Wot I Think: Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines [official site] feels like the response to a question. That question is “what, exactly, do people want?” By contrast, 2013’s SimCity felt like the response to an order: “make them do this.” I don’t wish to get caught up in criticising the controversial EA city-builder, especially in light of the all-but-closure of its longstanding developer Maxis this week, but the ethos of these two games is so very different, even though they’re both in theory offering the same scenario: design a city from the ground up, keep it running, make it richer, make it grander.

SimCity had its own rules, and they came before whatever the player might want. A strict limitation on space to build in, this dependency on building further cities in order to build trade links, and of course the always-online foolishness. The latter aspect aside, it was attempting to do something different with an old formula, but whether or not it did that particularly well, it simply wasn’t what people really wanted. Give me the toybox, let me play however I want to play, and I’ll finish when I’m damn well finished, thank you very much.

Cities: Skylines is an impressive and beautiful game, there’s no question about that. It’s done its homework, it’s stuck to traditional guns and it’s pinned the results to mostly excellent presentation. There’s very little about it I can point to say and “nuh-uh” about. At the same time, there is this nagging feeling that everything about it exists to meet the unmet needs of SimCity players and, as a result, it’s hard to put my finger on its own identity and purpose. I struggle to come up with a succinct conclusion to the sentence “Cities: Skylines is great because…” without mentioning SimCity. But maybe “This is what SimCity should have been” is a fine enough purpose, and one which will make Skylines wildly popular (already has, glancing at the Steam charts).

The canvas it provides is the thing to sing about. Skylines has scale in spades: that first dingy conurbation has blossomed into gleaming spires and kaleidoscopic road systems within a few hours. What seems like a huge area to build within at the start of the game soon proves to be just a fraction of the available space. In what seems like a deliberate thumbing of nose at SimCity, you’re regularly given the chance to purchase new plots of land which jigsaw onto your existing ones, as if the game is deliberately egging you on to say “oh come on, there’s no way I can fill that”. But of course you can. That’s what it’s about. That’s what cities are about. They don’t just stop.

There are limits to how big your town can grow, but they’re entirely reasonable ones, and you’re only going to hit them once you’ve built everything there is to build several times over. Frankly, you’ll be out of ideas before you run out of space. There also an endgame of sorts if you want it, with semi-science-fictional superstructures gradually unlocked by meeting certain requirements (anything from enough cash in the bank to filling up tons of cemeteries) and each able to almost singlehandedly fulfil one of your city’s major needs once built. Really though, the temptation to go start a brand new city, based on some flash of inspiration or something you saw in the Steam Workshop menu, is going to hit you long before you’ve ‘finished’ your current city.

Skylines is a tinkerer’s delight, you see. Its tools are clear but flexible, its space is generous and it’s so far away from the rigid grids of citybuilders past. You can create streets and districts in whatever shapes you want, and you can even name those districts.

Such a simple thing, to assign titles to small parts of your town, but it lends so much more personality to it. There’s a profound difference between saying “oh no, the traffic’s backed up between that bit with the factories and those houses I built too close to a landfill” and saying “on no, the workers of Backbreaking Miseryland can’t get back to their homes in Plagueburg.” Naturally, the district system also allows the more sober-minded to get that little bit closer to recreating real-world towns, or the more fanciful to make their own Gotham or Mega-City One.

That’s only part of why I love the district system, which is to my mind the best ‘new’ thing that Skylines does. You define a district by drawing over a part of the city with this brilliantly squidgy paint tool. Its semi-translucent grey-white colour is… unfortunate, but let’s be all innocent and say it’s like smearing jelly over cityblocks. Once that’s done, you can assign policy decisions which affect only it. (You can also assign policies city-wide, then set districts as exceptions).

