As a city builder enthusiast I'm ashamed to say I completely missed the release of a new city building game in September. In my defense, it came out one week after Starfield, so I was a little preoccupied with exploring planets and stealing sandwiches—and then I went straight on to another city builder you've probably heard of: Cities: Skylines 2.
But I'm making up for lost time this week with Urbo, a chill but challenging city building puzzle game that has the relaxing vibes of TerraScape or Dorfromantik but the pleasing logical wrangling of a game like Threes. Best of all, Urbo, which is made by Door 407, developer of Diplomacy Is Not An Option, is a real treat for the eyes, as you can see in the launch trailer below.
In Urbo you start on a small grid and begin adding buildings of different sizes. If you place three one-level buildings adjacent to each other, they'll merge into a single two-level building. Get some twos together and they'll form a three, and so on. You can chain these merges together, too, so if three threes wind up next to two fours, those threes will form a third four and the three fours will make a five which means you're a third of the way to a six.
Okay, it's a little tricky to explain, but once you've begun plopping down buildings the system and the challenge becomes clear. You have to spread buildings around the grid to get them to merge, but if you're not careful with your placements your grid will get too crowded and you run out of moves.
You also earn cards while playing, and the more buildings you merge the more cards will be granted. Each card gives you special moves, like letting you pick between different buildings to add, letting you upgrade a building automatically, or other bonuses to help manage your growing buildings and shrinking real estate. Score high enough and you'll also unlock new building styles and environments, like a desert level or one with cascading waterfalls. On some levels you'll also play on multiple grids, making your single little city into three separate ones. A game can take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending how careful you are, so it's been my go-to lunchtime puzzle treat.
I especially appreciate what happens if you're careless or sloppy or just run out of room and the game ends. Rather than saying "You lose" or "Try again" it says "Town is built!" That's right, you didn't screw up—you just finished the town. (Unlike in real life, it's actually possible for construction in Urbo to finish ahead of schedule.) To help you feel better about
failing building, the end of the game also opens up a photo mode so you can take some nice pictures of your city while adjusting the FOV, time of day, and hiding the UI to create a nice postcard. And Urbo saves every city you build so you can return to admire them later.
If you're looking for a chill new puzzle to distract you from everyday life, or even if you just love looking at beautiful little villages and making them grow, I recommend giving it a go. And if I haven't enticed you enough, Urbo is a mere $6 on Steam, and you can get it for 15% off until October 30.
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Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.