As a veteran of the old SimCity games (SimCity 2000 and SimCity 3000, in particular), I admit that I did not expect any city-building game to amaze me. I thought that the genre had already seen its golden days, and any modern city-building game would just be playing off the nostalgia of the SimCity games of the past without making any innovation of its own. Still, I was willing to hop into the world of Cities with an open mind due to the raving reviews (it’s been out for awhile now) and its publisher whom I hold in the highest regards for their Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings series, Paradox Interactive.
Cities: Skylines is a spectacularly fun game filled with more intricacies and challenges than any city-building game I’ve ever seen. As advertised, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, and I’m saddened to say that my two-year old laptop cannot do it justice. The game does indeed envoke feelings of nostalgia from my days playing SimCity on a bulky old computer running Windows 98, but it also strives to be so much more than those old games. Cities: Skylines is the first city-building game in what I hope is a whole new era for city-builders and similar genres.
While I could rave about the game all day, I’d like to say a few short points about the new (to me, anyways) which stood out to me the most.
- The Graphics. Believe it or not, superior graphics in a city-builder really do significantly improve the gameplay experience. Sure, SimCity 2000 was a great game that I’ll always be fond of, but that game is just downright ugly when compared to Cities: Skylines. You can see cars driving the streets and pedestrians walking the sidewalks. Then you can click on the cars and the pedestrians and get a little blip about what they’re doing, where they’re going. My only complaint about the graphics is that I wish they hadn’t gotten lazy with some of the textures on larger buildings, and it’d be nice for the sky to be more vibrant at night.
- Dynamic Weather. Cities: Skylines brings weather to the city-building genre, something I’ve not really seen before. The alterations between rain and shine really give the feeling that you’re creating a real city, not just playing a zoning simulator.
- Traffic. As both a blessing and a curse, traffic seems to be the core mechanic that players go to battle with in Cities: Skylines. There are very real amounts of traffic on the roads given the city’s size, and the realistic traffic distributions give players very real problems. For example, I decided that it’d be fun to play with an island map. Unfortunately, with my starting island being short on space, I’ve been forced to place a major portion of my industrial and business districts on a different island. The ensuing traffic jam on the single highway traveling between the islands has caused a whole host of issues including business closures on the second island because businesses aren’t getting enough customers.
- Education. In previous city-builders, it seemed as if education was just another thing that you had to do to complete your city, but education didn’t really have a massive impact on the economy. Now, businesses need set amounts of workers with various education levels in order to function optimally, so schools and universities must be placed with great care in order to create the correct proportions of educated citizens for the city’s needs.
- Free-Form Road Design. Road design in old city-builders was always done on a lame, basic grid with square tiles. Any curves added were merely for aesthetic purposes, but the square grid was always present underneath. In Cities: Skylines, the old grids have been thrown out the window. As a result, the curvatures of roads now seem extremely realistic, most notably in the interchanges between highways. You can create complex curves between highways with varying elevations for on-ramps and off-ramps which give the game an extra level of realism.
If you’re a city-builder fan or just a strategy game lover in general, I’d recommend purchasing Cities: Skylines. I think the game could also be used to get new gamers into the strategy genre. The game has a fairly easy learning curve, and it’s able to lend its beauty to anyone who wants to make their city great.
A link to the game on Steam can be found here.