‘Cities: Skylines’ Video Game Review
The city building genre has been yearning for a good release since the Sim City reboot flopped back in 2013. Colossal Order, the developers behind Cities: Skylines, has had the fortune of seeing the mistakes that Sim City made, and improved on them. Cities: Skylines has brought the city building genre into the modern gaming era with deep mechanics that won’t have you pulling your hair out.
That was a trope which put me off of older city building games. The knowledge you would need to run and maintain a city was immense. Cities: Skylines finds a good middle ground between the tropes of old and new. Skylines implements the dynamic building technology modern city building games utilize, but you also need to lay the ground work for utilities, and things are a little more free than other city building games. You have more control over building the city how you want, which makes the game fun and engaging.
It seems easy to write Skylines off as plagiarizing Sim City, and it is understandable why. Skylines even has that tilt-shift filter on the graphics. But once you start getting into Skylines, you realize that the simulation of the city is done very well. The amount of times you will be confused on what is happening in your city is minimal.
I noticed how well the simulation ran when I enabled cheats to build my city up quicker than normal. As I started adding high density buildings and new major attractions, my city services couldn’t keep up. Partner that with a flood, and my first neighborhood was abandoned.
Speaking of a flood, Skylines introduces a dynamic water system to the genre, and it is fantastic. With the dynamic water system, you have to be mindful of where you’re dumping waste so that it isn’t upstream from where you pump your water, or else you’ll be giving dirty water to your citizens. The flood mentioned earlier was caused by me damming up a part of the water in my city. It caused water to back up, and flooded an entire neighborhood. It was also a little surprising when I got a notification that homes were flooding. It was surprising because I didn’t expect a little feature like that in a city game made by a small indie team.
It is rather impressive to look at the size of Colossal Order and know that they built a better simulation engine with Skylines than Maxis did with Sim City. The small size ends with the team though, as Skylines is a huge game.
You can build massive cities in Skylines, complete with mass transit systems, harbors, airports, dense urban areas, and huge populations. Colossal Order says the simulation can handle populations around one million. When the map first loads up, you are limited to the land you have available to build on. But as your city expands, you can acquire new land, which also opens your access to different free ways and train lines. Someone that spends time working on their city will be able to build impressive cities.
Graphically the game looks great. You are able to zoom in real close and read text on buildings, see people walking around, and watch industries come to life. The game is built on the Unity engine, so you can expect a solid performance from the game.
The sound in the game is great. Like any city, you’ll hear people talking, cars driving around, planes flying, factories working, and sirens. Lots of sirens. Backing the game is a soothing soundtrack that adds to the aesthetic of the game.
One disappointment with the visuals of Skylines, and with the simulation as well, is the lack of a day-night cycle. It would be cool to create something like a bar district in your city and watch it come to life at night. It would be possible to do something similar to a named bar district with the district paint tool. You are able to make different areas in your city dedicated to specific industries, or if you just want to name an area, you are able to do so. Also in said districts you can impose policies, like smoking bans, pet bans, tax breaks for certain buildings, tax hikes for certain buildings, etc. That was another feature which surprised me. It just shows how much work and care went into building Skylines. It is an incredibly charming game that deserves the love it will receive.
It is hard to review a city-building simulator without referencing the Sim City series, and to me, Skylines is like a mix between Sim City and SimCity 4. Some utilities need to be laid out and are not just tied to your roads, buildings need to be connected to energy if they aren’t connected to the main grid, there are plenty of options for roads, including the ability to build an extensive highway system between different areas of your city, and more. I could go on for a while talking about the deep mechanics of Skylines, but the point is that this is the city-building game people were hoping to get in 2013. It was definitely worth the wait.
If the Sim City reboot left you yearning for more, Skylines is the game for you. It has the charm and feel of Sim City, but with the expanded options for building your city, the game is much deeper to keep the player interested in the game.
Cities: Skylines was reviewed on PC. The game is also available for Mac and Linux. A copy of the game was provided to the reviewer from the publisher.