Cities: Skylines is a city simulator, one where you take the reins as mayor/god and grow your little town from a patch of dirt to a megatroplis. The city simulator games really started with the Simcity series and as a kid I played them to death, Simcity 2000 being the first game I ever got on my first PC. The beauty of the Simcity games was they offered freedom to experiment and play with layouts yet players still had be smart about how they developed their cities. The replayability was a huge aspect of these games. Cities: Skylines rekindles that kind of magic, and at its core its a very good, if somewhat simplistic city builder. While I think there’s a lack of endgame gameplay here, Cities: Skylines excels at offering an abundance of buildings, services, tools and mods that allows the player to really recreate their city of their dreams better than any city builder before it.
To begin Cities: Skylines lets you select from a range of tilesets to give the right feel for the city. You can select from the tropics, northern hemisphere grassland and a couple of other looking tilesets. There’s also a range of map layouts so you can quickly pre-select the terrain you want. You could also edit the terrain in the map editor to your choosing to get that exact landscape if you need. One big plus for Cities: Skylines is that the map sizes are generous as it is (36sq.km), and plentiful with modifications (100sq.km). For comparison, the latest Simcity is a measly 4sq.km.
The game plays out just like Simcity, its up to you as the mayor to put out some roads, lay down some residential, commercial, industrial areas, power them up and provide them with water and sewerage. As the city grows, you offer the citizens more services, schooling, public parks, police, fire, health and so on. The game will remind if you are going in the right direction or not, as you’ll have abandoned houses to attend to, revenue problems to fix, crime, fires and dead bodies to bury too.
The game is probably too easy once you get into a groove. There doesn’t seem to be enough of a challenge as a gamer if strictly playing as a game. The game will let you know if you are not providing enough of a service, for example education, it will tell you that you demand is outstripping your supply. The reaction than to correct this problem would be to place more schools and as long as you have money this is easily solved. It would be nice to have some conflicting decisions to be made as a mayor and would make the gameplay more challenging. Whether its crime, fire fighting, health, recreation problems, it seems they are easily fixed by just putting more of these services down. The answer then might be playing this game on Cities: Skylines hardmode, a modification that has more expensive constructions, maintenance, more demanding ‘Cims’.
What the game is amazing at is being able to replicate the city you’ve always wanted to build. The biggest reason cities look great is the ability to build curves to your liking which allow for beautiful looking suburbs, scenic winding roads in the country side and areas that look more realistic than the boring square grids look of older games. There’s also a wide range of roads to choose from, anywhere from 1 to 6 lanes, including roadside landscaping if you want, freeways and overpasses. The latest update includes tunnels so with all these tools you can create just about anything that exists in real life. Other transport options including running bus lines, metro lines, trains, ships and aircraft.
The best thing about this game has to be the modifications and the community has delivered thousands of items so far. Not only are there building modifications, but tilesets, game modes, maps, graphical improvements and a whole lot more. In terms of replayability, there’s a lot here to keep even the most die hard city builder fan happy.
As it stands, Cities: Skylines is a solid city builder with simple intuitive gameplay and one that doesn’t stray too far from games in the genre. The simulation aspects could be better developed but the game’s strengths lie in the creation mechanics which really lets players tinker, mould and craft their city better than ever before.
Score: 7.5 skyscrapers out of 10