For instance, I had this district I’d built along the seafront, and what I didn’t want to happen there was to have the view blotted out by row upon row of skyscrapers. So I set the ‘no highrise’ policy, and it remains this cute conurbation of colourful beachfront houses. Then there’s the district with the ‘recreational use’ policy. Bingo, my own Haight-Ashbury. This extends to industrial areas too – you can have distinct farming, lumber or oil districts if you wish. Sometimes the effect of such fiddly is financial, but mostly it’s simply to add life and colour, to stamp more of your own identity onto this thing you’ve made.

Incidentally, you can also rename almost every building in the game, plus every inhabitant and even every car. This is amazing, but almost overkill given the sheer number of moving parts. You’ll be lucky if you can ever find someone you gave a special name to ever again, while only the truly insane will attempt to rename absolutely everyone in town. It’s lovely that it’s there though – just this extra thing to tweak when you’re idling, when you see something that charms or tickles you or just want to send a stupid screenshot to a mate.

It’s just one more sign that Cities: Skylines really wants to be yours, rather than vice-versa. It’s bending over backwards to accommodate its players’ wishes, and it is going to be adored for it.

As for the strength of its simulation, I’d be lying if I said I’m the most expert witness you can get for such things, but I haven’t spotted anything particular egregious. Following people around sees them dutifully move between work and home, while traffic clearly moves or grinds to a halt in accordance with the logic or chaos of your road system. Water, sewage and power modelling seems less elaborate than that in SimCity – you just need to worry about availability and connection, rather than ‘flow’ as such – but I’m not sure that’s any kind of loss. I’m sure other eyes will find shortcuts and compromises in the simulation, but I certainly didn’t see any overt signs that it was cheating.

The only thing that might have been a bug I encountered was a train jam. As they exited the map, carrying passengers and cargo out to other, unknown cities, they became backed up into this line of over a dozen stalled trains I could do nothing about because whatever was causing it was out of my city limits, in some place I couldn’t even see. I can’t rule out this being a result of something I did, but even wholesale rebuilds of my own train network just saw the same thing happen again soon.

I’m not worried. There are so many moving parts in this game, and it seems frankly miraculous that this was the only thing to (maybe) go wrong. Often I’d pull out, look at the scale of this thing, all these cars, all these people, all those pipes and think “gosh. My PC is doing all this and doesn’t seem hugely troubled by it.” It looks beautiful and it looks busy.

That said, Skylines’ anti-aliasing leaves a lot to be desired, so I didn’t quite get the crisp model-world I’d hoped for. Also, its faux-tilt-shift camera effect – borrowed from SimCity – seems a bit off. Too often it’d just make whatever I was trying to eyeball appear out of focus. Fortunately there’s a slider for this, which I ended up turning right down, but this does lose a little of the wow factor.

I’m also not sure that the fictional in-game Twitter rip-off is a total success. On the one hand it’s a more human way of being notified that there’s a problem – someone posts about garbage piling up or a water shortage – but on the other it means hearing the same pretty weak gags repeated time and again. You can pretty much turn it off, but it’s a shame it isn’t more fleshed-out and varied, given it by default occupies pride of place at top-centre of the screen, offering a notification every few seconds.

These are mere quibbles. You’re going to love it. Skylines is very much the traditional yet hyper-modern city-builder that everyone’s been crying out for. Me, I love it too, though I remain a little haunted by this concern that it’s more of a response game than its own game. In a way, this makes it seem a little unambitious. Even in its style, as gorgeous as it may be it looks and feels familiar right out of the box. We’ve seen what can go wrong when risks are taken with that formula, of course, so it’s probably better this way.

It’s bittersweet, in the week that Maxis died, to see the former king of citybuilders so thoroughly deposed by another. So let’s look upon Skylines as SimCity’s true heir – the line can continue after all.


  1. Artist says:

    To me Cities Skylines is no response to Sim City 5 but Sim City 4. It has much more in common with SC4 and it looks as if a “modernized SC4” was the goal of this new take on City Building.
    After all SC4 isnt dethroned after all those years. Lets see what happens today.
    So far I see a lack of proper Skycrapers.

    • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

      I’d say it’s more a responce to the lack of a good modern city builder than to the existance of a bad one (SC2013).

      I think SC2013 was trying to be diffrent rather than just an update, and that failed massively. City Builders are the one place where the formula is pretty much done and it’s mostly about execution, something that CO seems to of nailed.

      • Lacero says:

        I can’t believe RCI zoning is the best city sim design and it was in the first example of the genre. Will Wright is good but not that good.

        I mean so far the evidence suggests it is, but I’d like to see people keep trying.

        • HyenaGrin says:

          RCI isn’t necessarily a city-builder trope… it’s an abstraction of a very real set of zoning policies used in many parts of the world. It’s why you don’t see factories popping up in residential areas. It’s why you see city councils struggling to re-zone areas to stick a new tax-lucrative box-store closer to a residential area than the residents are comfortable with.

          I will say that I would love to see mixed zoning (in most cities I’ve been to, there have been ground-floor shops with residences above them), but I can live without it.

          • Veles says:

            Yeah real life isn’t so black or white (or green, blue and yellow). I live in a (very nice) block of flats on top of a hypermarket. This is built on a business park that features some industrial type buildings (logistics depot and chemical plant) and also some nice white collar offices.

            Skyscrapers in city centres are also usually split between residential and commercial.

      • feamatar says:

        But there is so much to improve. Cities XL had some great ideas for example. There you can build a world economy, even if it is badly executed. But the idea is there, make cities the size of an entire region on a globe where you can make holiday places, mining towns, agricultural towns, business centers with dynamic inter-dependencies. Now that would be awesome.

        • airmikee says:

          XXL has fixed any and all issues I had with XL2012. It still slows down the larger the city gets, my 10mil pop city only gets 1fps, but that 1fps is still smoother than SimCity4 gives me in a city with only 1mil. That megacity produces the regions manufacturing and electrical tokens, and I’ve got two cities that specialize in food and water production, one at 500k the other at 300k. My fourth city at 700k produces most of its own food and water, but specializes in waste and fuel for the region. And just a few hours ago I started my fifth city that will produce holiday hotels for the region, only 4k population but it produces 5 holiday tokens already.

          Early XL games had their problems, mostly because the original developer went bankrupt and the publisher picked up the rights to the game at auction to try to revive it. And XXL’s rating suffers because of its predecessors problems, even though it suffers from none of the same defects. FHI has already applied three patches to address issues and improve performance (up to 90% draw on cores two through six now) and the community mod support has grown as the game has been patched.

          While I wait for C:S’s planned DLC to come out I’m going to use XXL to make a region larger than the biggest I’ve seen in SC4 (107mil pop). :)

          • KrakizBad says:

            Lol. Just stop. It was a horrible franchise by a horrible troll of a “publisher”, and I’m pretty glad we have a viable, fun city-builder now so that people can stop throwing money at them in a desperate hope of something better than the recent abortions.

          • airmikee says:

            RE: KrakizBad


          • KrakizBad says:

            Re: Yawn

            You have described the CitiesXL-XXL-XXXXXL experience precisely. It’s probably your most truthful review ever, kudos to that.

          • airmikee says:

            Thank you for your contribution to the discussion, and welcome to my block list.

          • malkav11 says:

            My impression is that XXL’s rating suffers from a general sense that they were charging $40 for changes that should have been a patch.

          • airmikee says:

            RE: malkav11

            Only current owners of previous versions could consider XXL a patch, and current owners of previous versions only paid $20 for XXL. I paid $5 for XL2012 during a Steam sale which qualified me for the automatic 80% discount on Platinum and the automatic 50% discount on XXL. I’ve paid $31 for all three games, which is quite a ways off from $40 per game. I’m closing in on 60 hours in XXL and my region is six times bigger than my SC4 region, with less lag, smoother gameplay, and far more creation options than SC4. I still haven’t seen any city builder game that allows for the enormous megacities that XXL is capable of handling.

