Big Ambitions makes lofty promises, but does it deliver?

Big Ambitions Early Access Review: Big City Dreams

Big Ambitions makes lofty promises, but does it deliver?

Big Ambitions in the Big City leads to Big Expectations. My life begins like most new Manhattanites — broke and hungry. I’ve lost it all, and with my Uncle Fred’s mentorship, I’m gonna’ learn how to get back on my feet and then some. Little do I know that entails sleeping on benches and attempting to perfect my WASD parallel parking skills.

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Hovgaard Games isn’t new to this idea of simulating an entrepreneurial experience; they implemented similar ideas in their previous game, Startup Company. And Big Ambitions, currently in Early Accessfeels like the perfect follow-up because it expands on everything Startup Company could’ve been.

However, naming their second game Big Ambitions isn’t just a testament to success, but shortcomings, too. There are plenty of aspects for fans of the management genre to enjoy here, but there are some things to know before taking your trip to NYC.

Screenshot by GameSkinny.

Big Ambitions starts off with a typical, albeit brief, character creation segment. Once you finish the few steps in the character customization suite, you’ll be welcomed by Uncle Fred with a step-by-step guide to renting your first apartment.

Your next task is sleeping until you’re full of energy. If you thought you’d be experiencing the City That Never Sleeps in your first couple of in-game hours, you’ll quickly learn that rest is important when grappling with the game’s light survival aspects. Stocking the fridge to keep your character fed and playing video games for entertainment in between your busy business to-dos quickly fills up your actions list early on.

Uncle Fred does set you up with a cheap yet reliable car to make traversing the city easier, but it’s actually more tedium than fun.

You’ll drive your car all around the city to pick up supplies for your businesses or attend meetings. It acts as a storage unit between tasks, but the mechanic can be frustrating when you’re driving in a traffic-filled city and any slight bump or ding chips away at the car’s repair meter. The damage quickly adds up — and it’s an expense that punishes you early in the game.

To add to the inconvenience, the gas stations and repair garages are on the outskirts of the city, meaning you risk a long drive for repairs — and could have to pay a hefty $500 tow fee if you break down.

You’ll also experience parking in the Big City, needing to parallel park almost everywhere you go. At times, it’s satisfying, but for the most part, I just wanted to get to where I was going and not sweat my parking job.

Throughout your time playing, you’ll be keeping up with notifications about the stock in your numerous depleting, and you’ll need to replenish the reserves. No matter how far you are in Big Ambitions, you’ll find yourself driving a lot and restocking a lot. It quickly becomes a tiresome drive-park-repeat simulator, and some rebalancing could go a long way toward making this a fun mechanic. 

The alternative is running around on foot, which I preferred on a few occasions, despite the mechanic making Big Ambitions feel like a dissonant walking simulator.

Screenshot by GameSkinny.

Big Ambitions lures you in with the idea of becoming a millionaire, dominating the Big Apple with your business savvy, and it takes no time at all to learn that you’ll have to work for it.

During my third in-game week, I became a little overly enthusiastic about decorating and setting up my stores with upgraded items; I found out the following day I was officially in the negative after my employees were paid. I reverted to the previous day and learned from my mistakes. But it became clear that if I got ahead of myself, I’d be punished for it.

This type of methodical gameplay loop is welcomed in the genre and a nice change of pace from something like The Sims, where you can just get-rich-quick by endlessly typing Motherlode into the cheat bar. This is a game that delivers the experience of real economic growth.

Something else that makes Big Ambitions stand out is that it feels like you’re actually learning as you play. Needing to optimize businesses to grow and having the chance to check your real-time economic statistics, including losses and gains, adds an interesting and engaging layer to things.

Opening a business, you start from the bottom and have to take out a loan. It may take some time to pay off that initial start-up capital, but eventually, you can simply rent out buildings for any business you’re interested in. You’ll want to lock down the best locations for foot traffic, but consider that with better locations, comes a higher price, so you have to find the sweet spots across the city. 

You can name and create the cigar and wine bar of your dreams, recreate your favorite fast food chain, and start other businesses. However, no matter the venture, you’ll have to adapt to keep up with trends and make your business boom. 

The gameplay, then, ultimately evolves into a meta of promoting your business with marketing campaigns and keeping up with market demands through your MarketInsider app. This adds depth to Big Ambitions and gives you the chance to be as hands-on as you want.

Image via Hogvaard Games 

Much like anyone with employees, you’ll have to contend with different schedules and work limitations, training staff in certain areas to improve their output. Your staff won’t simply show up at your door, though; you’ll have to pay a recruitment center to help you find employees in a given time frame. 

This creates an interesting lottery system. While you can adjust the desired age and skill levels of your prospective employees, you don’t know what their hourly rates will be or how trained they’ll be when they arrive. As with any business, there’s a bit of a risk with every employee that walks through the door. So, it’s best to keep existing employees happy rather than pay to replace them.

As the boss, you’re in charge of who works when, but there are mechanics in place to keep you from being a total nightmare villain. For instance, if you decide to make someone work 50 hours a week, you’ll see their work satisfaction drop — and they’ll quit if things don’t change. The happier the staff, the happier the customer experience, after all. 

Big Ambitions Review — The Bottom Line

Image via Hogvaard Games


  • Realistic economic growth.
  • Satisfying customization tools.
  • Concise business management interface.
  • Voice acting throughout the story.


  • Survival aspects feel out of place.
  • Driving is a poor, and clunky experience.
  • NYC doesn’t feel developed.

In its current form, Big Ambitions feels like it’s reaching for the Big Apple that’s just out of arm’s reach. There’s so much potential here, and I’m excited to see where the game goes. It doesn’t feel like Big Ambitions has found its footing between being a life survival sim and a tycoon sim just yet, creating an identity crisis of where to challenge its playerbase.

It was satisfying to watch my businesses improve and increase profits as I learned more about the game’s strategies. Finally being able to afford new wallpaper and new flooring was a chef’s kiss experience early on. And, of course, gambling away my eventual riches on a casino boat was a welcomed rite of passage.

The survival aspect feels unique to the genre but rings hollow and pointless in its current form. I anticipate these things will be ironed out in development, and a well-balanced experience will emerge after the Early Access period.

While there are some fun moments to be had in the Big Apple, catch me napping on benches in my business suit for now.

[Note: Hogvaard Games provided the copy of Big Ambitions used for this Early Access review. Feature image via Hogvaard Games].

Big Ambitions Early Access Review: Big City Dreams
Big Ambitions makes lofty promises, but does it deliver?

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Maddison Ahlbrand
Maddison started her gamer journey traversing the lands of Runescape and World of Warcraft. These days, she can be found playing just about anything, but a lot of her free time is spent playing FPS games like Fortnite, CoD and Valorant. She's been with GameSkinny since February 2023, and has a BA in Art History.