I remember playing SimCity when I was younger but never got into it, although I enjoyed terrorising my citizens with an assortment of natural disasters. Yet the game was graphically week and not in a 3D environment which kept me from being totally immersed in the project. Nor did I feel like a had total control over my city and the direction I could take it in.
Enter Cities: Skylines in 2015. This game would end-up being the alternative (even a replacement) for SimCity fans left disappointed with the 2013 release. In fact, Cities ends-up being superior in nearly every area of the city-management-simulator genre (no word on natural disasters though).
You start the game by selecting an area you wish to found your city. I usually end up in the temperate area with rivers and vallies. All cities start next to a motorway in an empty plot where you can begin zoning your city. Zoning (like in SimCity) is broken in to three different parts: residential, commercial and industrial. As your city grows you get more advanced options including a zone for offices (used for the better educated in your workforce). Roads are essential to connecting your city and you are allowed to lay down roads with bridges or under the ground, using curves or long straightaways. This allows you to design some great looking roadways, you could even make a design if you wanted to (e.g., heart, smiley face).
Once you zone your city it begins to grow and as it grows you are rewarded with some money and different abilities or services are unlocked. There is a natural progression to the game where you start off slow with minor abilities, and as you grow you gain access to bigger roads (upgrade to four lanes as soon as you can, trust me!) or better specialist buildings.
As you improve your city you begin to see the challenges of planing a city. Do you have enough access to hospitals, schools, emergency services or the cemetery? What about pollution? My favourite thing to do though is manage the traffic congestion. To manage traffic you need to understand where everyone is going (usually to the industrial areas) and try to get easier and more convenient access to those areas. This is helped by using one-way roads to alter the flow of traffic, or use public transport options to get people off the roads or you can eventually access the motorway which allows for better access to adjacent areas.
“I ended up playing 8 hours in one session because I was so hooked on building my dream city, and I loved every minute of it.”
The size of your cities can also be absolutely massive. You can buy surrounding tiles as you grow and your city dwarves in size of its original hamlet. Seeing your city grow organically as you struggle to manage its demands is a fun experience. My favourite city so far was separated by a river (which had an annoying tendency to flood) which required bridges and tunnels to operate effectively. I ended up having to find ways to connect multiple bridges to improve traffic flows, which was a sight to behold!
The management is made easier by monitoring the zoning demand of your citizens and keeping an eye on the services with effective budgeting and building more when needed. One issue I do have is in the higher stages you cannot tell when people want more offices or more industrial zones as these are in the same demand column. In theory, the smarter your citizens the more they will want white-collar jobs in the office rather than the industrial sector. In fact, at one point I got rid of my industrial sector altogether yet my economy remained sluggish. So it can be difficult to interpret what your city wants sometimes in the later stages and still have not managed my way past this problem.
Yet this is part of the fun of a city-management game, and with the awesome looking DLC “Snowfall” just released, the game is a totally immersive experience. So much so I ended up playing 8 hours in one session because I was so hooked on building my dream city, and I loved every minute of it.
Cities: Skylines is effectively the SimCity killer. If EA can manage to learn from Cities then it may have a chance, but Cities just does the whole thing so damn well (not to mention it looks great). The cities are so detailed (even all the people and places have specific names) and the project so vast yet simple to manage it leads to hours of playing and endless variations. The new DLC also looks to shake things up and a recent patch has added rain and fog, simple updates but they make it all the more real and enjoyable. If you enjoy the city-management genre then look no further than this. Play it!