It begins with a road.
SimCity’s lack of scope (along with its other problems) and Cities XXL’s incredibly minor upgrade from the previous, flawed version of the game, have left avid city building fanatics wanting more. Enter Colossal Order’s Cities: Skylines, the possible answer to all of your city building woes.
Colossal Order were previously responsible for the city transport management game Cities in Motion, suggesting that the new Cities: Skylines game will have a reasonably successful transport system. But it will take more than a few buses and trains to keep city building fans entertained. Thankfully, Cities: Skylines ticks almost every box and provides the standard by which all other city building games will now be judged.
For the fans of city building games, jumping into Cities: Skylines will be quite painless. The game follows a familiar formula, whereby the player will lay roads and assign zones to bring the residents in and get them working to make money. The layout of the UI is quite simple to navigate, with all manner of tools for adding the various roads and buildings along the bottom, and the choice of different overlays to discover whatever information you need about your city, at the top left of the screen. The UI is very smooth and anyone who has a basic understanding of city building games will find themselves whipping up a suburb with great ease.
So you start with some roads and zone for residential to get the little people moving in. After having watched the little buildings grow in the residential zone, players will have to think about providing work, in the form of commercial and industrial zones, and getting all of the buildings hooked up with power and water.
Water is more involved than the other recent city building games, with the player having to lay pipes beneath the ground. The pipes have an area of influence to which they provide water, which shows with a blue highlighted area surrounding the pipe. Keep expanding the pipe to newly built areas, don’t forget to link it in with the sewage disposal, and you will have a happy and well hydrated city.
Electricity naturally jumps from one building to the next as long as it is close by. However, for those with large empty areas to cross, or those who sensibly keep their power plants or wind turbines as far from the rest of the city as possible, electricity pylons will have to be placed to carry the electric. Again, there is an area of influence which easily shows where the electric is reaching and which buildings are sitting in darkness.
Besides zoning and providing power and water, the player will mostly be concerned with the various services that will keep their citizens happy. Again, each of the services have an area of effect that shows the extent of their influence. Placing the likes of fire stations, health clinics or police stations will see smiley faces rise from the nearby buildings as their worth increases. Schools, from elementary through to university, will increase the education levels, and parks raise the land value.
As the player progresses and their city grows, new buildings will become available. Cemeteries will take care of the dead, whilst larger police stations, fire stations and hospitals will be able to provide coverage to larger areas. High density commercial and residential zoning will be able to cram more citizens into a smaller area, and offices can be zoned for the suit-wearing masses. More options will become available for providing power or taking care of sewage.
And transport systems will have to be considered as the roads get more and more clogged up with vehicles. Colossal Order’s past work with Cities in Motion really shows here, as the options for transport are both plentiful and well thought out. Get a bus depot and start placing bus stops around the city, creating routes to carry your citizens around. Head underground and easily build a decent metro system. Trains, ports and even airports become available to move the little people to where they need to go, to bring in tourists or even for moving goods away for sale. The system works really well.
Which is quite handy as the cities in Cities: Skylines can become quite massive. Players begin with only a small tile on a large map, but as they progress further tiles become available to purchase, allowing the maps to become a massive 36Km2 in size, and even that is not the end as modding can make the cities even larger.
Managing a city this massive could be cumbersome, but Colossal Order have yet another ace up their sleeve in the form of Districts. The district tool allows player to highlight areas in their city and assign them as districts, each with different names. Districts can specialise and make use of natural resources, such as an entire district dedicated to farming, but they can also be managed differently to the rest of the city, with their own tax rates and policies.
The entire game is very impressive, but the most impressive aspect of all is perhaps the way that modding has been integrated. Right from the main menu, players can browse all of the mods that have been created for the game and install them. They can then choose which mods to have active or inactive with a simple toggle. Then there are even tools for creating your own buildings or maps and sharing them with the community. There is already a fair amount of community created content available, and that is likely to increase massively over time, providing fresh content that will encourage players to return to the game for a long time to come.
Cities: Skylines has almost everything that a city building fan could want, and whatever may be missing will likely turn up in the future thanks to the support from both the developers and the community. The game is already incredibly good, and will get even better with time. City building fans should not delay – pick up Cities: Skylines now.