Unholy Heights is a game about apartment management, love and the fragility of life. You play as the Devil running an apartment complex for monsters. Your job is basically to entice monsters to move into your apartments with low rent, and then slowly raise the rent to barely tolerable levels to pay for upgrades to entice more and better monsters. This is the first step to world domination.
At its core the game is really a tower defense game where you use the monsters that live in your apartments to defend your office on the top floor. While the game seems very simple at the start, there is an impressive array of monsters to use and enemies to defeat as the game progresses, and things can become quite complex at later levels. I hesitate to try to paint Unholy Heights as some kind of hardcore tower defense experience, but I also wouldn’t suggest that it’s a casual title either.
There are a lot of hardcore systems involved in succeeding that lurk behind the relatively casual gameplay. Each monster belongs to one of three class types based on attack range, they also belong to a race that effects how they interact with your other monsters, and they have individual elemental properties that effect how they perform against individual enemy units.
Additionally, they have a set of combat stats that further differentiate them. The result is a system where no one unit can ever really be retired in favor of an upgraded version. This is something very few games in the genre can boast. If you want to be efficient you need to figure out how all of this works together.
It’s also important to consider that each monster lives their own life. They get jobs, get promotions, get fired, hang out with friends, fall in love, have children, fall behind with rent, channel JFK in séance, you know, normal stuff. The point is this has bearing on their combat ability in the tower defense part of the game. Lowering the rent is a great way to improve a monster’s satisfaction with their quality of life, but that costs money.
You can do the same thing and convince them to stay home more by buying them a 3D TV or upgrading the kitchen. A monster that stays home more is home to protect the building from metaling do-gooders and angry village mobs baring pitch forks, and happy monsters fight with more fortitude to protect your home.
You need to consider the types of monster you allow to live in your apartment as well. As it turns out, monsters are incredibly racist and will not happily coexist with monsters of a race they are predisposed to not getting along with. Conversely moving monsters next each other that are of opposite genders and the same race might result in them moving in together and starting a family, particularly if they are of compatible career paths.
Having monsters move in together increases the amount of rent you can collect from a single room while increasing their satisfaction. Eventually they’ll have a child together, and once that child is grown they will also fight beside their parents in battle.
Combat is relatively simple and essentially just involves clicking on doors to unleash monsters as enemies approach. You can mix thing up a bit though. Placing your monsters in certain rooms strategically and timing the moment you open doors in order to corner enemies is a great way to quickly win battles early on and becomes essential to victory toward the end of the game. You can also bottle neck enemies in stairwells in order to further divide and conquer, so there’s that as well.
You complete the game by taking quest from a quest board. There are certain storyline quests that are required not only to be able to finish the game, but also serve as gate keepers that must be cleared in order to be able to spend your hard earned gold on building additions on to your apartment building.
Additionally, there is a large array of side quests you can complete. Most of these quests only get you more gold, but some will unlock new monster types or items for your monsters’ homes.
The story isn’t particularly important and is told entirely through quest descriptions, but it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and like everything else in the game is fairly charming. If nothing else I’m positive you will never play another game about an apartment run by Satan ever again.
The music in the game is quite catchy, but there isn’t very much of it, so you’ll end up tuning it out after a while which is a shame because it could have been yet another area where the game is exceptional.
I spent a disturbing amount of time imaging myself as Al Pacino in The Devil Advocate while playing. Way, way too much thought was put into exactly how I would run an apartment complex if I ran an apartment complex and also an adversary to all creation.
Unholy Heights is an above average tower defense game with some clever simulation elements and a refreshing visual style. It’s an original and an entirely singular experience with a surprising amount of complexity. It’s not going to set the world of fire, but it more than deserves a place in your library.