS. Following success on the mobile platform by way of winning the Nordic Game Program, the team has made moves to bring “Kingdom” to the PC on the Unity game engine.

Kingdom is a side-scrolling kingdom management game that fuses mechanics found in Terraria and traditional city builders. The player takes control of a single King unit, who spends coin to start a small village and attract settlers; as time progresses and the King continues to invest in his growing empire, players can build castles, recruit knights and archers, and more.

The 90s and early 00s bore witness to an effective boom-and-bust of city-builders, RTS, and other types of top-down strategy-derivatives. Industry trends are in constant flux – as Call of Duty’s success has prompted an insufferable proliferation of mediocrity, games like Caesar, Zeus, and Sim City prefixed the rise of dozens of city builder titles; in this same era, we saw the rapid iteration of the highly-successful Command & Conquer series, Age of Empires games, Civilization, and plenty of others. The industry has stopped caring about top-down management games as much as it used to, but there’s still a rather empty market for fans of the sub-genres.

clockwork-empires-obelisk

I’m obviously nostalgic for these types of games. There’s no hiding that.

Clockwork Empires immediately had my attention, and with thanks given to developers Nicholas Vining and David Baumgart, it was able to keep that initial interest throughout our hour-long GDC hands-on. Many puns and jokes that’d make a PR manager cringe later (“no!” was groaned from behind me throughout our video process), and I’m convinced that Clockwork Empires stands a solid chance in shaping up to be a solid experience.

 

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