What is Cities Skylines?
Ever thought you could do a better job than the town planners? Cities Skylines is a game that lets you put your city building skills to the test, providing you with a wodge of cash, and an open expanse of land where it's up to you to create the city of your dreams. No sooner have you plonked some roads down than people will begin to move in, leaving you to make sure they've got everything they need to be happy, from police stations and schools, to power, running water, and even cemeteries. Set policies and tax rates, choose where to construct important buildings, and plan elaborate underground networks as your city expands around you. With 12 maps to choose from, and nothing in the way of any set objectives or missions, you're free to build the city you want, on the path to becoming a true metropolis, unlocking new buildings as your city grows.
How do you play Cities Skylines?
A game in the vein of Sim City, it's how you choose to lay out your buildings that'll determine your success in Cities Skylines. Whether you're building power stations, fire departments and schools for yourself, or marking out areas of land where people can build houses, offices, or industrial units, you'll want to be sure that everyone has access to the services they need.
Like everyone, the residents of your city have a variety of wants and needs, from running water and a regular rubbish collection, to great public transport links and a rewarding job. Managing the city on a macro rather than a micro scale, you'll need to choose carefully where to best build a wide variety of buildings and services, from rubbish dumps and bus stations, to police stations, universities, underground tunnels, and even cemeteries, to ensure your city keeps running, and ever more people will want to move in. You'll even need to build pipes under your city to take water from your pumping stations to your city streets! Luckily, a handy overlay (and lots of pop up icons) lets you spot who's missing out on important services - all you have to do is figure out what you need to build, where, in order to meet their need.
The game's trophies/achievements also challenge you to play in a more unusual way, from having a city survive a crime rate of 40% for two years, to running a city with only 15% happiness, providing that extra replay value.
How easy is Cities Skylines to pick up and play?
Despite having so many layers, and a rather brief tutorial, Cities Skylines is a game that's easier to get into than you may expect - even if it does require you to keep a lot of plates spinning all at once. There's always something to keep an eye on, from the reach of your police and fire departments, to the amount of energy you're producing, and even the capacity of your hospitals and cemeteries. The more your city expands, the more your services will end up being overrun, meaning there's always a new problem to solve. Luckily, everything here is tackled using real world thinking - a lack of educated citizens requires you to build more schools and universities, while houses burning down requires a few more fire stations, or perhaps a new policy to put fire alarms in people's homes.
With money often being the biggest limiting factor, you'll want to be careful not to expand your city too quickly, as it's often easy to find your new residents causing blackouts due to the extra power drain. With almost all of your income coming from taxes, if you aren't bringing in enough tax money to pay for a new power station, you could find yourself in a pickle, and your city quickly going bust.
That said, with the option to play with unlimited money, you can make the game a lot easier for yourself, and essentially get rid of the only way to fail. With the ability to pause the game and make changes to everything from policies to your road networks before restarting, you can take all the time you need to think things through as soon as you see things starting to go wrong.
For the youngest of players, a solid reading ability is a requirement, as Cities Skylines delivers all its tutorials, hints, and descriptions through text only.
Sample sentences include:
- Let's start by building some roads and zoning the areas next to them. Buildings will spawn on the zoned areas and you will unlock new city services and buildings as your city grows.
- You can build elevated roads by using (d-pad up) to raise road level and (d-pad down) to lower it
- Draw the water pipes under your city to provide buildings with fresh water and a sewer system for waste water.
With nothing in the way of violence, sexual content or bad language, there's little for parents to worry about in Cities Skylines. However, one of the policies you can enact for your neighbourhoods is called "Recreational Use". Described as "Allowing recreational use of controlled substances", increasing tourism whilst also increasing crime, it's accompanied by a picture of a cannabis leaf. However, you don't see anyone smoking or doing drugs in game.