Cities: Skylines is a City Builder/Simulation game, and it’s fantastic.
Cities: Skylines absolutely destroys EA and Maxis’ 2013 effort, Sim City, in every conceivable way. Where Maxis managed to somehow fail in a genre they pretty much invented, Colossal Games and Paradox Interactive have treated Maxis’ effort as a treatise on what not to do.
This is, without a doubt, the game Sim City 2013 should have been.
First up, the graphics. Skylines is very well optimized, with large detailed cities bustling along with no hiccups, and some nice options in the settings to fiddle with if you do experience any problems. The game looks great, with lots of detail. Buildings grow and “level up” as you watch, changing their value and appearance and attracting different types of people and businesses. You can easily identify different areas and specialties, as well as transport, power and sewerage systems by colour using the (mostly) intuitive UI. Clicking on people, houses and buildings will give you more details, and identifying problems (or successes) is made very easy.
The gameplay is where Skylines shines, however. You’ll be juggling residents needs and wants by ensuring access to clean water, power, efficient transportation, entertainment and medicine, to name just a few. You’ll have to control pollution, both physical and noise, crime and disease. There are a variety of ways to do this, how you go about it is up to you.
You’ll start by placing roads. Then zone areas off the roads into a category: Residential, Industrial, Retail and Office. Then set up a functioning power grid and clean water/waste water sewerage system. After that, it’s all about placing public services to attract more people, and expanding your city across the map. And what a map! You initially start on each map with a 2 square kilometre parcel of land in which to build, but can expand out over 8 such parcels out of 25 available per map. That said, it is trivial to mod out the limitation, and if your computer can handle it, you absolutely can build on the entire map. As a bonus, if you don’t like any of the premade maps the game ships with, you can easily use the in-game map editor to create (or recreate!) your own map to play on. There is even an asset editor too, so you can create and modify the in game assets to your preferences.
The game systems make sense, and work how you’d expect them to. This is a simulation game, after all! After you’ve finished zoning your city, you can then create districts, which allow you to apply policies city wide or just to select areas. Make the CBD have compulsory smoke detectors and free public transport, while giving the poor and destitute section of town a rebate on green energy. Ban heavy vehicles from residential areas to lower noise and decongest traffic!
Industries will make you money, but require careful planning. Take advantage of natural oil reserves, mine ore, farm, cut down your forests or simply go for “Generic”, where you’ll be making random stuff. The finance and taxation system is easily understood and superb.
The game models traffic behaviour very well and in fact figuring out a way to manage high density traffic is one of the hardest aspects of playing Skylines. To that end, you’re given plenty of options, such as numerous road types, public transport, cargo ships, trains and aeroplanes.
Surprisingly, the game has an incredibly effective water simulation too; Dams will burst and water flows realistically throughout the map, and pollution will be carried downstream with currents.
The icing on the cake for Cities: Skylines is the fact that Skylines is 100% mod friendly, with integrated Steam Workshop support. People have already uploaded thousands of custom maps and assets to the workshop, as well as gameplay tweaks and it’s pretty safe to say that if you find something wrong with the game that you think could be better, there is a very good chance that there is already a mod for it on the workshop.
Now you’ve heard me gush over how great this game is, what are the cons?
The game doesn’t auto-save! This is a real pain if you mess up. But, there is a mod for that.
There is no day/night cycle, which would have been nice. But, there is a mod for that.
The camera doesn’t let me go low enough to get a good look of my city streets up close. But, there is a mod for that. There is another one that enables a First Person View from and person you click on in the street!
Not a lot of maps to choose to play on. But, the workshop has hundreds available, downloaded and added to the available maps with a single click.
There is even a mod that allows you and a friend to explore your cities in First Person online, using the in game people as avatars. Why? Who knows! But it’s possible!
In conclusion, if you like city builders or simulation games, you cannot go wrong with Cities: Skylines. It is everything you could want out of this genre.
Sim City, eat your heart out.