    • Neurotic says:

      Agreed. SC4 also had a naming tool, which this struck me as a nod to.

  2. wootonius says:

    If hype translates to sales, the development team that made Cities: Skylines will have plenty of chances to make sequels which establish a unique identity separate from SimCity.

    • Lagran says:

      Cities: Skylines has already been sitting pretty at the top of Steam’s top sellers list for a good number of days (at least three, I think) so pre-order sales are already quite good.

      • Kharn says:

        Apparently it’s the most pre-ordered Paradox game to date, beating EU4, so…

      • SuicideKing says:

        And 5th most played today, 45k+ players when I checked last.

  3. ikbenbeter says:

    I heard about some issues surrounding the building variety, or rather the lack thereof. Still buying it, but how did you experience it?

    • eightohnine says:

      If you watch through some LPs, then it’s more than apparent, that there’s a limited number of building variations per zoning type. In an interview with the CEO of Colossal Order, she acknowledges the limited assets, due to their small dev-team size. (I believe it’s around 13 people now). Though I strongly believe more amazing variation for all assets will become available through means of the integrated modding tools.

      • ikbenbeter says:

        Yeah, I’m counting on modding tools to add variety. That’s really one of the main highlights of this game (although it will start out with an empty mod list, the devs said they’re wiping the steam workshop because all of the mods will be outdated (all of them).

      • Veles says:

        Seeing as this is retailing at half the price of SimCity, I don’t think I’m going to be too bothered.

      • Syt says:

        With such a small team I’m glad that they seem to have focused on the game mechanics and thrown in mod support from the start. Yes, the building repetition is there, but I can overlook it for now, and if the game does well (which it seems to do so far) I have few doubts that there’ll be an active modding scene providing buildings and possibly building packs soon.

    • 2late2die says:

      Technically it’s there yeah, and if you start “examining” the buildings you’ll notice the repetition, but honestly there’s enough variety there that when you look at your cityscape it looks awesome, just awesome! :)

      What’s more, with the available mod tools I’m sure the community will take care of providing fresh and interesting building sets.

      Personally I’m hoping it sells well enough, and the indicators are that it will, so that the developers start working on expansions – I want disasters: earthquakes, alien invasions, floods (well I guess you can kind of do a flood right now, but I don’t think it creates the kind of wide destruction as one would expect).

      • Voqar says:

        Eh, I never cared for disasters in SC4 and always turned them off. I don’t put time and effort into design a (perfect in my mind) city just to have it randomly torched. I guess one good element of DLC, if there can be one, is the optional part.

    • TheManintheHat says:

      I’m also slightly concerned about this, but I’m glad to hear others say the variation of buildings is not too bad in the vanilla version.

      I’m actually quite excited about this In-game asset editor:

      link to skylineswiki.com

      I’m really hoping to see some great building packs quite soon on Steam Workshop!

    • TK-093 says:

      Others have said it, but yeah, there currently is a lack of variety.. It’s not bad by all means, but not perfect.

      It might be a bigger complaint if it was $50-$60, but with it only being $30 and with a small team and with the ability for modders to add more. I don’t think it’s a problem.

  4. almostDead says:

    My mind is as poisoned as they come, but not once did I think the act of districting was jizzing on my city.

  5. Telkir says:

    I can sort of understand where Alec is coming from with his closing comments but really I’m just happy to see that there’s finally a decent, modern alternative to SimCity 4, the game that most people would say is the pinnacle of the genre. There’s not much point in discussing how much the trainwreck that was SC5 factored into Paradox’s approach to developing Skylines; what’s done is done, and the important thing is that there’s a good quality game we can now enjoy. As you say, I agree that trying to fiddle with what’s already a near-perfect recipe could have been disastrous.

    *Glances at clock and sighs*

    Only a few more hours left for that Steam unlock… :)

  6. Shiloh says:

    I love city builders… this one is really working for me, and I’ve £0.82 in my Steam wallet from selling off some trading cards… but! can I get it past the Minister for Finance?

