As I sat in traffic looking out into the sea of cars waiting to get onto the motorway, I thought to myself “Mihajlo, you can do a better job! No one would complain about traffic in YOUR city!” And so I did, attempted just that.
Released late last year Cities: Skylines is a city building game and a welcome revival to the genre, unlike a certain other city builder that shall not be named. Offering similar mechanics to any city builder, you zone out your residential, commercial and industrial areas, plan out your roads and provide essential utilities for a growing township. I would soon find that maybe, just maybe you didn’t need a clinic or fire station in every town.
Unlike most city builders Cities: Skylines locks utilities and infrastructure behind population limit, after all the small village of Mihajlo-ville won’t need a regional hospital. Once a milestone is achieved new buildings and infrastructure are unlocked and you’re given a small boost in spending money. This acts as a grant to get you ahead in your town’s latest endeavour, time to decide: do you want a fire station to stop your houses burning down or would you rather a police station to stop the thugs and muggers of the village.
C:S introduces a unique districts function, by zoning out areas you can create unique neighbourhoods within your city. This allows you to set separate policies depending on how socialistic generous you wish to be to the neighbourhood. I soon learnt that there is a great amount of power within these policies, through the “Schools Out” policy I was able to create my own blue collar working class, after all, someone has to work those factories.
Though before I figured out how to keep the man down I was introduced to another painful reality – without factories there were no goods. Without goods there was no commerce, and without commerce my hard working people couldn’t spend their hard earned dollars. The happiness in my city plummeted and I learnt the hard way that Money truly does buy happiness. There’s quite an intricate economic and commerce system in the game though the player is never exposed to it. I appreciate this in the game, it’s intricate but hidden, the game allows you to focus on creating your ideal neighbourhood without having to focus on the amount of prawns being delivered to the local seafood restaurant.
The real difficulty of the game actually lies once you’ve reached ~ 50,000 citizens within your city, the traffic management is critical. Many times I’ve had to remove entire neighbourhoods within my city due to a lack of foreplanning and … traffic. Admittedly this was one of my favourite parts of the game, the mistakes you make early on aren’t apparent but it punishes you later on when you realise that you’re not quite the city planner you thought you were. The game teaches you to be slow and methodical, it’s not a race to hit 100,000 in population. I mean, do you really want that many people waiting in traffic for days?
Though the game ultimately doesn’t have to be a difficult one, during the first hour of any city you will have to juggle utilities and services, but beyond that the game doesn’t offer too much of a challenge. And that’s a good thing. Cities: Skylines is more of a canvas for the player, so much so that it comes with an “Unlimited Money” option that can be turned on. The player is meant to create the city of their dreams, the city without traffic, the city of the future (no, not Hamilton). So in a way their design choice of making the game easy fits the scope of the game.
Colossal Order have not forgotten the game as well, frequent updates are pushed out throughout the year. They’re no strangers to releasing free content along with their DLC (which is moderately priced). They have an active forum and provide amazing support to the mod scene, allowing for players to create their own content, changes to the game and city styles.
And that’s the beauty of Skylines, it allows the player to play how they want, it offers them the canvas and challenges, then leaves you to create what you want. All with the support of a developer who looks like they’re really giving it their all. It’s quite obvious that Colossal Order is passionate about the city builder genre and it’s quite refreshing to see a small company achieve a lot within the gaming scene.
If you like creating your own city and like spending hours at a time staring at an intersection trying to figure out why the bastards won’t just use the other lane, then Cities: Skylines is for you.
I’ve had a great 50 hours (that I could have spent being a productive member of society) in the game and do not regret it.
Though I never did achieve my dream of a traffic-less city…