Title: Cities: Skylines
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux (via Steam)
Developer: Colossal Order
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: March 10 2015
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A rather strange thing happened when I had one wee session before making a start on this review of City builder game Cities: Skylines.
I said to myself, “Ok Steven, let’s get going with this review!”
But oh no! The traffic’s built up in the city district. I need to upgrade those roads! The Industrial district is drying up and the locals are complaining about a lack of schools in their area. I felt compelled to nurture my city as it grew from a simple village to a thriving metropolis. It was like having one of those wee Tamagotchi toys when I was little. You didn’t want to put the thing down for fear of it ringing downthe curtain and joining the choir invisible.
So yeah, first point off the bat. It’s pretty damn addictive.
Cities: Skylines is the latest game developed by Colossal Order, a small development team from Finland that were also responsible for the Cities In Motion series. This point out it being a small group is important, as I imagine many of you will draw comparisons to another particularly well known city-builder that stands as its competition.
Cities: Skylines takes a notably different route when it comes to building this city builder. For one, it has minimal use for the internet to make the game what it is. Only two aspects involve the internet in its use: Cloud-based saves through Steam and downloading/uploading of customised content through the Steam Workshop. That’s it.
I suspect this a deliberately direct contrast to tackle the issues that plagued its competition when it was first released. It’s almost like the game is making a statement. We don’t need to waffle around with stuff like that to make a good game. The code can make a city live and breathe for itself.
Thankfully, that claim more than holds true.
Cities are built through the well-established zoning mechanism in a ‘build it and they will come’ style of city construction. You plonk down where you want homes and businesses to be, hook them up with the necessary utilities and you’re golden. Over time, amenities and public transport can be added to the city alongside those necessary bits and bobs that can help a city grow.
It became apparent really quickly that Colossal Order took some inspiration from the Cities in Motion games in how it deals with traffic. The transport system is really well detailed, permitting numerous degrees of flexibility in constructing roads and highways. Fancy creating your own version of Spaghetti Junction? Go for it! The same also applied to creating underground lines (if you fancied taking Transport for London on at their own game) and even mainline rail routes and airports. All of this feeds into a live heat map over your city which quickly points out bottlenecks for you to address, especially when the headcount begins to take speed.
However, the one thing I liked most about Cities: Skylines was something that tickled me every time it popped up.
Whilst there are pop-ups and icons to warn you of things going awry in certain areas, there is one very useful feedback medium that tells you a lot more at a quick glance.
This wee blue bird is a useful parody of a social media timeline, where residents of your city will ‘chirp’ in when they have things to say about the city. You may remember that I was quite taken with the idea back when I saw an early build of the game at gamescom. Take one unhappy customer for example…
Poor Sophie must not be getting a regular garbage run, so off I go to check on the landfills and incinerators to make sure they’re up to speed.
The locals love to sing praises about your mayorship if you’re doing well too, Chirp-ing in with compliments when more green energy is installed for example. Receiving a message from your locals about how well you’re looking after your city is a really awesome feel-good moment that never grew old on me.
Overall, I feel that Colossal Order set out a competent City Builder, set with the right tools to allow folks to go crazy on the blank canvas that are the city’s grounds. In that mission, they’ve definitely succeeded. City builders are not what I normally head towards in games, but it didn’t take long for me to become extremely hooked on making my City fantastic.
Mayor Pilkington. It’s got a good ring to it, don’t you think?
What the Mayor loved! :)
- Supremely-addictive city building
- Chirpr is an amazing feedback mechanism
- Freedom with road construction is awesome
- Steam workshop adds so much potential for custom land/buildings
What the Mayor didn’t like :(
- You’re invited to sign up to a Paradox account, but it doesn’t seem to do much.
- I’m cool with no multiplayer, but I can see it being a missing feature for some.
- Would be awesome to see a vehicle section added to the Steam Workshop
Cities: Skylines has very little in the way of offending content. It does have a fair amount going on at once though, so may be a bit much for the younger ones. However, I can easily see this being fun as a co-operative exercise, deciding by consensus on how to lay out a city.