Cities: Skylines

Developer: Colossal Order
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release: 2015
Platform: Steam, Windows, Macintosh, Linux
Genre: City Building Simulation
OFLC Rating: G

Whenever we think of simulation games that involve filling the shoes of a mayor that often involve city planning and maintenance, we generally think of the illustrious SimCity franchise. SimCity hasn’t really enjoyed that reputation since SimCity 4 of 2003/04 and has been mediocre at best. Following the trainwreck that was SimCity of 2013, we have Cities: Skylines which has managed to blindside EA’s declining SimCity franchise and offers up an experience that makes this game the spiritual successor to SimCity 4!
This game is yet another export from the European continental powerhouse that is Scandinavia – You only have to look at Lego, Minecraft, Koenigsegg, Ikea, Spotify, along with an assortment of Pop, Rock and Metal artists / groups that have topped the charts over the decades. Here’s to another successful entry from Colossal Order…

Cities: Skylines offers everything SimCity 4 did and tonnes more. Starting the game can intimidating, especially if you’re completely new and are having to rely on the tutorials to get settled in. The game progresses from a single tile and unlocks more features as your city grows – This is great for both easing one into their session and providing a good starting challenge, depending on the environment you choose for building your city. Skylines’ method of showing you the ropes is one of trial and error, rather than leading you by the hand with a structured tutorial. The real challenge is reading your city as the game will not tell you anything is wrong until the problem is well and truly upon you. It is both Skyline’s means of teaching you how to play and the critical conveying information that I find makes the intimidation factor that steepens the learning curve, while ultimately making this a potentially challenging game to master – My best advice, open the information widgets (by clicking the info icon in the top left of your display) as these are your primary means of getting a picture of what’s happening. You do have “Chirper”, but that only gives a Twitter inspired citizen’s feedback and can be a nuisance to some as opposed to being helpful. Ultimately, you will be resorting to tracking your statistics in order to stay on top of things. A few basics to get you started…
Like any city building simulation you use zoning which is often referred as RCI (Residential, Commercial and Industrial). Skylines takes a similar approach to SimCity 4 where roads show a grid on either side denoting available spaces for marking out zones. Electricity is distributed through power lines, though they are not necessary unless you have no buildings between the power source and where you need to direct electricity. Water requires you lay out piping for clean water supply and sewerage, which will also require an outlet – Careful not place sewerage pumps upstream from your water pumps. Believe me, that can be an easy mistake to make. Garbage disposal is handled with landfills and incinerators. You don’t just have the need for healthcare, but you also build cemeteries and crematoriums or there will be a tonne of corpses stinking out residential buildings. You have a tool that allows you to set up districts, useful for multiple sets of city ordinances active which can be a necessity later on in your session. Bridges are a simple as marking out a suitable path across a river, while overpasses and tunnels can be make with ease by raising and lowering the height (using the Page Up and Page Down keys by default). Bus routes are as simple placing a bus station and marking out routes across your city.
Out of the box (so to speak) Skylines comes with a fair extensive suite of features to offer a deep and satisfying city building experience. However, this game being a Steam release has unparalleled mod support as far as city builders go with in-game access to Steam Workshop. Between the game’s own suite, mods and community content available you will find Cities: Skylines to be one the most comprehensive city building games to date along with being one of the richest experiences within the genre. Here’s an example for you – Skylines has no natural disasters in the game, but find the right set of mods and you now have a set of disasters that rival the experience of the SimCity franchise! Want recreate or build your hometown in your design? Chances are someone’s sculpted a map for it given the terrain of almost every major (real world) urban area is available for download – Hell! There are even starting maps featuring fictitious landscapes from franchises like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (original literature) / Game of Thrones (HBO TV production). Crafting maps and assets is made possible with the Skylines’ ingame map and asset editors. Other mods and content will require more external means of development with use of SDKs (quite often provided by developers who support mods for their games). For city building enthusiasts, Cities: Skylines is modder heaven!
Cities: Skylines with it’s flaws aside, is quite arguably one of greatest city building experiences to date and ultimately the spiritual successor to SimCity 4.

Final Thoughts

I won’t lie, SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition was the greatest city builder I’ve ever played and Skylines just outright tops that! You can compare Cities: Skylines against SimCity 4 or SimCity of 2013 as to what’s on offer out of the box and there are certain features absent in Skylines. Thanks to the power of day one mod support, players are free to assemble the ultimate experience that blows away the best the SimCity franchise has to offer.

So, is Cities: Skylines worth the purchase?

If you enjoy simulation and strategy games, Cities: Skylines will have your attention.
If you are city building simulation enthusiast, Skylines will be one of your “Mantelpiece” games for the genre!
If you’re a SimCity fan who’s been holding out for a worthy successor to last great SimCity title… The wait is over, Cities: Skylines is that game!

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: A
Skill: B
Technical: A
Value: A
Audience: Family