Do you remember Sim City? The city building game from Maxis?… Now Cities Skylines is here, which is developed by the same team that gave us the Transport Tycoon alike game series, Cities In Motion.
For many days now, Cities Skylines have been out for Linux, OSX and Windows thru Steam. Distrita team choose to wait, so that we could give you a well-written review of the game. A very surprisingly well done city building game, developed by a very young Finnish team named Colossal Order (developer) and Paradox Interactive (publisher), but do they deliver?
In the old Sim City games, you had to build Industrial, Residential and Commercial zones, which would create and develop buildings on its own if you gave them enough power from a power plant. In Cities Skylines, the developers choose to follow this. When you build city type of roads, you can fill or paint the desired type of buildings you want the city to build. Here Colossal have managed to think new, which I really do appreciate. With this system, you have so many possibilities. You can mix the Industrial, Residential and Commercial zones pretty much as you want. In addition you also have the opportunity to set zones for companies as a Industrial part. Great move! Another great move is the games power plants. They look more natural and they do have graphics that shows where you can build a power line from. This all in all features is for me essentials and they are something that I’ve really missed in Sim City games that I’ve played (haven’t played latest Sim City).
Building the City
The building tool of Cities Skylines is great, but I must say that if there is anything to complain about is the way you build the roads. Sometimes you just try and try, but its hard to create a curve that you want. So in the end, you end up to use the line tool. Especially when building a one-way road in the game and if you try to connect it to a one-way highway, the curve changes so the design in the end might look awful. So you demolish, demolish and demolish until it looks nice. This is taking time and game money, but after some days of gaming. You will get more and more used to the building tool features, so you will eventually get the right curve in the end. But for some, this is enough to give the game negative impression.
When you have figured out the road tool. You will love this game, because the building tool is way more flexible than in any Sim City game. It sort of reminds me of the road tool in Cities In Motion 2 game, so for me which is used to Colossal way. I am asking why the developers choose to create a harder learning curve on this one. For gamers that loves types of games like this, they will love the road tool while others will struggle. I have seen many videos on YouTube where this is the case.
When building the roads in the game, you have almost endless freedom to build them as you like. You can create bridges in many layers. You can have complicated as well as easy intersections. You can have roads with gras or avenues with trees in the middle. You can have roads with parking and you can even build complex or easy pedestrian streets. This game have really few limits. The only downside here is that Tunnels have been left out for now (but will be released in one of Colossal’s first big upgrade packs). You can however build the roads over rivers and over roads. So, this is not a big minus at all. What I do miss in this area is that you can only build one bridge style. Is there an option for changing this? As I remember in both Sim City and Transport Tycoon games, when building bridges there I have options for different bridge styles. But where is this option in Cities Skylines?
Make the citizens Breath!
As with the Sim City games. Cities Skylines have great pollution simulation. This game manages to take this much further also. I remember all the water pipe issues in Sim City 2000. They are back! In Cities Skylines you also have sewage to take care of. So one of the most essential parts to do in this game is to build water pumps and sewage pipes in the beginning of the game. When you do this, you will notice that Cities Skylines water simulation is very well done. You can see all of the sewage flowing into the water, which makes the colour change.
Here is a tip! Make sure you build the sewage lower than the water pump or the sewage will be pumped back to the city. Please don’t do this for the sake of your citizens.
After some time, you will get access to recycle the sewage and the sewage pumps can be demolished. This part of the game is very well done. I really haven’t seen any game giving such details. When you finally are able to clean the sewage before it reaches the sea and the sea starts to change back from dark to light blue. Now thats a nice feeling to get. All these features regarding pollution, is such a good thing for our children to learn. Cities Skylines should be played by any child out there. It is a very fun way to learn what does pollute and what does not.
The game also got lot focus on Police, Fire, Health and Education. Be sure to put these into the city. Another thing is the garbage! Make sure that the city doesn’t stink.
