Cities: Skylines Review

So I’ll go for a Journey reference instead…

Just a small town girl
Livin’ in a lonely world
She took the midnight train
Goin’ anywhere
Just a city boy
Born and raised in South DETROOOIIITTT!!!

That’s it, I am happy now. So on with the review!

I’ve grown up admiring the city building genre, but never really getting to grips with them. I loved Sim City, but soon found out I was barely scratching the surface, I extend this to the likes of Theme Hospital, Theme Park, Anno, basically anything that required me to build and then run something over a long period.

I sucked at those games, but they were still fun even for my wretched brain which just couldn’t handle the statistics and attributes that seemed to be changing faster than I could process them. Yet still, I enjoyed these games… then, then something changed, either I was different now, or these games were just becoming awful.

Well with the latest SimCity from EA, named SimCity, not to be confused with the 1989 original which was actually good. the 2013 version made me realise that it was the games that were getting worse and it had little to do with me. But hey, I’m not going to spend a review for Cities: Skylines bitching about EA.

You see Cities: Skylines is without a shadow of a doubt the game that the 90’s versions of these games deserve as a spiritual successor and what is most impressive is that for how fully featured and polished this game is, it was built by a team of just a handful of people, yet it outshines many of these games that have been built by large teams.

The first thing you notice is just how intuitive the controls are, most of the moving around is done on the mouse and with a combination of button clicks and movements, you soon become a pro with the camera.

The building side of things is well thought out. The basics of adding roads is clearly marked as to what can go where, what overlaps there maybe and how much room there is for building around them. This meant that within minutes of loading I had a very basic main central road, which then broke off into different areas for residential, commercial and industrial.

To confirm these areas it is a simple case of marking them with a colour, which again uses various techniques such as painting, filling in, marquee tools and precision painting to colour the area you want your different parts to be.

When you have decided on your layout, you then have to sort out water and electricity and once again the visual clues are clear and concise, showing you where you would need to lay powerlines, where your water pipes should go, etc.

Looking at the waterflow and the areas where wind will have the most affect will help you decide where to put wind turbines, your water pumps and waste pipes.

You start off with a few basics, but as soon as you hit a new milestone you unlock more parts to add to your fledgling town, such as medical centres, schools, refuse collection, emergency services and more. You also get the ability to enforce policies on your world, either overall or on a district by district basis.

What I really liked about all of this, is that it isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, it still takes a lot of work and planning ahead on your part, but thanks to an intuitive and user friendly interface, any failings are down to you and you alone, rather than battling the system itself.

Handy little things such as emotion bubbles will alert you to problem areas, such as some districts not getting enough electricity, or that there are water issues, so a quick click to see the issue, followed by a few logical clicks on the interface can clear up any mess you may get yourself into.

Other ways in which the population can let you know about what is going on and how they feel is via Chriper, the game’s own social network, where people may complain about things, or even give a shout out to your wonderful work… they mainly complain.

Even though initially there are a lot of restrictions in place, you soon unlock more and more and the world you get to play with expands and grows and boy does it grow. It can actually get a little overwhelming after a few hours of play as you start to have massive city areas that need to work with farming, industrial, etc. and have a carefully balanced eco-system.

It should feel too much like work but the team at Colossal Order have produced something special with Cities: Skylines and it is one you simply must check out if you have even the slightest interest in the city building genre. This is a hell of a triumph.