  7. Cross says:

    Here’s a thing though: I really enjoyed th ecooperatetive aspects of Simcity 2013! I know people have given it stick like there’s no tomorrow, and like Alex says in the review here “No-one ever wanted it.”, but i legitimately enjoyed that Simcity gave you milestones and limitations to make you make tough choices. Simcity 4, the “universally acclaimed one”, just leaves me with a feeling of “Well, what now?” after a few hours. It’s the Minecraft problem. When i get told i can do anything, it becomes bland quickly, but give me interesting goals that lead me into making interesting choices, and you have my attention.

    P.S. That said, the city sizes in SimCity 2013 were flippin’ inexcusable.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      It’s sad that the regional stuff never worked properly. I too enjoyed the notion, but most of the time you just couldn’t rely on inter-city stuff. Sharing utilities worked most of the time, but good luck making commuters or students do what you wanted them to, let alone sending money over to another city (those armored trucks were driven by monkeys or what?).

      • Cross says:

        Yeah, the wonkyness of the traffic simulation, and the hilarious highway pileups, made it all a bit unreliable. They should have made some simulation compromises for the sake of fluidity.

    • KDR_11k says:

      In that case I’d suggest playing the Anno games, SC5’s region system was just a weaker implementation of Anno’s islands.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Just wanted to +1 the ” leaves me with a feeling of “Well, what now?” after a few hours. It’s the Minecraft problem. When i get told i can do anything, it becomes bland quickly, but give me interesting goals that lead me into making interesting choices, and you have my attention.”

      I feel quite a lot of “made for sandbox” games like this one could benefit from a story / challenge / puzzle mode where you have various problems to solve, whether in existing scenarios or while you’re building your own city. It just gives you something to strive for or challenge yourself with. I know you can make this up yourself, but being your own antagonist is not something that psychologically works well for everyone vs even a pretend agitator ingame(“Evil mayoral candidate Bowzerheimer wants to sabotage your city by clogging your sewage pipes with turtles. Prevent him from doing this by tripling your sewage pipes and doubling your water plants so that the increased pressure floods them out!” …or just plain competing AI mayoral candidates, enemy cities, other kinds of opponents, etc)

  8. schlusenbach says:

    To say it’s a ‘response game’ and ‘unambitious’ seems a bit unfair to me. It’s a modern citybuilder-game, so of course it looks somewhat similar to the two or three other games in the genre.

    But I think the scale of the game is quite ambitious. It gives its’ players 100 km² to build on (36 in vanilla, the rest unlockable via a mod) and simulates up to one million people with a home, a work place, car and a career in the sense that they move from school to high school to university to a job (so it’s not just a statistical simulation). It has a water simulation that makes it possible to flood your own city. And the traffic sim is quite complex and looks great, too.

    That’s really not unambitious.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah, Alec says: “I struggle to come up with a succinct conclusion to the sentence “Cities: Skylines is great because…” without mentioning SimCity.” then the rest of the article does a pretty good job of describing how it’s great.

      It looks like an excellent modern city builder, focusing on the core of what makes these games great and succeeding in it’s own right, not just as a homage to past ideas.

      • malkav11 says:

        Of course if you read the entire article he spells out why it’s great. But a several paragraph article is not a succinct conclusion to a sentence.

  9. celticdr says:

    The devs have been really cool with stuff like their Chirper – which can easily be modded out.

    And speaking of mods I can see a great deal of modding future to this game – which is one of the things that excited me most about this game: the ease of modding.

    I’m looking forward to seeing all the great DLC that Paradox is well known for, viva C:S!

    • Qazi says:

      Modded out? I thought the Misc tab lets you flat disable it right?

  10. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Based on watching many hours of quill18 streaming this, I’m slightly disappointed that Cities Skylines maintains the very rigid, very American style of R/C/I zoning directly from SimCity 2000. And a little surprised, since the developers are from Finland.

