To follow an old concept thats often been thrown around in the gaming world, Cities Skylines is a killer. More precisely its a Sim City killer. The way it looks and feels, along with its core soul, it takes what everyone loved about Sim City and rather than throw in arbitrary functions and random additions no one asked for, it builds on those cherished components to create a vast, flexible, gorgeous and just greatly impressive canvas in which you’re free to build whatever bustling city your hearts desires.
Sitting on the title, Mayor of. Well, whatever you’ve chosen to call your city. You can start building your ideal city with a few simple clicks and drags of your mouse, along with a little squeezing of that cranium of yours. Laying roads with your mouse is as easy as moving a paint brush, while you mark out zones for residential buildings, commercial structures and making sure to organise your key utility services that'll keep the towns people pleased with their surroundings. Obviously making sure to utilise all the brand spanking new gear that'll unlock as your town grows and breaks key milestones.
Cities Skylines dances happily on the line of complexity and simplicity, opting to make certain decisions for you while leaving others entirely in your control, showing that … know how to make a simulator that just works. It works so well in fact, you’ll be shocked at how easy it is to construct a bustling city, much larger in scale than you imagined when you started out.
Starting life with a small four square kilometre patch of your very own paradise, once filled to the brim you can buy more plots of land and steadily grow your dreams. You can do this a total of seven times giving you more than enough room to construct New Gotham City (that’s what I’ve just decided all cities should be called by law.)
Terrain on your map can be manipulated and sculpted how you see fit in the clearly labelled map editor. If you don't fancy sculpting mountains and working out the directional flow of fresh water, Cities Skylines is a pro-mod game, with already a vast array of maps and mods which can be downloaded from the Steam Workshop. From new maps, fully constructed cities to flight simulators, its al there ready to play around with and thats the core of what makes this game so much fun, it’s simply about play.
Considering the scale available, it’s impressive that Cities Skylines allows you to control whole chunks of your play mat individually, adding in new laws to control crime rates or banning high rise buildings to keep the skyline less busy. Businesses can be specialised to utilise local resources and mine ore, drill oil or farm on the right lands. It’s all down to you.
If you’re one who likes watching mounds of ants at work, knowing at any moment that the Sword of Damocles (thats what I call my right hand) could come hurtling down at any moment then theres some treats in store as you can happily and easily zoom into the depths of your city to watch each and every human scuttle about their daily lives.
They’re not idle creatures either. The drive cars, go for walks, take trains and everything in between. Obviously their minute of life runs at a much faster speed in order to keep the game a game, with the average day lasting around town seconds on the slowest settings.
Your towns peoples every day lives, while fun to watch, offer another puzzle that needs cracking as traffic flow becomes your responsibility. You’ll need to play around with freeway onramps, overpasses and new rat run routes in order to ease traffic jams and keep the cities heartbeat regular. At the start you’ll be confined to more basic road structures, gradually unlocking more complex options as you progress but should you be too impatient for that, you can jump into an included sandbox mode with unlimited money, essentially giving you a free pass to build anything, anytime, anywhere.
Public transport is yet another rub cube that’ll be thrown your way and its trickier than it looks as you lay down bus stops and train stations, plotting out their routes. If you’re not careful, hours can be lost as you work out the intricacies of your transport system, but when you see the hustle and bustle of your city rush by in smooth orchestra of motion and colour, you’ll get a nerdy rush and the need to smile until your lips fall off.
Visually, Cities Skylines looks bright and colourful, with oodles of detail on display yet still able to offer great experience on a range of set ups from low to high end machines. Sure, if you really pick it apart then you may find Sim City offers a bit more graphical clout but in a game about such free construction, graphics aren't always everything.
Cities Skylines is all perfect though, on occasion population growth can come to a stand still thanks to a drop in demand for new buildings, despite towns people being at their most satisfied. While this is usually fixed by simply waiting it out, that period of confusion is a little frustrating. No one wants to see happy, healthy neighbourhoods suddenly evaporate after all.
Traffic problems can occur almost out of nowhere from time to time thanks to the occasional bit of shift AI as well, but all these minor niggles included, I was never frustrated to the point of wanting to stop. I simply pushed on with the puzzle and pushed on creating.
All in all, Cities Skylines is a city building game, boiled down to its purest form. It;s a beautiful game to both experience and simply cast your eye over, as a sea of humans go about their business, all thanks to you. From start to finish, creating a utopia is easy peasy and always great fun. If thats not enough, thanks to an extremely supportive dev team, theres a plethora of mods made easily available in order to keep things interesting. If you love playing god/mayor/supreme overlord and love to get your hands dirty building, then Cities Skylines is for you!