CITIES: SKYLINES – A city-building game which merges urban planning, management, mayoralty and entertainment

Considered the SimCity series’ successor, Finnish developers Colossal Order take a fresh and unique approach to city-building, one which certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Quarantine measures and lockdowns have been pretty boring, I have to say.

Having brought an Xbox during lockdown to keep myself busy, I decided to buy Cities: Skylines after a recommendation from a friend. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out but my pal told me great things about it like he was talking about Terry’s Orange Chocolate or Toblerone (you can’t deny they are truly great!) so I took his word.

When the game finally downloaded and was ready to run, I got going and began learning how to build my very own city. Naming it Clifford, it was a rough experience at first because I didn’t know what I was doing but I got the hang of it quickly and surprisingly didn’t design something which looked like a patchwork of horrors.

A sandbox city-building game, the aim of the base game is not to win but rather to build and run a successful city albeit expansion packs including Natural Disasters and Mass Transit allow for various scenarios including fixing traffic problems and building cities while facing disasters. 

As part of the game, one can build roads, create new districts and create a public transport system and more while becoming mayor (Without an election that is, there are no politics in this game) and running it at the same time giving one the option to levy taxes, control public services including education, healthcare, waste and more while also allowing for areas to be zoned whether for industrial, commercial or residential purposes. 

I’ve never played any SimCity game before so I can’t really comment about it but I will say Cities: Skylines really makes the job of building and running a city of thousands of digital residents a lot easier in that a simple interface at the bottom allows one to build roads, place infrastructure and more. Clicking B on the Xbox controller will direct one to the economy page where one can control taxes and clicking Y on the controller will open a wheel of tabs including the information views where you can see how your city is doing in various metrics and policies where you can impose various policies on your city if you wish, including harsh prison metrics, the legalisation of marijuana, free public transport and more.

Building infrastructure is also surprisingly easy and I dare say, relaxing. Whether building rail lines, roads, water pipes, power lines or more, you only must click A on the controller to build them after clicking the respective tab on the bottom interface. Honestly, it really makes building and operating a city look like a breeze. If one is confused on what to do, pop-up tutorials are also there to help.

Regarding the gameplay itself, it is surprisingly smooth for the most part although as your city grows larger or you zoom through a camera on a or place yourself from a POV angle in a busy place, it does become somewhat glitchy but overall it’s not too bad.

The game also definitely has some interesting quirks. A fake twitter (called Chirps in the game) is present and through Chirps, citizens will convey concerns and opinions ranging from desiring more services to happiness when the city’s football team wins a match (yes, you can build a stadium). After all, politics isn’t really present in the game and there are no elections. Instead as mayor, you are judged by the metric of happiness and other metrics including levels of health, education, crime rate, land value and more which are all interlinked and contribute to happiness also. So basically, it’s important to make sure your citizens remain happy and that other metric levels also remain positive.

Overall, I have to say that I think the game is pretty dope. Definitely, one of the best games I have played and has now become an all-time favourite. Although there are some negatives especially with regards to the lack of mods in that many creative and interesting mods are not available on Xbox but only PC, the game itself is entertaining and if you’re into city-building games, I’m positive you’ll enjoy it as it definitely simplifies city-building in a way that allows it to appeal to a large audience. After all, if the game was as complex as building and running a city in real life, would people really play it? 

Rean Rehman

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