Do you like simulation games, city builders and micro-managing the hell out of things? Cities: Skylines is the perfect game for the inner obsessive-compulsive in all of us. Colossal Order Ltd. have done an amazing job creating a close to realistic city simulation. Released by Paradox interactive in March 2015, Cities: Skylines raked in the rave reviews for the simplistic, yet detailed, design.
Cities: Skylines has no real storyline, as most simulation games are want to do, you are given the direction to create a few roads and some residential areas, you are then left to your own devices to create the most perfect city you can. In the beginning of the game, it can be a little overwhelming, with all of the options to choose from and you are given a limited budget. Cities: Skylines is fairly realistic with the in-game budgeting system, however if you overbuild too quickly you will fail and have to start over. It is definitely one of those games that you need to take your time with.
It is fairly easy to learn how the game operates, as you progress through the game it has little tool popups, giving you descriptions on how to build roads, assign zones and districts, etc. In the beginning you are given a beautiful plot of land with a highway on-ramp and a highway off ramp, you are tasked to connect them and then do as you wish. The game will pop up occasionally and give you tips for what to do next if you are missing vital components, e.g. you create your roads, you get a few wind turbines setup, you zone some housing but they are all complaining, hold up, you have forgotten to give them running water and sewage! Cities: Skylines has a small Twitter-like bird, he will chirp up occasionally with feedback from your citizens in the form of tweets. These are very handy if you are forgetting something small, like if you forget to have a crematorium or a cemetery your citizens will start tweeting about the smell of dead bodies.
The District Tool is a useful little feature, it allows you to paint areas into districts and set policies and taxes specific to those districts. However when it comes to Industry Zones you can set whatever industry you would like to be there. You can check the overlay to see what sort of resources are in the area, there may be oil or ore, maybe some farming. Setting a specific industry will earn more income than having a generic industry in an area.
The overlay options are a cool addition, they can show you how far pollution spreads, where heavy noise pollution is, good spots for industry areas, where heavy traffic is etc. These overlays will help build a perfect city, you may have heavy traffic and decide to switch out the heavily trafficked road for a much smoother 6 lane highway, or possibly a highway tunnel. You can see where industry areas will be efficient and be able to avoid those areas for your residential. You could go on all day about what tips and tricks the different overlays can help you with.
The design chosen for Cities: Skylines is somehow simplistic and detailed at the same time. Rarely will your hardware lag due to over population or too much going on. When you zoom right out everything changes to being so small you can’t tell little graphical defects, yet when you zoom right in, all of the houses, parks and businesses all take on a characteristic of their own. You get a cool effect when you zoom right in on a building, it puts that one into focus and blurs out the ones behind it, a cool effect and it saves on memory. There is a lack of variety in buildings when it comes to industry unfortunately, all of the buildings look the same and make for boring looking areas.
The soundtrack is fairly basic, there is no need for fancy music, encounter scenes or anything of the like. You have your normal game sounds, little blips for doing actions, building things etc, but nothing too exciting. There are also weather effects that come through, if you are near the coast you will hear the ocean, you can hear when it rains and when it storms. When you zoom right in near buildings you will hear the murmur of citizens, the bustling of traffic, birds, alarms, all of the usual noises you would find in day to day life.
Cities: Skylines has an excellently balanced micro-management system. You are given control of taxes, city budget, policies and certain laws. These systems allow you to control your in and outgoings, this is the key to a city that turns a profit. The tax system allows you to charge different rates for different zones, e.g. you may not charge as high a tax rate for low residential as you would for high-density residential. City Budget allows you to control how much of your budget you use in certain areas. You may decide that you don’t need to sink as much into public transport if you have a great road system. Policies allow you to slightly alter district characteristics, e.g. the Smoke Alarm Distribution Policy will decrease your risk of fire (therefore, you won’t need as hardcore a firefighter coverage) but it will slightly increase your expenditure 4c per building.
Cities: Skylines is altogether a great simulation game. Some players may feel a bit frustrated by the lack of mission structure in the game and being left to your own devices, but anyone that enjoys simulations and/or city builders will love this game. It is super well balanced, very visually appealing, and very addictive to play for hours on end.