Released on: March 10 2015 (PC, MacOS, Linux), April 21st 2017 (Xbox One), August 15 2017 (Playstation 4), September 13 2018 (Nintendo Switch)
Available Platforms: PC, MacOS, Linux, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Price: $34.99 CDN ($29.99 US) [Base Edition]
Ever since I played Sim City on Super Nintendo, I’ve been fascinated with city builder games. The prospect of transforming a piece of empty land into a metropolis is a titillating one. I tried other city builders, but the only one I was able to enjoy as much as the original Sim City was Sim City 2000. After that, I gave up on city builders, as they were getting more complex as the years went on. One year, however, my girlfriend had her eyes set on a game called Cities: Skylines. Since she showed interest in it, I decided to get it for her birthday. She dropped it at first, but a few weeks after that, she picked it back up and spent hours on it in one night. Because of this, I decided to get it for myself as well. Is Cities: Skylines the city builder game I was looking for?
In Cities: Skylines, the player is the mayor. What are they the mayor of? At the start of the game, they are the proud owner of a piece of land. In most cases, this land houses a lake or river. It’s the mayor’s job to turn this land into a village, then town, then city, etc. The premise of Cities: Skylines is simple but effective. When the player has their community started, they can either zoom out to the point where they can see everything, or zoom in to find out what a particular citizen is doing. Despite the simple premise, I find Cities: Skylines engrossing.
Full disclosure: the version of Cities: Skylines I’m looking at is the Steam version (on PC) running on a medium-range laptop at best. With that out of the way, Cities: Skylines is a gorgeous game. When I have a little bit of downtime in the game, I like to find the best view I can of my city and take pictures. It is incredibly satisfying to see a perfect angle of the tallest building looking over the sunset. The thought that crosses my mind when I take these pictures is: “I helped make this. No matter how I spin it, this wouldn’t be possible without me.”
As mentioned in the intro, my girlfriend is the one who introduced me to Cities: Skylines. When she first played it, she dropped it relatively quickly. After playing it for myself, I can see why. My first time with Cities: Skylines was a confusing one, as there is a lot to think about from the get-go. I understood how power worked, since I played Sim City, but the water was a completely new concept to me. Because I didn’t understand a crucial part of the game, I dropped it quickly as well. One day, however, my girlfriend figured out how water worked, and she started making headway. She showed me what she learned, and I was hooked as well. Suddenly, she and I spent several hours that night playing Cities: Skylines. There are still things that I don’t understand in Cities: Skylines, but those became intriguing as opposed to frustrating. I wanted to learn more about each new element.
There is always something for the player to do in Cities: Skylines. The player needs to decide what by-laws to pass, the tax rate, and municipal services (like schools, firefighters and police). Figuring all of this out, along with making sure traffic flows smoothly and making sure there is enough water and power to keep the citizens happy is harder than it looks. Proper optimization of all these elements will help the city grow and will generate income, which is always rewarding.
Speaking of income generation, one aspect in Cities: Skylines that helped in this regard is industries. Players can designate specific zones in their city. Zones can have by-laws and can specialize in particular industries, like forestry, mining, etc. Assigning industries in these zones help generate income a lot quicker… until that resource runs out. When it does run out, the player can remove the designation, or even assign it a new one if the area is rich in that particular resource. The number of tips, tricks, and planning techniques in Cities: Skylines is insane. One player can be a master in one area but know nothing about another.
There are a few points of criticism I have with Cities: Skylines, though.
For instance: even though I don’t have the most powerful laptop, I do feel the game could be better optimized. Even on the lowest setting, I have issues running the game at thirty frames per second (fps). At first, I thought it was just my machine, but then I saw other reviewers saying the same thing, who have more powerful computers. I also heard that the frame rate issue is much worse on the console versions. I do understand that there are a lot of elements for the game to keep track and Cities: Skylines is not the kind of game that demands precise inputs. I do wish that the game would be better optimized.
Another issue I have is text size. During gameplay, there is a little blue bird that gives insight into how the citizens are doing. Most of the time, though, I can barely read what it says, as the text is much too small. The bird is easy enough to ignore, but the menus, not so much. Some icons help distinguish each menu element, but if I find myself out of luck when it comes to the function’s finer details.
One piece of advice I need to give to my readers: before doing anything significant to the city, MAKE A COPY! In fact, after each milestone, it is strongly recommended that the player saves their game, and make a copy. Working on remodeling the city, only for it to ultimately backfire, or worse, flood the city due to installing a hydro-electric dam at the wrong place is devastating. If there is no copy of the city, then the player has to recover all of the lost money and citizens or, worse, rebuild from scratch. The first time I destroyed my city in this manner, I was infinitely thankful for the copy I made.
Even with its issues, I love Cities: Skylines. Building a city from the ground up, unlocking new things to integrate into it, and optimizing it is enthralling. Cities: Skylines is easy for me to recommend for those looking for a deep city building game. It might be a little challenging to get into, but it’s worth it.