One of the first city building games to appear on the console that I know, Cities: Skylines is a well developed title. Perhaps in comparison to the PC release, more of an introduction. Don’t hold this against it, it’s so simple to get started. Mastery is hard, especially with the more advanced features, creating districts and the city’s policies you can set.
It sounds so simple, building a city. This game is clear proof that it is not. From the start, you have to worry about services and education. Decoration might not seem important, but keeping your business and citizens happy is more than worth the time and money. The basics of city building you will fly through, setting up the roads, power and water pipes. Structure placement is easy and very intuitive.
Unlike other games, here you don’t have direct control over the structures that appear. Rather you build zones. Residential zones are just the start. Industrial zones are the source of manufacturing, business and offices other zones. These have different needs and requirements, balancing them out and keeping them functional is the challenge here. Not just that, as your town grows into a city, you can unlock additional building space to use. This almost needs to be a part of your plan, so you don’t double up on the services you build and fund.
Services are also quite varied. Just in transport, you can set up bus routes, taxi companies, rail and air. Education isn’t just building a school, you have to provide it all the way up to university. Emergency services are police, fire and medicine, all of which have profound effects on your city. However, there’s one thing I do enjoy which both simplifies and adds complexity to the game.
Setting up the districts and city policies which really makes this game. Rather than being set by the zones you create. They are controlled by you and you can draw them anyway you want. There’s nothing like setting up your districts and planning their expansion. Policies are the other way you can manage your city. These policies change what traffic is allowed, if business and parks close down over night and more. Citizen health and structure bonuses are also there and can be managed here. There’s so many options it can be hard to make a decision that is entirely good. Almost everything has a drawback, whether it’s listed by the game or not.
The other thing that is definitely worth praise is the controls here. There’s something about them which is just so easy to use. At first, I expected a complex set of button commands, holding triggers and trying to remember something like the layout on my joystick and throttle. Instead it was the entire opposite, very few buttons having more than one role, function. All of the controls are well used and swapping between structure tabs is quick and easy. You don’t need a tutorial to learn the game controls. There’s only one flaw I found here. That being a lack of precision. There’s no other way to explain it. As I was trying to lay out streets, set buildings, some of the time I had to find the right angle and just brush the controller onto the right spot.
Audio and Visuals
Map variety and the structures you can build are well designed, modelled. As they need to be for a title like this. While it may seem to be a step down from the PC, that’s not a fair comparison. I found it easy to get lost in the cities I was building during the night cycle and seeing the lights in office towers, factories, more turning on. The street lights and headlights of cars moving about. Parks with lights stand out in the middle of my residential districts. Your cities definitely look alive, both up close and at distance. Map variety though limited, is actually quite good. Some of them are quite restricted and certainly add to the challenge of building, managing your city.
The sound of this game is hard for me to fully explain. At a distance, it can be quite minimal and I heard the same background music cycle two, three, five times. Yet, up close, you could hear the sounds of city life. Ambient chatter, sirens, cars and more make up the sounds of it. It even changes depending on the district you’re in. There’s plenty of work for the studio to be proud of here.
No multiplayer features at all and I would wonder how this game could benefit from them at all.
There’s two complaints I have here and both ultimately stem from playing games of this type on the PC. I found that I was missing the precision I had on the PC, in games like Anno 2070 and Anno 2205. The other was the scope, size of the city I was building. I felt it was small. That being said, these flaws are hidden behind a simple interface, solid visuals and a real challenge to meet the needs of your city and its people. All of the needs are well represented and how you manage them gives you plenty of freedom to build your city.
The version reviewed here was the Xbox One version