A Brilliant Creative City Builder
After the terrible performance from the latest Sim City and a host of sub-standard city builders since, Cities: Skylines is a breath of fresh air. With its polished interfaces, plenty of statistical data and a charming aesthetic, Skylines is sure to please a lot of people. The lack of deep strategy might disappoint the more hardcore real time strategy fans expecting a real challenge, but for the more casual fans of the genre, its hard not to fall in love with this game. Skylines is more of a creative endeavour than a challenging gameplay experience and going into it expecting this, is sure to avoid disappointment. The simple, responsive controls help too, making the process of building a city a relatively stress free one and despite the lack of a tutorial early on, Cities: Skylines is everything you could want from a city builder.
The ability to zoom in to your city is a great addition
Although there’s an option on the main menu to enable unlimited money and unlock all buildings, its a far more rewarding experience to jump into the game without these switched on. Starting with an empty square of land, the game does do a pretty good job of hand holding through the bare basics of setting up a city. Those accustomed to the set up of Sim City will be right at home here, with the general idea relying on building roads and assigning blocks of either residential, commercial or industrial zones off each strip of tarmac. Residential is of course the bread and butter of the game, laying the foundation for citizens to move in, live and populate. The commercial zone act as shopping centres and the industrial zone gives jobs to those in the residential areas. This simple concept is then expanded on late on, with the inclusion of more densely populated areas, fire stations, schools and a slew of other options but the general layout and play style of the game doesn’t really change throughout.
On top of building the foundations for a city, there are a number of other options at your disposal. For anyone accustomed with the old Sim City games, the sheer mention of Water and waste used to leave a bad taste in your mouth. It was a tedious nightmare in the old Sim games, requiring meticulous precision in order to match up the underground pipes and its a massive relief that this process in Cities: Skylines has been simplified and is incredibly easy to set up. Placing a water station and a waste pipe (paying particular attention to the direction of the water to avoid polluting your town with sewerage infested water) then allows you to click and drag pipes across the areas that need water. A large circular area around that pipe allows multiple buildings to be watered from one single pipe and the entire system is a lot better streamlined and easier to work with. The other elements of the game, including powering areas with electricity, works in much the same way – building a power plant or wind turbines and dragging power lines to the general areas that need them. Cleverly, these more tedious and less fun areas of the game are quick and easy to sort out and really help make the game more enjoyable.
Roads lay the foundation for different industries to be built.
Beyond the basics, Cities: Skylines doesn’t really have a definitive end. Although the city itself can only be expanded over 9 extra chunks of land (which can be bought once you reach certain population milestones) and the unlockables end once you reach a population of 75,000, there’s plenty of room and more than enough variety to really let your imagination run wild and build the city of your dreams. Or multiple cities joined together by vast intricately woven highway. The possibilities are endless and the ease of use and simple processes to build this all work harmoniously together. Its great fun too and very easy to sink hours into this game.
For all the positives, Cities: Skylines does lose points for its passive approach to the strategy element of the game. Although the many options in the menus help to show where you can improve and which areas of your city are in the most need for help, there’s no consequences for ignoring this completely. Even a simple on/off slider would suffice to fix this with repercussions turned on for ignoring the issues inherent in your town. Traffic too high? Tourism goes down and the economic structure of your city suffers for it. Not enough police? Crime rate pushes up the death rate and you get monetary penalties for having to fix these issues. No leisure activities in the town? Low happiness drives people away in vast numbers and makes it more difficult to retain people living in the city. The list of possibilities here goes on and on. Ultimately tthough, Cities: Skylines is a real time strategy without much strategy. If you go into this game expecting a relaxing experience of building the city of your dreams without worrying too much about the strategic element, you can’t go wrong with Skylines.
The UI is really slick and makes navigating the various screens easy
Despite the lack of hard strategy and unclear options at some parts of the game, Cities: Skylines is a great city builder. The many menus and options offer a slew of interesting statistical data and being able to zoom right in and follow individual people as they go about their day to day life is a great experience. Coupled with intuitive controls and a simplistic approach to some of the more irritating parts of city building in other games, Cities: Skylines is a wonderful experience and a really well made game. Its not perfect, but if you’re after a relaxing city builder game, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Verdict - 8/10