The Average Gamer

Cities Skylines Review (PC)

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I want my cities like I want my men; organised, efficient, and um, clean? With this in mind I was determined to create a burgeoning yet pleasant metropolis for my Skylinians to spend their days. They would want for nothing, especially not doughnuts.

From the very start of Cities: Skylines there’s options galore with a wide range of areas and terrain types to choose for your city, and, whilst you can’t edit these from within the main game itself, there’s modding tools for pretty much everything and Steam workshop support alongside.

Developers Colossal Order take you through the opening steps gently and with a generally excellent tutorial – that said, it still took about five iterations of Middelfartington for me to finally turn enough of a profit and not have my poor population sinking under piles of their own rubbish. It’s certainly tough going at first but once I realised that trying to map out my town using large roads was only going to end in penury it wasn’t too steep of a learning curve.

You start out trying to manage the traditional balancing of residential, commercial and industrial zones, whilst at the same time hoping you can afford whatever city service is next on the list for people to shout about needing. I used the tried and tested method of waiting for stability and a decent profit and then sodding off to have a shower, letting my bank balance take care of itself for a while.

Colossal Order are sneaky though. Just when you think things are chugging along nicely and no-one is too peeved about anything, there comes traffic jams. Small ones at first but then I started to notice them more and more. I’d zoom in over busy crossroads and fret about all the lorries that were getting held up, no doubt making factory owners curse me and my poor residents suffer from high blood pressure. I felt bad, I needed roundabouts.

So I spent a very tense afternoon trying to resolve my transport issues. First up was a one way system (which made more of a mess than I had started with), then I tried adding some buses but when all the route lines are the same colour this gets annoying very quickly. In the end a combination of roundabouts and public transport solved the majority of my problems, at least till my city grows larger. This might all sound like a total ball-ache but it’s the most challenging, frustrating and enormously satisfying thing I’ve done in a game for ages.

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I was so invested in my city that when ‘Frank’s Fish Finger Factory’ caught fire, I zoomed in to watch the fire engines race to the scene, only to realise that a lorry had crashed blocking the access road. Cue a frantic tussle of lorry and firemen until it was too late; Frank’s livelihood (and his fish fingers) had burned to the ground.

There’s one feature I’ve not seen before in existing city-building games where it’s possible to define regions of your town and designate them as specific districts. This offers a new way to control residents with various policies that become available (and is a good way to keep riff-raff out of your posh bits).

Whilst nothing in Cities: Skylines is especially innovative, it’s all amazingly well-developed and produced. Nothing, with the possible exception of Chirper (and even that’s quite cute), has been spared an attention to detail that really highlights the love and work that must have gone in to this game.

Hands down, if you want an incredibly open and customisable city building sandbox then this is the title for you. As yet there’s no natural disasters available with which to wreak havoc but knowing Paradox Interactive’s penchant for DLC there could be some on the cards.

Cities Skylines is out now on Steam for Windows PC, Mac and Linux.

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