Simulation games are often geared towards a very specific group of gamers. They are the ones who want to be in complete control over who and what they are simulating and really hate limitations, and this can be a casual or hardcore gamer. After the SimCity fiasco it appeared that the fans would go without a new opportunity to sit in the mayor’s chair and construct the next great city of the world. These woes were answered with the 2015 release of Cities: Skylines. Developer Colossal Order and publisher Paradox Interactive teamed up to create what many call the best of city sim games. It boasted amazing graphics, smooth game play and most importantly complete control over your city and it’s operations. When it was announced for release on the Xbox One, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and see if this titan of city sims could hold its title with it’s console port – after many hours, traffic jams and zoning meetings I’ve come to find it absolutely does.
Upon first entering the game, you are given the option to name your city (Gotham, Zanarkand, King’s Landing, whatever you can imagine) and choose which map you play on. Each map has a different theme as well as resources and connection points to other cities which can really influence the type of city you build and how it prospers. Being no city managing genius, I struggled at first with how to get started. The game offers you a very brief tutorial on how to begin, a feature I both appreciate but wish were a bit longer – Not having to sit through the equivalent of a college course to play the game is nice, but a little extra guidance wouldn’t hurt either. This certainly doesn’t hinder the experience though, as after a few minutes in you start to grab the mechanics of the game well. After laying down a large main road and some side streets, you begin to layout your little hamlet. By designating different “zones” it allows for particular types of buildings to rise from the ground there. Residential is where your citizens will build homes and live, Commercial for all your shopping and business needs, Industrial zones to supply the stores and city with the products in needs and Office zones to allow companies to form and give your citizens more job opportunities. Initially, only Residential, Commercial and Industrial are given to you which offers you the chance to learn before being buried by all this game has to offer. Learning to zone properly is an important thing to learn early – if your residential zones are to close to your industrial ones, the pollution will upset them and the noise from the Commercial zones will keep them up at night. After some trial and error you’ll have your zones set and people moving in, but not before you handle the electricity and water shortage!
Making sure your city is powered and fed with clean water will be one of your first challenges, and again the layout is very important. Every water pump needs a sewage drain, and if this is placed up-stream it can cause pollution of your drinking water. Power plants can be loud and costly, but if you don’t have enough to produce energy for your whole city, the lights go out. Whether you choose to build efficient but expensive wind turbines or go for coal plants, having enough of this resource is critical. Fortunately this is made less frightening by the great and east to read info panels provided in your start menu. Utilizing these will give you feedback on everything from power and water supply to education and graduate percentages. It’s a page you’ll check back on often, so it’s easy to read layout and design make you all the more thankful that this was made a focus point at some level. With enough attention to the needs of your city and it’s people, you will begin to grow and unlock new buildings and services such as schools, hospitals, police and fire and of course sanitation. All of these are needed to further your city’s growth and potential, and by this point any chance you had of putting down your controller and going outside are over – you’ve got a city to run! Educating your population will allow them to get better jobs an contribute more, not to mention boost their happiness. Your public safety buildings like hospitals, fire stations and police stations will allow you to protect and serve the people and give them a safe environment to work and live in. As you watch your unemployment rate drop and graduation rate skyrocket you’ll really start to feel a sense of accomplishment that makes these types of games so enjoyable to play.
When the day eventually comes that your city has taken form, you’ll find that your policies and your money management become some of your biggest challenges. Polices can range from handing out smoke detectors as a city-wide crack down on fire safety to free public transportation to help free up some of the gridlock you’ve run into. These can be cast city wide or sectioned off to particular “districts” which you can create to micro manage your city a bit better. These options will weigh on your mind undoubtedly, and through your mixing and matching of them you will find a strategy that works for you and your sim people. Once your city has become the talk of the fictitious land it’s in, you’ll be given the chance to build unique buildings such as an opera house or aquarium that will not only make your citizens happy but will given you the golden ticket to financial success – Tourists. Ensuring that your city is attractive enough to bring in tourism dollars will help set you up for future projects, so building strong commercial zones and making sure they have a suitable way to get around the city is a must, and who knows they might enjoy it so much they decide to pick up and move to your city. All of this again will keep you gripping your controller as if it were your ball-point pen as you sign executive order after executive order leading your city to greatness. Will you be a loved and respected mayor, or will you struggle under the weight of such responsibility? Either way, you’re almost assured to fall in love with this title.