[Disclosure: This was reviewed due to a review copy provided by Paradox]
After 2013’s debacle that was Sim City it was time some new devs stepped to the table. Cities XXL was a huge miss as Focus Interactive did nothing to improve their terrible running and clunky game so the question is, did Colossal Order (a Paradox dev responsible for Cities in Motion) deliver? Yes, oh my god Yes!
Cities Skylines is another game in the long list of city building and managing simulators that have been trying to succeed in the shoes of what was Sim City 4; released more than 12 years ago. From the dev that created Cities in Motion, Colossal Order does something that no other city sim has done and make a truly great game that brings back the feel of Sim City 4 and my favorite of the series, Sim City 3000. They brought it back to its basics which included zones, different building types like electrical, water, fire, police, medical, fun and even the unique landmark buildings.
When you start creating your city you start in a small 2km x 2km square that can expand as your city gets bigger and you annex other areas to a possible 25 tile, 100km2 area (with the support of a mod that is already in the steam workshop). The game also locks different building, zones, etc. behind population goals so that it isn’t too overwhelming however there are mods that allow you to unlock everything to start if you wish along with unlimited money. The game will also allow for steam workshop when it releases for people to create their own user content to add to the game which could include more buildings, new modes, user made cities and much more.
Along with the buildings and zones there are also the financial and policies that make a city sim a true city sim. They are simple enough and not as annoying as was the advisors in sim city 3000 but they change things greatly including outlawing private traffic in certain zones forcing people to take mass transit instead. What those policies and other specific buildings do is increase the happiness of the people in the commercial, residential and industrial zones. As your happiness increases they are more likely to accept higher taxes and recommend more people to move in causing an increase in desire for residential and other financial zones. I can also say that Colossal Order certainly know how to make their transport lines work and work well because every form of transportation was easy to create and maintain.
That being said the roads themselves were difficult to make sure they were right especially having off ramps connect to highways. When I bought my first annex there was a highway running through it. I thought it would have been easy enough to figure out how to implement a overpass/rounded off ramp to have access to the other side of the highway however I had to do a lot of work to get a new one working. First I had to delete the existing off ramps and highway to make way for a 4 way off ramp. On top of that in order to make sure a one way road/highway continues to go one way, instead of detecting which way automatically the roads go you to build the road in the same direction traffic would flow. Took me about 15 minutes to realize this. Hopefully it’ll be something they patch after release because I can imagine it’ll be something some people will complain about.
One other complaint, and maybe it is something I’m not used to due to the simplicity of zones in Sim City 3000, I don’t like the way zones sit for “squares” off the road for each road you make. I’m more of a fan of dragging and dropping to make a zone like it was in SC 3000. That is just a personal preference. However all you can do with the roads is quite impressive and though I did play this game quite a bit I wasn’t able to play it enough to truly design a city that looked great. As you can see in these next few screenshots.
This is my city (with a dead person in a playground lol):
And these are cities Paradox/Colossal Made:
Now this game looks quite impressive and the buildings are quite varied enough to make the cities and areas look unique. Mod support and steam workshop is only going to improve the variety of buildings after release. The engine runs smooth, however capped at 60 fps (not that you really need more since this isn’t a action moving game), and looks great. The UI is clean and they actually made a change to it as I was playing my review copy in the last week.
The sound isn’t anything spectacular, however it is there and does work well with what the game is. If you zoom in to roads you can hear cars going by, if you do the same for various areas you hear what you would expect to hear if you were walking on the street. The ambient music also makes it nice to listen to while you are designing away. So nothing over the top but fits quite well.
Overall, Cities Skylines, I feel, is truly the best city sim game since Sim City 4 and in fact is better than 4. It has everything that you could want in a city building game; large building areas, variety in design and buildings, unique challenges in building and managing and a great looking engine. This is a must in my opinion for anyone that was looking for the next good city builder especially those that like to play in offline mode.