About a month ago, I was procrastinating while on the Internet when I stumbled across a video review of Cities: Skylines. After just a few minutes of watching the reviewer build roads, place services, and watch a city spring up, I was sold. But like any college student, I’m not made of money, and most games run $60 a pop. But for only $30, the PC game Cities: Skylines feels like a steal.
When you start a new game, you are given a two by two kilometer plot of land and a highway connection. From there, you must build roads, zone districts, and wait for people to move in. You have to build police stations, medical clinics, firehouses, and parks for your citizens, called Cims, to be happy. It’s also important to make sure that you have enough power for your city and that your water intake isn’t downstream of the sewer. I did that once and my Cims were not happy. They let me know though Chirper, a program similar to Twitter. Cims go on Chirper to let you know what’s going well in the city and what could use some work. When I forgot to add a water line to a new neighborhood, a Cim complained with the Chirp “When is the @mayor going to provide water? It’s getting expensive showering with bottled water!”
One of the aspects I enjoy about this game is the casual feeling it has. While you do have to manage a budget, trash collection, pollution, and dead Cims, the game isn’t going to have a big “You Lose” screen at any point. There aren’t really any goals in the game except for having a larger population to unlock all the buildings. If you want to build a high-density, bustling, downtown metropolis, go for it! If you want to build a midwestern farm town with a single cargo rail connection, you can do that too! This game is great for some casual, stress-free fun.
The biggest focus this game has is traffic management, which makes sense since the developers, Colossal Order, are best known for their mass transit simulator series Cities in Motion. For me, I think managing traffic flow is super fun. I could watch the traffic flow smoothly through a city for hours. At first I was designing my city in a grid style, with lots of four-way intersections. This worked fine up until the point where my industrial district had an economic boom. The huge influx of trucks left my poor little highway connection looking like Los Angeles at 5 pm on a Friday. It turns out traffic lights and four way intersections can really create flow problems. Then I discovered the glory of the roundabout. A rare sight in the United States, roundabouts let vehicles travel through an intersection without ever stopping. This beautiful system is now installed at every major intersection in my city. Once they are unlocked, the bus lines, metro, and train stations are all also useful for reducing congestion. Cims are green thinkers, opting to take public transportation or even a footpath to their destination if possible.
My one major complaint with this game is the traffic artificial intelligence. Sometimes I really question what my Cims are thinking when driving around. Many times I have found roadways to be congested because Cims don’t use lanes to the fullest extent, or they decide that it’s necessary to switch lanes in the middle of the highway, or some variation of that. It’s annoying to find one lane full of vehicles and the other two open because they are all preparing to exit the highway in three kilometers. In the same vein, I would like to see some more traffic management in the game. Some of my problems could be solved if I could change turn lanes, add timers to traffic lights, and fix priority signs.
Overall, I am very happy with Cities: Skylines. Colossal Order has made a fantastic city builder that I see myself putting many more hours into. If a city building and traffic management games piques your interest, I highly recommend this game. No one who I’ve convinced to buy it thus far has been disappointed.