After hearing that Cities: Skylines may be one of the best city builders in over a decade, I decided to give the game a shot. I’ve never had any experience with the Cities franchise, or even a city building game. It took some time and a couple of abandoned cities but I finally got it down and it’s safe to say I’m in love. It truly is a game worthy of the hours you’ll inevitably spend on it.
Developed by Colossal Order and produced by Paradox Interactive, Cities has wonderful graphics and a variety of maps available from a wooded area to a tropical island. As a player you can finally live out your dreams of having a city with crazy taxes – pets and smoking can be banned, drugs can be legal. You do whatever you want while planning your perfect city.
In Cities: Skylines you tend to spend a lot of your time figuring things out. There aren’t many hints to help guide you through the interface, laying the roads, zoning areas, or placing special buildings like fire stations. The basics from the genre still apply. You have to expand by laying roads and zoning areas as residential, commercial, industrial, or office. There is still the need for hand placing buildings like government services, or power plants while tending to the needs of your growing population with water, power, sewage, and garbage pickup. Eventually, as your city grows, you can create and optimize a railway system, bus routes, or even cargo and passenger ports for ships.
Management is the name of the game here. It’s actually pretty hilarious if you sit back and watch your city crumble due to lack of planning. It’s happened to me multiple times and at one point I had people leave my city for good because it was just terrible. While I sat back failing I was able to check out the games many interfaces and found them all to be incredibly well designed. They would show both the raw numbers and a graphical representation of the city’s needs for things like water or power. The graphs were probably favorite since they were just color coded smiley faces.
The game even put in an agent system, that let you follow a person through the course of their day. It basically acted like Twitter. I found this nifty little feature hilarious, informative and also a bit of a stressor. Then again I was never really a good person when it came to managing things like this. Eventually, I was able to find that the agent was a very valuable tool. It actually helped me figure out some of the problems within my city just by following the person around.
Even though the interface is simple to use I did find it frustrating to find some of the more detailed numbers and also that sometimes finding the root of a problem was a little backwards. It can be difficult to understand why certain things are or aren’t happening. The little bubbles and pop-ups can become overwhelming. It’s definitely a game where you spend a lot of your time recovering from situations you created. For those who seek an even bigger challenge you can make it more difficult by accessing the game’s built in hard mode.
I found the included mod tools quite impressive. It’s really nice to see a game that allows anyone to jump in at their own pace. I was able to start worlds with everything unlocked or with unlimited funds to get my feet wet. I still had to learn how to create a functioning city but it was nice to be able to learn how to do that while not having to worry about the cities economy.
All in all, Cities:Skylines is an incredibly fun and addicting game. My only real complaint that its learning curve seemed a bit steep to someone new to the genre. I was able to overcome that curve and I still had a blast learning how to play and eventually made my city into a thriving metropolis. I think the mechanics are easily to understand and the goals are easy and open ended with smooth gameplay. This is definitely a game I would recommend to anyone with even the smallest interest in management simulators or city builders in general. You really owe yourself the dozens of play hours with this game.