Developer Colossal Order, creators of the Cities in Motion series, tackles the challenge of creating a city building game with Cities: Skylines. The genre of city building games was always dominated by the SimCity series—but that changed dramatically after the flawed release in 2013. City building fans soon changed their hopes with the release of Cities XXL this year, but were disappointed yet again by a technically flawed game. With the genre going in a downward spiral, the last hope for many fans was Cities: Skylines as it looked to fix the genre's current problems, such as small cities and performance issues. Fortunately, Cities: Skylines lives up to the hopes of city building fans with a game that lets players expand their city sandbox to extreme sizes and runs with near-flawless performance.
Players unaware of Cities: Skylines might, at first glance, mistake the game for the 2013 version of SimCity, as some interface elements are similar, in addition to the tilt–shift photography effect. Players familiar with city building games will instantly recognize how zoning works, with green representing residential zones, blue for commercial, and yellow for industrial. The other core mechanics of the genre also fall in line with connecting your city to a highway system, creating a power grid, laying pipes for water, and planning city services such as police, fire, healthcare, education, and garbage. New mechanics are introduced to the genre with expansions on previous services, with healthcare, for example, requiring cemeteries and crematories for the collection and disposal of dead citizens.
The other major gameplay addition is the ability to create districts across the game map. Districts function in both naming different parts of your map, but more importantly in how industries function with resources. An industrial zone placed over an area with fertile land can be set as a district that focuses exclusively on farming, which the game then automatically converts those structures over time into farm buildings. The formation of districts ties into a major focus of the game on natural resources. Instead of requiring a city to import resources, players can plan their cities to locally produce those resources, resulting in increased money from higher taxes and export profits. The game's natural resources include oil, ore, forest, and fertile land, all of which are spread across maps in various concentrations that enable future expansion of additional cities.
Progression ties into the overall population that's continually in fluctuation based upon factors such as city happiness. As certain population levels are reached, players unlock additional building types and gameplay features. Further, transportation options are provided, ranging from buses and trains to metro systems and airports. More zoning options are unlocked, as well, to allow for the placement of high density residential and commercial buildings, along with offices for advanced industry areas. Other building unlocks include more advanced city services with larger hospitals and more effective energy solutions, to name a few. Players can also unlock unique buildings based upon gameplay conditions such as collecting a certain amount of money or having a high crime rate. The most significant unlock is the ability to purchase additional land areas to continue expanding one's city. Each additional area of land for purchase has differing amounts of natural resources, allowing for players to decide what they want to pursue for future city expansion.
Graphically the game hits all the right marks with detailed buildings, citizens, vehicles, and surrounding landscape. The game includes a free-camera mode that hides the interface and lets players gaze upon the cities in all their glory, which is especially impressive when zoomed into street level. Even more impressive is that every citizen is unique in a city, with each living their own life, ranging from being a factory worker or being unemployed. Even cars can be clicked on and the game will indicate who is the owner and its current destination. While the whole motion of the cities is beautiful, it's also amazing knowing that each citizen and vehicle have an actual connection to their surroundings. When zoomed into the city, they become even more alive as most buildings have a unique sound effect associated with them that blends perfectly with the sounds of traffic and citizens going about their business.
For the most part, while the game is the next city building game that fans have been waiting for, it does suffer from minor issues that hopefully will be fixed with patches. Traffic can quickly become a major issue if players don't plan accordingly, which in turn can translate to issues ranging from ambulances unable to reach patients or garbage collection coming to a halt. Unfortunately, it's sometimes difficult to determine the right type of street to use for the most optimal flow of traffic. The flow of traffic doesn't always seem to utilize roads in the best possible way, resulting in roads that aren't utilized for their purpose of diverting excess vehicles. Fortunately, careful planning before creating large networks of roads can prevent most of traffic issues.
While Cities: Skylines looks and plays similar to the SimCity series in some regards, it doesn't suffer from any of the technical or gameplay issues. Cities: Skylines is clearly the game players wanted from SimCity back in 2013, but now city building genre fans don't have to keep hoping: their wishes have now been fulfilled. The combination of the game's unique district system and natural resources management make for a highly addictive gameplay experience resulting in many hours of city building enjoyment. The progression system also perfectly functions to make players keep striding for the best city, in turn resulting in new building types and gameplay features. Simply put, Cities: Skylines is the new standard in city building games.
Cities: Skylines brings the city building genre back after its near demise from other series' flawed game releases. The inclusion of large game maps, natural resources management, addictive progression system, and all of it running at a near-flawless technical performance make Cities: Skylines the new standard in city building games.
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I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game releases. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and simulation, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements.View Profile