In the year 1989, a developer called Maxis released the game SimCity. This game allowed you to build and manage your own city for your “Sims” to live their life’s and thrive; in 2013, Under EA, Maxis released the SimCity reboot. The beginning of sales was plagued with problems due to having to always be online to play and not always being able to connect. Later on, they eventually allowed an offline mode that fixed most of the problems. This SimCity was different from the older versions because it was the first to feature a full 3D rendering of the city and Sims, online multiplayer and was built on a new engine called the Glassbox engine. This made the game a good advancement in the way that the game looked. In 2015, SimCity was dethroned. The underdog entered the ring and everything changed. Enter Cities: Skylines.
OK, so this review is about Cities: Skylines rather than SimCity, but for the history of the genre, it would be impossible not to talk about it. The reboot of SimCity, underneath everything that wasn’t really working, was a good game. The progression of the city made sense it all looked good and had all the features that you might want to use including natural disasters (I don’t know how but a giant Godzilla trampling through your city was apparently called natural…). The issue that I had with the game was that the land that was available to build on was very small, the equivalent of 4km2. Yes, you could build on another plot, but it was considered a different city rather than the same.
Then the Underdog announced their game. Initially only having games aimed at managing transport systems, they proposed the idea to Paradox Interactive for a full city building game. Paradox, at first, turned down the proposal due to the market share that SimCity had. But after what was now being described as a critical failure from SimCity, the project was greenlit. The birth of Cities: Skylines. At this point in time, there is only one correct way to describe Cities: Skylines. It’s SimCity on Steroids. Literally, everything that SimCity can do, Cities: Skylines can do better.
To start with, I’m going to focus on what is in the base game and then in a separate review, I’ll focus on the many DLCs that are available to enhance the gameplay. But due to the way that all the DLC is deeply mixed into the game, I may accidentally cover things that are in a DLC and then cover it again in the DLC piece. While starting off the game (Without any mods I should add), there is only really one way to start a city profitably. Lots of people claim that a city based on grids isn’t very realistic. That statement is true for most of the world but looking at major cities across the US, the grid system is very obvious. And it works, it maximises the land area for zoning and allows easy transfer across the city in a straight line. The issue with grids is that they look boring and traffic can slow if there are lots of intersections on the roads causing cars to stop.
The grid that you’re inevitably going to be building at the start of the game is commonly referred too as a battery; it’s a part of the city you don’t mind bulldozing when your city becomes more profitable. The way I use it is to get up to 8,000 Cims (Cities: Skylines uses Cims instead of Sims) which is when you unlock high-density zoning. I also use it as a way to generate as much money in as small a place as possible. The aim is to make the area profitable by having enough parks to increase land value, and enough schools so that people can be educated to a high enough level that there isn’t as much as a fire risk and that they can fill enough jobs to get some higher levelled factory’s in the industrial area. The last time that I made a city, I finished the battery with around £5000+ income every day. Leaving it for an hour to get some other things done and there you have it, over a million to play with to build the rest of your city.
So I have already mentioned a few different services within the game that are vital towards being able to have your city function efficiently (Parks and Schools) but possibly the two most important services are power and water. Without those, the city won’t grow at all. While power choice isn’t the most important as long as it can sustain your city, the placement of water is important. When you start you have the choice of either using a water tower or water pump. If either of these is placed in an area with any pollution, being ground or water, people will get sick. This leads us on to the health care service and the other emergency services. The medical centre is the first emergency service you will unlock and arguably the most important of the three since they take care of your Cims. Once you’ve places those five services; you can technically say that you’ve built your first city.
The challenge after 8,000 Cims is building a city that stays profitable, has good traffic flow, and in some cases, looks good as well. Personally, I have only managed this once and this was after a holiday to Lisbon in Portugal and physically seeing a roundabout connected to an avenue, it looked beautiful and was functional at the same time. All I can say is that I was inspired. This prompted me to start a new city by going into the games asset editor and created a new roundabout that would support the idea that I had. The result ended up looking like this.
The roundabout was designed as a way for traffic to be able to get from one side of the city to the other quickly without having to cross any intersections, but also be able to access various different districts through the use of a slip road, this together with a nice looking grid completed the look of the city. I also used the extra space that the roundabout offered in the centre to house my recycling centres. These send garbage trucks out and process the waste. The biggest challenge is having enough coverage to be able to reach the entire city. The advantage of placing it in the centre of the roundabout meant that every district had perfect coverage and fitting three in each roundabout meant that I had the capacity for the size of the city.
I must confess though, that I did use Mods for the purpose of building the roundabouts. The mods allowed me to perform various road layouts that wouldn’t normally be allowed, they also allowed me to use types of roads that didn’t exist in the base game and also allowed me to change the way that the AI drove along roads so that they could get to where they needed to go without causing a massive traffic jam. These are just a few of the mods I have installed, there are many more on the Steam Workshop that can completely change the way you play, with new props and expand the game’s features. As long as your computer can support the mods your running, the experience can be incredible.
Joe can back me up on this that I have been playing a shit tone of the game recently. Because of the way that I’m building the city, and the fact that the city is working as well, I’m enjoying the game again. I’m going to do something different with this review because I’m going to give it two scores. The first score is for the bass game with no expansion packs and no mods.
Considering how much depth there is to the game and the amount that can be done with it I’ve got to give the game a rating of 8.5. There’s only one thing that can lay a hand on the game and that is the game with Mods. With mods, I give the game a final Score of 9.5. It’s damn near perfect, letting the community Mod the game to make gameplay better and increase the replicability is one thing; but when it’s done to the standard that’s available. It only makes the game that bit better.