Reviews: Cities: Skylines
With the news that EA had closed Maxis Emeryville I was pretty bummed. SimCity was one of the games that really molded my childhood. I was infatuated with the notion of RCI and trying to balance a city full of thousands of simulated people. You couldn’t really see them in the older SimCity games but your imagination filled in most of the blank spots.
Over the years the SimCity games got better. SimCity 4 was my favorite city builder of all time. It’s largest problem was that it liked to crash itself without warning. This never got fixed. Many moons later Maxis announced SimCity 5 (named simply SimCity) and the promises were astronomically high. Your citizens would each be individuals. They’d own a home, get a job, walk around like a normal person. Your city would be alive! It would be like your own personal believable ant farm. The cities would be vast and wonderful and the sky was the limit.
The game released and nearly everything they promised didn’t exist. The game was a barebones mess that was defended by excuses of how modern PC hardware just “couldn’t handle it”. This seemed like crap but there wasn’t much I could do but grumble. The game came and went. The DRM they put into the game, likely commanded by EA, ended up crippling the game. Most of the design choices they made meant that the game was more of a “sim town” than a “sim city”.
It was almost heartbreaking to see EA put the final nail into the coffin of Maxis. They had done the same with nearly every other company they’ve purchased. If you are purchased by EA there is little to do but count your days.
At any rate, a few days after EA closed Maxis I heard of Cities: Skylines. The reviews were remarkably positive and I decided to give it a look. I purchased the Deluxe edition and set my way into the game. It’s just…amazing.
Every single person, every single car, the dogs walking in the park, the seagulls flying in the air, these are all their own living things. Each has a name, when applicable they have a home, a job, a family. You can follow them around like some kind of creepy god and see just what they do with their day. The engine behind this game takes into account wind direction, speed, pollution in both ground and in the water, traffic, noise, crime rates, fire danger, mass transit, natural resources, and more!
Do you want to build districts and dictate how they act and how they are taxed? You can.
Do you want to build a dam and then destroy it and find out that there are water physics that send a tsunami rolling through your city? You can, I just did while writing this review. Care to balance life and death and try your best to build a city so large it’ll blow your mind? You can.
Build your own maps or buildings? Yep! These are options! I’ve already downloaded somewhere around a hundred unique buildings made by people. It is done in the blink of an eye. I might even write up a suggested mods guide. But back to the game.
The graphics are gorgeous. They aren’t gorgeous in the same sense that something like Crysis is gorgeous, but the aesthetics that are provided work incredibly well together. The entire city looks like a toy playset with each building, tree, or smoke stack being detailed enough to delight you. If you don’t like tilt shift you can even turn that off (though I think it is endearing).
C:S provides a high level of complexity without requiring that you “get it”. If you are able to follow simple icon prompts or color screens you can play this game to the fullest very quickly. As long as you don’t give up the game will keep providing you with more and more content in the form of milestones. Your population is the key here and getting it higher is your goal.
Don’t like that mechanic? They’ve got an option to unlock it all at the start! Don’t want to manage your money? You can set it to infinite!
Cities: Skyline provides one of the most amazing simulation experiences that exists today. It does everything SimCity promised to do with the massive wallet of EA behind it, but unlike EA, it delivers on all fronts. Plus the game is only 30-40 dollars depending on which edition you want to pick up. It’s DRM free as well. Steam is used for convenience of downloading stuff but isn’t required to run the game. It’s just…fuck…if you have any interest at all in building cities this is the ultimate game to play. It has everything I’ve ever wanted.
If ever there was a game in a genre that seemed to creep down from the heavens birthed from the hands of god itself. This is it. I haven’t had a single crash, the audio issues I’ve had are trivial, the framerate is solid and the mods I’ve gathered are all great. The music isn’t bad either and the sound effects are lovely. If you don’t like the fake twitter feature in the game there is a simple mod to remove it (unfortunately the one I used left that “Chirper off” button in my screenshots).
Cities: Skyline is a 5 out of 5 level game. Something great that I’m glad I purchased. The notion that I could have missed out on a minute of it by being cautious is almost upsetting. I have a feeling this game will be my goto for years to come. If SimCity 4 kept me tied over for almost a decade…this…oh heavens.
While it isn't perfect it provides the end user with the tools to make it perfect. As it stands I can't find anything I don't like about it but I'm sure eventually something will crop up. This is one of those games that is genuinely unbelievable for me. It exists in a time when making a good game for a reasonable price is unheard of. Excellence that deserves to be rewarded.
You should give it a look.