Cities: Skylines review – A city game worth your time

Genre: City-builder, Simulation, Strategy, Management
Available platforms: Microsoft Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

Suggested for: City-Builder fans. Strategy lovers. Especially recommended to people who have experienced Manila traffic (and feel like designing a logistical utopia).

MANILA, Philippines – Remember that scene from the 2004 movie King Arthur where the Saxon leader said, “Finally! A city game worth my time.”

Well, those weren't the exact words, but that's how I felt when I played Cities: Skylines.

Developed by Colossal Order, known for games like Cities in Motion that focused on the inner workings of city production and transportation, and published by Paradox Interactive, responsible for grand strategy games like Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron, comes a game that will not only amaze you with its gameplay but will definitely eat away your time.

City life

Honestly, I enjoyed every bit of my time in Cities: Skylines. My first playthrough was 5 hours, I'm not kidding! That's 5 hours that just went “poof!” without me realizing it. The map is huge and is pretty easy to begin with. Which helps in curbing everyone's appetite for a city-building game.

The game also does not alienate anyone in its gameplay, whether you're a long time city-building veteran or even just a casual gamer. The game lets you learn as you play.

 

Pop-up tutorials are there to help you familiarize yourself with the unique functionalities and tools at your disposal but how you want your city to look and how it works is entirely up to you from the get-go.

Early in the game I learned how to build roads, lay water pipes and sewage systems, and then manage strategic task of zoning. Zoning is the gameplay aspect where you place your residential, commercial and industrial zones. Knowing where to place the specific zones is key to your city's growth and is an essential part of the game's strategic format.

Cities: Skylines takes into account the player's own personal understanding of the term "quality of living." Are you the person who would place people near noisy commercial areas and polluted industrial zones? Wouldyou rather have your people live a suburban lifestyle, away from all the bustle of the city? That choice will be entirely up to you.

You are not the mayor!

Unlike our own city leaders, there is no politicking in this game.

The happiness of people in your city depends solely on how you manage things like job availability, public transportation, access to commercial spots, public utilities, overall quality of living, and the notorious and most problematic of all city management issues, traffic.

I made a mess of my first city, resulting in a traffic situation as close as trudging through EDSA on a rainy Friday night payday with shopping mall sales all around. Yes, it was that bad!

Simple solutions like creating roundabouts and overpasses – flyovers as we call them – that resolve a huge traffic problem in a part of your city can be a very rewarding experience. Skylines provides you with puzzles like these throughout the game.

It's a never-ending quest of asking the question, “Ok, so what else is wrong?” which in itself is surprisingly addictive.

With the lack of other neighboring cities to trade with like in SimCityCities:Skylines provides users with an alternative: districts. Districts are boundaries that seperate specializations within your huge cities.

You can set unique ordinances like truck bans or "no heavy traffic" rules or specializations for your industrial sectors, such as Forestry, Oil, Iron, and Farmland industries. 

Regardless of whether you're a city manager that operates and sees things on a big picture level or a person that dives into the littlest of details, Cities:Skylines can easily help you do the work you need to get everything going.

Nothing is perfect

A prevalent issue I encountered in the game is the lack of control I have for citizen's choices. 

Factories, for example, will sometimes tell you that you lack educated people to fill up on its job openings. If the post doesn't get filled up in a few minutes regardless of your efforts to resolve it, the factory will close down. You then end up with an abandoned building that needs to be cleared since it could become a fire hazard for the area or worse, a haven for criminals.

Speaking of criminals, there don't appear to be any in my games. My police officers, no matter how few, seem to do a good job deterring crime, making buying more police stations practically wasteful no matter how big the city gets.

Fires can burn down a building if you don't plan your roadways well. What's noticeable is they don't spread to the adjacent buildings. This leaves only a hump of burnt materials for you to clean up and is kind of a downer. It removes a sense of urgency to at least improve your city for the benefit of safety.

Disasters are also not present in the game, a feature that tends to be a staple in city-building simulations. Since the game is in its launch build, it's likely this could be remedied with downloadable content. 

Issues like crashes and frame rate drops might also be a common thing, especially if you load a huge city from a previous saved game.

To avoid crashes, you may want to let the game engine do its work first if you're loading your map. Don't be eager to zoom in and out or click menus as soon as you see your game is in place. 

A game done right

The freedom of building does not end with creating your own city in Cities: Skylines. The game also includes a Map Editor that puts your hidden landscaping talent to good use. Another tool that comes with the game is the Asset Editor, that lets you create your own unique buildings and other things.

The game is also open for modifications, so don't be surprised if you see a Simpsons or Lord of the Rings themed modification someday. 

For a game that costs less than P800 (P999.95 for the Deluxe Edition) on Steam, it is easy to understand why this game sold over 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours after release.

It's also relatively light, taking up only about 4GB on your hard drive. Competitors like competitors SimCity 5 and CitiesXXL take up to 10GB or 20GB of your hard drive space respectively.

Cities: Skylines is a great game. The game does not focus on the political aspects of being in-charge of a city but rather on managing a living, breathing city with its own systems and clever machinations.

If, as one saying by journalist Herb Caen goes, "a city is not gauged by length or width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams," then Cities: Skylines is as close as gamers can get to utopia in the meanwhile. – Rappler.com