Cities: Skylines (PC) Review

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Cities Skylines is city building sim for the PC by developer Colossal order who have previously put out the Cities in motion series (and NOT the cities XL series as I initially thought)

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This is ingame zoom by the way.

 

I would imagine (or hope) that most people who would bother to click into this review have played Maxis’s Sim City at some point in the past, well in the interest of saving time, Cities: Skylines is how you probably remember Sim City 4 while looking through your rose tinted glasses – I am struggling to think of any feature which was in that SimCity4 that isn’t in Skylines, and of course Skylines happily adds its own improvements on top of the winning formula that Maxis spent 4 games refining. Worth noting also that Skylines feels like the result of someone who trawled and gathered information from the Simcity 2013 backlash, the game features no online capability at all (aside from Steam Cloud saving), and absolutely gigantic maps for the player to build upon, ensuring that it covered the core points that annoyed gamers in the past.

So yeah, you start up your game, you lay out your roads (badly), you zone for your 3 types of area (Residential, Commercial, industrial – not sure why theres no Agricultural zone…) and then you add your services, your transport links, your special buildings and parks… and you keep going for 5 hours until you realise your city is shit, and then start again. Skylines also adds other problems to think about like Water sources, water and soil pollution, and the absolute nightmare that is road congestion. It’s obvious that the devs have used their prior knowledge from Cities in Motion to put forward some rather impressive road and citizen simulation, this means that unlike other city builders where you can slap everything down and make things look nice, in Skylines you’ll spend more of your time making sure your city is fully functioning rather than dressing it cosmetically. For better or worse, this ‘design for function’ style manages to make the game much more compelling to play than similar games, and you’ll quickly find yourself losing hours of time while putting together a new district because you were so sure that your newfound knowledge would make everything work perfectly.

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Mengville, currently approx 9 hours old and spanning 4.5 Tiles out of a possible 25

 

A deep zoom down to ground level in Skylines will quickly tell you that the traffic and citizen simulation aren’t the only things with attention to detail – buildings have parking areas outside them, takeaway shops have animated TV’s in the window trying to entice people in, trucks leave the cargo trainyard after the train rolls in, and you can constantly see and even follow emergency services around as they go about their day saving lives (or in my case, heading to a fire but getting stuck in traffic). As Mayor you also get to analyze your city down to the smallest details, with easy access buttons to check on all aspects of how things are going (eg. pollution, crime levels, ambient wind?!, education levels…). You can even draw out individual districts and then tailor specific rulesets for them, perhaps you want to forbid heavy goods vehicles in a certain area, or legalize drug use in only one town – these all have gameplay effects of course.

A special paragraph definitely needs to go out to the steam workshop support, consider that the game has been out maybe a week or so, there are about 5000+ buildings available for download, and over a hundred mods which can augment the game – these are effects like making the game mechanics harder, allowing you to expand further, or even letting you view reddit posts ingame. These modders are adding features before the devs themselves can even get to them, i’m yet to find any proper flaws with the game, but some were upset to find no day/night cycle, so naturally people have already modded it into the game.

As mentioned briefly before, the graphics are impressive in their detail, the game looks nice in general and manages to stay fully functional regardless due to a really intuitive UI and easy to understand visual representation when building. There is also a cool tilt shift effect when you zoom in on your city, i liked this.
There isn’t a whole lot in terms of audio if i’m honest, there is some forgettable music that plays in the background along with the ambient city noises but i’ve got most of them turned down in favour of my own music (which says a lot unfortunately). That said, these sort of games often have minimal or crappy music anyway, so it’s not too much of a dealbreaker.

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Problems with the game are fairly minimal, with most of my frustrations coming from the unforgiving road management and citizen AI hellbent on taking the shortest possible route to get to their destination. It’s a shame that theres no multiplayer interaction at all present, even the ability to sneak a peak at a friend’s city would have been nice; collaborative building would also have been awesome, but i’ll forgive them for the omission of this as I imagine it’s no easy feat.
Err… what else annoyed me…hm. theres gotta be more than that…
– Half the building types are locked until you raise your population a certain amount, which can prevent you from optimal building, but this can of course be removed via a mod.
– The criteria for building a harbour is vague and i’m not sure what im doing wrong, the ingame help for this specific building could be better.. Again I imagine theres a mod that can let me build the harbour in the middle of the city but…
– Certain endgame buildings have silly requirements which are counterintuitive to unlock, things like having a high crime rate.. I shouldn’t have to botch my city just to be able to build the final buildings.
– Underground rail networks are messy and unintuitive, I wasn’t aware that underground trains could turn at right angles.

I guess that’s it for annoyances? Wow.

Verdict:

Cities: Skylines is the best city building game in a long long time, I’ve already lost a fair amount of time to it, and my city is only 4 tiles large – meaning there are 21 tiles left to go.
It really isn’t an exaggeration to say that Skylines nails the genre, and their refreshing openness to player modding and asset creation mean that this is a game which will only get better with time. Skylines is also surprisingly cheap for a modern new game, currently at only £23 on steam, and apparently cheaper elsewhere.

Approximate Game Length : Very Long
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £27 / £23 = 1.17
Should you play it : Yes, especially if genre fan

Rating: 5 / 5

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