Unholy Heights (PC, 3DS)

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Hell, a place where the sinful dead of mankind burn in torment for all eternity. It’s a pretty good gig… but not a very profitable one. To make some money Satan sets up a series of tenement housing — hey, chicken people, undead, and demons need homes too. The profits would be steady if it weren’t for all those damn crusading adventurers seeking Satan’s riches — and the few monsters foolish enough to think they can cheat the devil out of his due. Thankfully the tenants neglected the part on the lease where they have to defend Satan to the death in the event of an adventurer incursion — suckers. Fill your housing project with creatures capable of defending it… and capable of paying the rent at Unholy Heights.

History

Unholy Heights was developed by Petit Depotto, a japanese indie game developer composed of a four person team. The overall game was inspired by the leader’s experience with property management, including one tenant who had left in the night never to be seen again. Their website is completely in Japanese so if you’re in need of a laugh, check out Google’s instant translation.

Unholy Heights was released on August 16th, 2013. It’s competition was Payday 2 (PC, XBox 360, and PS3), Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (XBLA), and Papers Please (PC and Mac).

Experiences

Do you remember demos? When you could play a game for a few levels to see if you liked it enough to buy the full product. The year after my graduation from University I let someone stay with me for a few weeks while his apartment application cleared. On an idle evening, in a half remembered rant he relayed to me the demo of a game he played about Satan managing a slum. That game ended up being Unholy Heights and we both immediately bought it. What really surprised me was how different our management styles were. He was throwing people out left and right, while I was more lenient. Until someone neglected to pay their rent for three days running, at which point I would send them on a suicide charge into battle. I’m not sure which of was crueler.

Gameplay

Unholy Heights is a cross between a simulation game and a sort of tower defense. Satan’s tenement consists of 1-4 floors and each floor has four rooms. Each room can contain one tenant.. When adventurers attack, whether randomly generated or goaded on by Satan, you can send tenants to fight the advancing adventurers. Different types of tenants have different attacks so it’s important to deploy and house your tenants tactically.

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Tenants will also shack up with each other and even sire progeny.

Each room comes with available slots for furniture. Certain furniture types enable a monster’s employment while others, like exercise equipment, can increase their combat stats. Other furniture can make the slum more appealing to certain types of monsters. But it all costs gold so you’ll have to speculate to accumulate.

The different types of tenants all have different needs, preferences, and capability of paying rent. Demons for instance love when tenants die, the more of your tenants die the more likely they are to move in. On the flip side, demi-humans hate casualties so they’ll stiff you on rent if the body count starts rising. Some tenants require rooms to be hot or cold. It’s your responsibility as the land lord to make the tough decisions. Do you let the guy who hasn’t paid rent stick around because he’s a good fighter, or do you chuck him out because you really need the cash to satisfy a picky tenant who’s been paying consistently?

The Gush

The monster designs are really silly and fun. I love unlocking new characters just to see what they look like or what they do.

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It’s a deadly, teddy bear, monstrosity that throws magical bolts. Simply Incredible.

The early game is incredibly sentimental. It’s easy to give all of the tenants the attention that they deserve. I really enjoyed learning their daily routines, likes and dislikes, and hoping they would succeed at their job. Not just because it would earn me more money but because it meant I was managing their homes well.

The Kvetch

A lot of the mechanics are poorly conveyed. Inccubi and Succubi for example, lose combat effectiveness when they shack up. And lose even more when they dote on a child. But there’s no explanation of that in their bestiary description. The only way you would notice is if you were watching their stats meticulously.

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I see all these pluses and minuses but I have no idea what’s conferring them.

I found the game trivially easy. It was all a sort of escalating build of stronger monsters vs stronger adventurers. Get melee guys in the front, spellcasters in the back. I would lose most of my tenants every fight. But that would just inspire more demons and undead who respected my victory at any cost mentality to join the ranks. Soon the rooms were full again and in a few minutes they found eager mates who were happy to be a part of this brave housing experiment. Then it was time to invite the next giant wave.

The Verdict

Unholy Heights is casually fun but doesn’t stand up to long periods of play or serious scrutiny. I certainly had fun will my little manor, I was even satisfied laying it aside without finishing the game. But it’s more obfuscated elements will frustrate more serious players and might make casual strategies unsustainable. That being said, this game is a steal at four dollars on Steam. You can literally buy this game with the loose change you find in your couch and I would say it’s worth it. It provided hours of genuine entertainment before it lost my interest.

Next Week: Antichamber

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