Except for this, Cities Skylines also got noise pollution. This is something very new into the genre I think. All of the things you build have noise pollution as something important in this game. Even the highways can have anti-noise walls, which reduces the noise for residents that lives near a heavy traffic highway for example. You can also build different type of parks. Some small, other bigger. Parks and recreations are the lungs of your city. Not only parks are important to build, but you can also build basketball fields, theme parks or even a dog park to reduce the noise. The most noise pollution places in the games are the traffic, stadium and the heavy industrial areas.
Another nice feature of this game, compared to Sim City games is that they have added offices. They make a lot less pollution and noise pollution. So its possible to have an area in the game with heavy industrial outside of the city center. That is a nice thing.
Transit for the People!?
As Colossal have made Cities In Motion 2, I would think that they would have brought trams and trolley busses to this game. But this have been left out for now. They do however promise that this will be added in the future. But why? Yes, Cities Skylines do have busses, metro and train. But this is a downgrade from Cities In Motion 2. I wish that this game had trams from the very beginning. From all of the Transit articles here on Distrita and on other sites mentioning trams. They are very good solution to noise pollution and health all in all. Cities Skylines however do have Bus Route, Metro Route and Train Route set ups which they have simplified. Gone is the timetables which Cities In Motion 2 got, but thats totally okay. Cities Skylines is a city building game and not a Transport Tycoon alike game. So this is not so important! But this game does have avenues which would fit trams easy, but there is no possibility to build any tram line in this game. The Metro building in Cities Skylines is also a bit weak as they can only run underground. Its not possible to see the trains at all, just the stations with escalators. They have added Subway sound though! We in Distrita team hopes that the subway feature will be developed further. The trains part of this game could easy be connected with the Metro. I remember that this was possible even in Sim City 2000.
Icons and the Graphical User Interface
As for their first city building game. Colossal have managed to make this game look very nice. When I started the game for the first time, it was easy to get into the game. The GUI is informative, but if there is something that needs to be said. The icons should be bigger. Even on my Retina screen, it wasn’t that easy to understand all of the icons on the screen. The helping bubble part does help though. So make sure that you read all the important messages about the interface and what the different icons do. But!? Colossal did ad a Twitter alike function to the game, with a bird in the middle on top of the screen. This is a nice feature in the beginning, but after a while it becomes quite annoying I think. It is nice that they have added an option to turn it of, but still you can see that the messages do come as a counter appears instead.
The Graphics and the Gameplay
Distrita have been testing Cities Skylines only on iMac i7 (AMD Radeon HD 6770M 512 MB) and MacBook Pro Retina (Intel Graphics HD 4000 1GB). With some adjustments, the game runs very well even on the MacBook Pro Retina laptop which is supposed not to work regarding Colossal webpage. You have to put all of the graphics settings as low as possible, but it is playable. However! I would recommend to use a AMD Radeon Mac instead. Try to avoid using this game on a machine with Intel Graphics HD card if you want “better performance”. If I can compare it to Sim City 4 Rush Hour and Train Fever on Distrita’s review Mac machines, then Cities Skylines is for sure much faster. It is really nice to see that such small company can manage to create a game that is optimised. There are some minor bugs here and there, but the game is sold as a full game and I do feel its a full game. Not like Train Fever, even if that game also is missing avenues.
With some adjustments, the game runs very well even on the MacBook Pro Retina laptop which is supposed not to work regarding Colossal webpage. You have to put all of the graphics settings as low as possible, but it is playable. However! I would recommend to use a AMD Radeon Mac instead.
Conclusion to this Review
Thanks to Colossal for this game! It is really a fresh breath into the building city genre of gaming. Sim City have always been the big name, but now it seems that Colossal can manage to overtake Sim City throne. You do it almost 100% right, but have some patches away to become perfect. I choose to review it now as now I’ve been playing it since the launch. Distrita recommends this game! If there is one city building game that you should get now in 2015, then it is Cities Skylines. Even with no avenues with trams or icons that are a bit small. These things means almost nothing. And the fact that this game have been opened totally for people which love to create MODs. Already the community have released tools for be able to walk at street level. The game itself lets you zoom quite near, but street level have been left out.
Cities Skylines Score
Long Lasting: 10/10