    It still looks like a fantastic game that I can’t wait to play. I just wish I could build cities with a more European flavor. At the very least, I need apartment buildings with a “commercial” ground floor.

    • Bracknellexile says:

      In an chat on one Quill18’s streams, Mariina Hallikainen, the CEO of Colossal Order, said that tunnels and European-style buildings were both on the post-release list of things to be done. Whether this will include mixed Res/Com or just different art assets remains to be seen.

    • throwscats says:

      You do realize that American buildings are like this, right? That is–they have a “commercial” bottom floor with residential upper floors. I’ve lived in Chicago, and many, many, MANY buildings are this way. In fact, in the suburbs, many are that way, as well. It really doesn’t have anything to do with being “American”–it’s just how the game is designed.

      • El_Emmental says:

        I think TillEulenspiegel meant the “european” style of urban design: old US towns tend to be a mix of various european designs with an US twist to it, while modern US towns (especially suburbs) globally follow a different approach (thanks to transports, cars and buses, being much more available now than 200 years ago) where there is more room between buildings (increasing the distance to travel for everyone) and businesses can have their own building (with the back offices at the upper floor, supplies at the back on the ground floor).

        When everything is crammed into a tiny busy center, businesses tend to have much smaller spaces available (for an affordable price), so only the part where customers come in/out is located there, while the back office and supplies are on the outskirts (with the interns/delivery employees making trips between the two every day of the week, at 5-6 am for the supplies/non-urgent papers of yesterday, and during the afternoon for the urgent paper documents/files/contracts). Implementing that ingame would require a little bit of work.

  11. daver4470 says:

    It’s funny you mention that train jam — because that’s an issue I was constantly seeing in Cities in Motion. (One tram would just stop running, and the rest of the system would back up behind it. The only fix was retiring the problematic tram and adding it back.)

    I’m wondering if it’s an AI issue within the stock engine code or something (as I believe this ultimately runs off the same code foundation as both the Cities in Motion games….)

    • aldo_14 says:

      For anyone who’s ever travelled on Scotrail, that sounds highly realistic.

      As an aside, bought this for about £17 on GMG (not the ‘Deluxe’ edition, mind you). After a brief panic when they were all listed as ‘sold out’.

  12. ffordesoon says:

    It may be a response game, desperate to please, but the right response game at the right time can sometimes be as good or better than a game with its own identity.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I’ve always felt it doesn’t have to be original – whether ‘it’ is story, mechanics, genre, or whatever – it just has to be done really well.

      Hell, all I’ve ever really wanted is a modernized Simcity 2000, never mind Simcity 4*

      *I basically bounced off of SC4, partially because I felt the terrain editor was massively cumbersome to use, and partially because I never understood the economics model. And I never played SC3 for some reason, which I guess is a sort of modernized SC2000.

      Ooh, now I think about it. I need to look into modelling an Arcology for this one….

  13. TK-093 says:

    People say that SC4 is THE city building game, but keep in mind when they talk about how great it is, they are talking about SC4 with Rush Hour and user mods like NAM. Heck, in SC4 I can download my Iowa based grocery store building… how sweet is that? Vanilla SC4 is not that great.

    I’ve only been watching the Live Streams, but I think this game is great out of the box and will just utterly SHINE with later updates from CO as well as mod’ers.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      This cannot be said enough. SC4 while great, also had some crap traffic handling, and the regions thing never really actually worked right. Mods fix a lot of the issues, and I spent a million hours playing it. But it was far from perfect.

  14. Robert Post's Child says:

    In the criminally forgotten Children of the Nile, you could name characters, and then track the progression of their family as your city expanded. Not sure if that’s the case here.

  15. James says:

    This looks like the city builder I seek. SC4 was pretty good. I didn’t bother with SC5 becasue we all know why. Cities XL was at best ‘meh’ – it didn’t help that I had to go into the config files and enable more RAM to get more than 10fps. Skylines looks great – thanks Alec for bringing it to my attention.

