Does this city management simulator give Sim City a run for its money or is this just another cheap knockoff? Find out in our Cities: Skylines Review!
I’ve always been a fan of management simulation games. I don’t know why I find them so fun, but some of my favourite gaming experiences were Sims titles, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and other titles like that. I never really got into the city-building side of things until the newest edition of Sim City and that game didn’t really do much for me. This brought me to Cities: Skylines. I had seen reviews of this game and watched a bit of gameplay, but it wasn’t until I played it that I realized that we have a new king of city-building games.
You can’t mention Cities: Skylines without drawing comparisons with Sim City. These two games will be forever intertwined. It’s easy to see, though, that Skylines tried to improve upon the shortcomings of Sim City in almost each and every way. The base game did ship without some notable features such as Natural Disasters and mass transit options, but those have since been rectified with the release of some paid DLC.
You play the role of mayor, I guess. I mean, you’re kind of a mayor, but you also have the ability to destroy little Jimmy’s house while he sleeps. We’ll stick with the mayor, but you’re more of a king of the land. Anyways…if you’ve never played one of these games before, they start off pretty simple. You connect roads to the highways and start creating your different zones. There are 3 zones, residential, commercial, and industrial. You’re able to zone these areas next to each road. The next step is to provide utilities to your budding city with wind turbines and water pumps. To deliver those utilities, water pipes and power lines deliver them to the areas in need. It’s all an easy process and starts to feel like a routine once you start expanding your city. It definitely nails the basics.
One of my biggest complaints about Sim City is the map size. You really had to come up with some interesting ways of fitting things you wanted in after a while. Cities: Skylines makes sure that is never a problem. You start with a map similar in size to Sim City, but you’re able to expand that area tile by tile. You never run out of room on the map to create the metropolis of your dreams. There’s even an included map editor if you’d like to edit your terrain before you start. If that’s not enough, download one from the Steam Workshop as this game has mod support fully integrated.
As your city grows larger, it becomes necessary to create different districts to give them different characteristics. Districts can easily be named so as to differentiate them and they can also be given unique policies that change the way they operate. Do you want less fire hazards? Activate the policy for mandatory smoke detectors. Want to lower electricity costs? Ban electric heating. These policies also carry over to industrial areas allowing them to mine for oil, create farmland, or even harvest trees for forestry. Tax incentives can also be adjusted for each zone in a district as you wish. You’re in control of how you want things to happen. Just make sure that you don’t go crazy with policies, they cost money and were the sole reason why my first couple cities went bankrupt. Once I learned that I was fine.
I will say that the daily cycle in Cities: Skylines is fast. A day lasts anywhere from 3.5 to 10 seconds depending on what you have the speed set on. This means your money will be flowing in and out faster than you could ever imagine. This can be daunting at first when money is scarce. As you start to progress, it becomes much more manageable. The basic rule I followed is to never stop zoning for too long until you gain some good profit margins. There is no day/night cycle in the base game as night time wasn’t added until the After Dark DLC, but we’ll talk about that on its own in a different article.
Transportation is one of the things that I didn’t enjoy so much about Cities: Skylines. You start out with very limited road selection. By the time you get better roads, you’d have to rip up half your city to make things better. There are many options as far as subways, trains, and buses are concerned (and even more in the Mass Transit DLC), but it’s hard to build your city around them when they’re locked in the beginning. Luckily, there is a Sandbox Mode and Unlimited Money Mode that allow you to do whatever you want so at least there’s that. I will also say that plotting bus routes and things like that is an exercise in frustration most of the time as it’s not as intuitive as it should be. It’s one of those cases of being a little more complex than it needs to be. It’s hard to tell the beginning of a route from the end and it’s just generally a pain.
As your city grows, you start to appreciate what you’ve created. While Skylines doesn’t quite match the graphics of Sim City. I do find that it has quite a bit of personality in its neighbourhoods. It’s colourful, traffic flows freely, and you really get a sense of accomplishment seeing what you built…at least it is when you don’t have abandoned buildings. This game isn’t very good at telling you what is wrong with your city and how to fix it. It’s a strange problem to have and it pops up at some weird times. I personally had to demolish a whole district and start new because buildings kept being abandoned. It solved the problem, whatever the problem may have been. It’s never bad enough to hurt my city immensely, but it is annoying.
It’s really hard to fail at running your city if you’re at all competent in this game. Natural Disasters made their way to the game via DLC, but they’re nowhere to be found in the main game. That means there aren’t many random things to really deal with other than fire which really didn’t cause many issues for me. Even if you neglect your city a little bit by letting garbage pile up or things like that, your approval rating never really seems to go down that much. That takes away from the fun of building these big sprawling cities as it never really feels like your actions can derail anything once you get going.
Cities: Skylines is a great first attempt at competing with Sim City. I do take issue with how many things were left out of the original game only to be introduced as DLC later, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary in this industry. I was amazed at the creations that I could make in Skylines and how much I could do to make the city operate the way I wanted it to. This game isn’t perfect, but if you’re a fan of the genre, you have to try this one out. Colossal Order has a great new franchise on their hands here and built something that is arguably already better than the competition. That’s no small feat.