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Cities: Skylines (PC) artwork

Cities: Skylines (PC) review

"The current benchmark for city simulators."

Every gamer has their own story of how they first became addicted to gaming. Mine happened when I was around ten years old. My dad installed Sim City 2000 on the family computer and one morning I started building a city, carefully laying down roads and powerlines and pipes. I watched my money rise and fall, using each new windfall to further expand my city. I watched my population rise. I remember being called away for dinnerÖ I wasnít even aware that I had been playing for about nine hours continuously.

Iím older now, and I donít have as much time or energy for games. There will always be a place in my heart for the simulation genre, even if it requires a lot of time and experimentation to be good at it. No other simulation game captured my attention as well as Sim City 2000 did Ė its sequels fell a bit short in my estimation.

Cities: Skylines is the modern update to Sim City 2000 that Iíve always wanted. Itís a little more complex, but it eases you in gently. The maps contain pre-existing highways and railway lines, and itís your job to connect your new city to that network. Your first town will be a few streets near a motorway exit, and youíll learn how to manage electricity, water and roads very quickly. Most buildings must be placed next to a road. Your power plants must have water. Your water pumps must have power. If you forget this, your city will die before it even gets off the ground Ė and I have occasionally forgotten this, as I like to put my power plants away from where Iím going to build my town.

Cities: Skylines (PC) image

Youíll then zone the land that is accessible by road. If youíve played Sim City, youíll be familiar with the zones: residential, commercial, industrial. I appreciated that they even used the same colour as Sim City. Each zone has either low or high density Ė so you can choose where you want houses or apartment blocks, and small shops or huge malls. One difference is that the industrial area is differentiated between factories and office buildings.

Your city will come alive before your eyes. You can zoom out and watch the city begin to fill, or you can zoom right in and watch construction crews at work on the buildings. I havenít seen a game that has handled the transition between macro and micro view as well as this game. You can zoom out far enough that clouds can sometimes partially obscure your view (you can turn weather effects off if this bothers you), and you can zoom right in to see people moving about and cars driving along your streets, and you can click on any building or person to view information about them.

And you will start to notice traffic. Your first cities will likely be abandoned simply because of traffic congestion caused by poor planning. As your city grows, more and more cars will need to access your city. If you have intersections too close to each other, the traffic jams will become massive. If you zoom in, youíll hear them blaring their horns at each other. If traffic comes to a complete stop, then essential services will have trouble reaching areas of your city.

Cities: Skylines (PC) image

Cities: Skylines expects you to provide adequate education, police, fire and health protection. It also includes sanitation. At one point, my garbage trucks couldnít get through to my residential area, so I kept receiving reports of garbage piling up, which caused people to move out. Even more disturbing, some buildings had dead bodies in them, because the hearses from the cemetery couldnít get through the traffic.

Itís all a learning experience. Each new city you make will be better thought out than the previous one. I will usually leave a row of empty blocks so I can run a train line through, or even extend the motorway through my city, so it can be serviced by additional exits, so the motorists donít crowd the main street. It also helps to put in a subway network or bus lines so that people will leave their cars at home.

Iíve put nearly thirty hours into Cities: Skylines, but I feel Iíve barely begun. Just this morning, I finally built a CBD that Iím proud of. Land value is up; traffic flow is okay (there are a few trouble spots I need to work on). Iíve decided to leave that city alone for a while, and build a new one somewhere else on the map. Cities: Skylines gives you a huge play area Ė this is one of the main draws it has over something like the most recent Sim City title.

Cities: Skylines (PC) image

Once your city is making enough money, you can purchase additional neighbouring land, effectively doubling your building size. The base game lets you have a city of 9 blocks of land, but why stop there? If your computer is up to it (and youíre looking at 16GB of ram), you can activate a pre-installed mod to let you purchase 25 blocks of land. In researching these numbers, I just learned that you can unlock up to 81 blocks of land! I am certainly going to try this. Another pre-installed mod lets you have unlimited money, allowing you to be more ambitious and creative with your cities, letting you see what works and what doesnít without bankrupting you.

Cities: Skylines has so many custom mods created by the community. You can download so many custom maps (often based on real locations), and buildings and vehiclesÖ your city is only limited by your imagination.

I feel like this game is a response to some of the subpar city simulators that have hit the market in the last five years or so. Colossal Order have put together such a polished title that allows us to build the cities of our dreams that are full of life and soul. Even if you never download anything from the workshop, there is still so much depth and variety that every time you zoom in, youíll very likely see something you havenít seen before.

And while I haven't lost a whole day to Cities: Skylines, it has certainly taken several hours that I hadn't intended to spend gaming.


jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (February 22, 2017)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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honestgamer posted February 22, 2017:

It sounds like I'm in for a treat when I finally play it! I have it on my computer, because it just recently went on a sale that was finally too good to resist. It had been on my wish list for a long while, because I loved the recent SimCity and wanted more along similar lines.

Also, I can definitely identify with your comment about losing a day to SimCity. I used to lose a lot of time to the old SNES version, which I now have on Virtual Console. And more recently, my wife got really mad at me because I forgot to go to bed due to being busy with SimCity on PC.

It's possible that I just shouldn't be trusted with sim titles. Europa Universalis III got me in a similar spot of trouble, a number of years back. I'm almost afraid to try Crusader Kings II...
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jerec posted February 22, 2017:

Oh man, the original Sim City. Yeah I liked that one as well, but never as much because I'd played 2000 first. I have stuff like Civilization V on my PC that I just haven't been able to get into... even Skylines, I could see myself putting in hundreds of hours if I just had the time.
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Nightfire posted February 24, 2017:

This game is so good. While there are a few ways that the "simulation" aspect of this game are broken compared to the 2013 SimCity, it's a fair trade-off for what you get in return.

For example, if you tag one of your citizens in Skylines and watch them for a while, you might notice that it takes over a month for them to complete a trip to the shopping mall and get back home. In SimCity if you do the same, you'll notice them going to work in the morning, staying at their workplace all day, making a short detour to do some shopping after work, then returning home at night, which makes a lot more sense. But I'd still take everything that Skylines has to offer over that kind of minutiae any day of the week, if only for the freedom to build a massive sprawling city that (mostly) makes sense from a simulation perspective.

Nice review, by the way! :)
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jerec posted February 24, 2017:

Yeah, there is a bit of a time differential, but that is easily ignored. Thanks for the feedback :)

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