    • airmikee says:

      I’m going to pick up C:S once all the DLC is out, but until that happens XXL is running just fine for me. Steam says I’m getting 1fps on my city of 10mil, but it’s still running smoother than SC4 does with only 1mil. So far I haven’t seen anything resembling a megacity in C:S, I’m curious to know how it will handle running on the largest, modded 100km2 maps (which is slightly smaller than XXL.) All told, I think this is definitely the golden age of city building games. SC4 is still relevant and fun for making mega-regions that display on one map, XXL allows for the largest individual cities to date, and C:S is a promising near-future purchase.

      • Canadave says:

        “Once all the DLC is out” in Paradox terms means you’ll probably be waiting a few years.

        • airmikee says:

          While I understand that Paradox LOVES DLC, they’re nowhere near the worst offenders, Train Simulator 2015 holds the title at $4600 for the entire game. They haven’t put out any DLC for Warlock2 since October and the game was released last April. I figure by the time I get my region in XXL up to 100mil I should be able to pick up C:S with all the DLC. :)

  16. Joshua Northey says:

    Didn’t Maxis die sometime during Simcity Societies and the release of Sims 2 expansion pack 666?

    • xsoulbrothax says:

      There were two studios, both under the Maxis banner – one in Emeryville (the original, now recently shuttered/moved one), and one in EA’s headquarters in Redwood Shores. They’d both coexisted for a long time, generally working on different things.

  17. gorgonaut says:

    Damn you all, I don’t even play city builders. And still I just bought this game.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Everyone needs a steam backlog

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I’ll probably get this as well, even though I was terrible at SimCity.. 2000?

  18. SuicideKing says:

    Probably get this tomorrow. Seems like a nice game to relax with.

  19. fish99 says:

    Waiting for Funstock Digital to get around to sending my key. By far the most useless digital retailer I’ve come across. Avoid/

  20. Ryuuga says:

    Damning with faint praise much? Does sound like a neat game, the bits that let you personalize bits of city really have me interested. I usually want to make a nice place, a place with a personality, rather than “win”. This is also why I play 4x games a bit weirdly.

  21. airmikee says:

    Looks like a pretty slick game, though I can’t seem to find anyone Broadcasting on Steam that knows how to play city builders. I can’t wait for all the DLC to be released so I can start playing it. ;)

  22. mpcarolin says:

    Now that this is out, I’m very glad that I never gave in and purchased Sim City 5

  23. SuperUnheardOf says:

    Any word on the transport options? I’d really like to build a city with proper bike infrastructure.

    • Enkinan says:

      There are pedestrian walking paths and gravel paths that are only accessible by foot, but I haven’t seen any bikers.

  24. Enkinan says:

    I thought it was funny that Alec starts and ends with statements regarding it being generic, but the whole middle of the article sounds like an excited kid playing with a new toy then excitedly telling his friends about it.

    I downloaded and started playing just after it unlocked. I looked up four hours later and realized I forgot to go to the grocery store and post office. This seems to be the real deal and only going to get much better with workshop and patching.

    I had a few great moments when I took a break after being zoomed out and taking care of business where I zoomed way in to certain areas and just kinda got lost in there watching it all work. Warm fuzzies man.

    • Lagran says:

      I downloaded and started playing just after it unlocked. I looked up four hours later and realized I forgot to go to the grocery store and post office

      I blinked and nearly six hours seemed to have gone by. I know I had dinner in there somewhere, but it’s a vague recollection.

      Have you spent ages just picking a random car or bus, removing the UI, and following it around the city? Please say I’m not the only one…

      • Canadave says:

        Ha! No! Who would waste their time like that? I mean, really?

        *awkwardly shuffles feet*

      • Koozer says:

        I spent an unhealthy amount of time watching bin lorries get stuck in traffic jams.

      • melnificent says:

        I named a dog and just followed it wandering the streets for a bit. It didn’t wander far, but made me appreciate the level of detail.

