By Michael Houle
Cities Skylines is the most recent release from Paradox Interactive, a Swedish developer based in Stockholm. With previous titles such as Mount and Blade, Magicka, and the Penumbra games, Paradox has built quite a legacy for itself. The question becomes if the newest arrival in the Paradox family is a welcome gift, or the red headed stepchild.
Cities Skylines is a city building/management game. The concept is to build a city with numerous districts and boroughs wherever they crop up. It gives a great reign of control and responsibility to the player; every action has reward and risk. If you build the sewage to run up river, and the water reserve downriver, sewage flows into the drinking water. Green energy is renewable, but more expensive in the long run. Think of a more advanced SimCity.
The game itself looks gorgeous. Every asset from the maps to the tools look excellent. Even minor details on buildings look great despite the lack of focus the camera allows. The city feels alive with cars always puttering around, while garbage trucks and school buses run their routes around the city.
There is a fairly standard beginning to the game: you choose your map, build the first few roads, and zone the town. A simple enough start which gradually leads into a game of great depth. Soon it forces you to consider locations of industry, business, and residential buildings, all of which require their own needs such as recreation, nearness to power and resources, beauty, and local wealth. People’s complaints will be made very clear to the player running the town through a system called Chirp. If the AI (artificial intelligence) have any complaints about pollution, improper zoning, disconnected power or plumbing, the player will hear no end to the complaints.
That being said, the game makes most of these problems easy enough to solve. Running power through buildings requires that only one building be hooked to the source of power while the water runs through tubes under the streets without needing to micromanaged into every single house. This can cause some undue frustration as the routing of power and plumbing can get confusing and cut from time to time, which usually sorts itself out over a matter of seconds. The infrastructure is also fine-tuned, whether a new road needs to be straight on the grid, curved slightly, or bend widely away. This opens up many new options for designs of cities, suburbs, or other districts.
This leads into the creation of districts themselves. Districts are one of the more popular innovations within the game. Districts allow for separation between differing parts of your city. If there is a policy you want in the suburbs, say a reduction of taxes, but still want to keep the taxes regular for the city’s residential area to encourage more movement into those areas, you can do so. Or, if the regular, default industry is causing too much pollution, or not producing enough jobs you can create a new district with a farm or logging industry. Of course, you can also simply keep everything nice and clearly separated.
The game also features at least a quasi-storyline. It is structured around growing your city from a small hamlet to a bustling metropolis. Each level brings with it a reward, like new loans, new buildings, and new policies for your districts or town at large. The city grows when the needs are balanced, and have an influx of industries and businesses to compliment the town’s residential tendencies.
Overall, the game itself runs very well. Beautiful, responsive, and intuitive to a tee. It tries to go above and beyond the call of duty at times, making the game addicting beyond compare. If I had to simplify the game, I would have to rate it as an 8.5 out of 10.
Photo Credit: Noel Abejo
Michael Houle is an insatiable reader, writer, gamer, and musician, and a critic of everything written, programmed, and performed. He is currently in the process of destroying his enjoyment of everything. Michael has been running tabletop games for years, starting in his freshmen year of high school to the present.