Cities:Skylines is a game that is advertised as “A modern take on the classic city simulation”, and at first seems to be just that. After playing it, however, I would describe it more as an advanced and complex modern take on the classic city simulation, as it is so much more than a simple current-day version of this style of game. The roads, the services, the transportation... all these things make this game stand out from the others of its kind. They make it unique and make you want to sit down and enjoy building the city that you imagine, be it powered with natural power or using the fuels of the world you have picked, a city made for industry alone or made with an appreciation of beauty and natural surroundings mixed in with modern society. Every step made in the game is your choice alone.
One thing I really like about this game is its attention to detail, enhanced by its graphics. At the most zoomed out view you see it as just a map of the city, which is a nice look when you are trying to plan your city and its future expansion; when you zoom in you see the fine detail of each building . It’s nothing game changing, but it is a nice thing that if you wish you could experience the look and feel first-hand of your city. I was rather amazed at this when I first looked into it because of the level of detail: the windows even show reflections, and you can click on each person to see their name, their occupation, the name of their residence and even what is on their agenda currently.
When you begin the game you think “hey, this is rather simple,! Place a little housing there... a little shopping area here... and let’s give them somewhere to work...”, but as the game progresses it increases in complexity as well, and I found it both a challenging and fun thing to have to care about each feature that needs to be in place, in a well-run city: from places to educate inhabitants to places to bury them, all aspects need to be taken into account to make sure your people stay happy and want to live in your city. It might sound easy but you quickly realize that having thousands of people waiting around for a dead person to be picked up can prove fatal for your inhabitants.
As you start playing you will realise the choices you need to make and the planning involved. Even simply dealing with the water in your city requires some detailed planning, and this is an example of something this game makes you really think about. It encourages careful thought about in-depth details, including the direction the water is running in the rivers so as to not contaminate your own water supply. It may seem like a minor detail to some, but for me it added a nice realism to this game.
There were few things about this game that annoyed me, but one was the arduous task of trying to connect the transportation (ferries, trains, etc) to the city: sometimes people seemed to go out of their way just to exit the city, re-enter it via a road made for connecting these transportation buildings, and then just travel in circles back into the city just to rejoin the road around again… But why judge my virtual city inhabitants on their hobbies, when here I am having fun trying to build roads for said virtual inhabitants?
Cities: Skylines has an in-game version of Twitter called “Chirper”, which provides you with much-needed information regarding things such as services and lack thereof (e.g. power and water), but it can also provide a lot of annoyance because the inhabitants using Chirper often repeat themselves even when the changes are not something you wish to make. The game gives you the function to turn off the messages, but I feel that if I accidently disconnect a part of the city from the powerlines I’m going to need to know that before I lose a section of my populace, so I choose to keep Chirper activated.
You can use “Info views” to change how you see the city, in which you have the ability to check things such as pollution levels, volumes of traffic (which is really handy so you can see which parts of your city need some new roads in order to reduce the congestion and increase the flow of traffic) and which parts of the city are happy/unhappy with the city services. This then allows you to plan the addition of more services into the area, which can result in an instant change so you can actually see the improvements one building has made to the area.
One major flaw I experienced, is that when I attempted to “de-zone” an area, be it industrial or residential, it kept resetting to a residential location: a house would just suddenly appear again and paint its squares the green colour (associated with residential zones) it was before I took it away. I had to keep removing it then build a road across it just so it would accept the zone was no longer assigned. This was the only bug I I found, which mean this game is pretty solid.
Whilst we are on the subject of flaws I would like to add my displeasure that more or less everything needs to be built with a road attached to it. For some things I can understand, but I don’t understand why I cannot make a park made from nine attached playgrounds or the like to make it look nice to me, or perhaps a large area of park surrounded on each side by office buildings just like you might get in real life. At the end of the day I want my people to have a green paradise in the centre of modern society.
This game is valued at £22.99, from which I would say I managed to get some 21 hours before I felt the game lost its magic for me, but for most of those hours I found myself attached and did not want to stop: my mind was filled with road plans, new energy networks and the like. When I write about planning major highways and intersections it may not sound that interesting, but when the city’s inhabitants demand raw resources then – by gosh –I am going to completely restructure a road that will go under the land or over a river and connect them to the place they need shipments from! Because this aspect of the game was really fun.
The thing that does increase the value of Cities: Skylines is that it is played via Steam. This means that you have the Steam workshop available, which gives you access to download mods that give it a new fresh feeling again, or simply might include more types of roads for those that are serious about road planning and wish to get some extra road types or some more fancy intersections.
The game comes with the functions to modify maps or assets, so you can tailor the game to your own liking even more, which can potentially prolong a game’s play time a lot! Some other nice functions I found are the ability to turn on infinite money or make it so every progression goal is unlocked, meaning you can just build your perfect city without the challenge, which can be rather relaxing if you want to play more for the creation of the city than the creation of a living city. What I find scary is that there is a mode to make the game even more challenging. This is the first time I think I can say there must be some hardcore building gamers out there!
So I’m going to list out some of the pros and cons of this game.
Overall I very much enjoyed this game, and by no means am I solely a sim player, yet it appealed to me very much. This game is one that can be played in small or large amounts and is easy to just open and play from when you last saved. I think the kinds of people that would get the most from this game are those who really get the fun from creating a plan inside their mind and being able to recreate it, but at the same time even if you just wish to build whatever makes you happy it also gives you that ability by giving you the money and all the buildings to just paint the land with whatever you have imagined for it.