  25. PaulFullmer says:

    Earning money online was never been easy as it has become for me now. I freelance over the internet and earn about 75 bucks an hour. Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. A little effort and handsome earning dream is just a click away……………….
    ==============>►►►► link to 7.ly

  26. malkav11 says:

    I’ve been tempted, but I’m not sure I’m actually interested in this sort of game anymore. I loved SimCity. Once I figured out that the buttons expanded in SimCity 2000 (so could actually build power plants and not just electricity-less power lines), I loved that too. And I recall spending a fair amount of time with a couple of similar games around then, like LucasArts’ splendid afterlife management sim Afterlife, which I could not establish a positive cash flow in for anything. But somehow I never got around to 3000, and I was never able to make heads nor tails of SimCity 4, supposedly the best in genre. To this day, I can open it up and have no idea how to parse it, much less make functional cities. And although they’re not as opaque, I’ve largely bounced off things like Tropico and Anno 2070, too.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I’ve been tempted, but I’m not sure I’m actually interested in this sort of game anymore. I loved SimCity. Once I figured out that the buttons expanded in SimCity 2000 (so could actually build power plants and not just electricity-less power lines), I loved that too. And I recall spending a fair amount of time with a couple of similar games around then, like LucasArts’ splendid afterlife management sim Afterlife, which I could not establish a positive cash flow in for anything. But somehow I never got around to 3000, and I was never able to make heads nor tails of SimCity 4, supposedly the best in genre. To this day, I can open it up and have no idea how to parse it, much less make functional cities. And although they’re not as opaque, I’ve largely bounced off things like Tropico and Anno 2070, too.

      Ditto for the SC history there – both for having to work out how to actually build a power plant in SC2000 (it was my first PC game, though I’d played the SNES version of SimCity in the past), and for bouncing off of SC4.

      I’ve only played about 2 hours of Skylines (admittedly, twice as much as I intended), but so far I’m finding it much more accessible than SC4 and easier to build a working, money making city (well, town).

      I’d say that so far it’s close to SC2000 in terms of complexity/accesibility (the pseudo-twitter feed is even like the newspaper that would pop up). It’s certainly scratching a very familiar itch, put it that way, and I’m happy with it.

  27. slerbal says:

    Really loving Skylines so far. It is exactly what I hoped it would be with a measure of cool stuff I hadn’t thought about :)

  28. celticdr says:

    Excellent review Alec!

    Having played this now I can say that it brings back memories of SC4 that really SC5 should have done – it’s a real top notch city builder/god game.

    I must say I agree with you on the district goo colour as well… kinda stands out for me now… oh well, guess I’ll have to keep on covering districts in my viscous goo until someone mods it out.

    My only bugbear so far has been the roads and path system – how it tries to snap to the nearest segment even if you have snapping turned off and how you cant build parks off pathways instead of roads… oh and there’s some gaps between buildings that irks the OCD in me, but these are minor quibbles.

    A great game worth getting if you haven’t already people!

  29. jrodman says:

    Can morons like me who are terrible at these games play it without being constantly in a state of failure and Omg all the people are angry at me? I mean is there a moron mode for me?

    • airmikee says:

      Most city builders are fairly forgiving to new players, and give out plenty of tips to guide you along the path to success.

    • Koozer says:

      There’s a built-in ‘cheat mode’ mod that I assume lets you build to your heart’s content.

    • Cleave says:

      My first 2 attempts both went tits up.. out of money after I realised you have to physically connect the water pipes to the pumping stations (as opposed to power lines which you just place nearby).. start again.

      Basically, get your power, water and sewage sorted as soon as you load the map and don’t try to lay out your whole city straight away and you’ll be ok. Power is a constant worry at the moment and taking most of my cash, these wind turbines don’t really cut it.

      • Harlander says:

        For some reason I was getting a lot more power out of the water-based ones. There was a spot on the river going through my first square of city that’d give me 20MW per turbine compared to the 5 per land-based one

    • Armitage says:

      In my 10 hours of playing i did experience some minor displeasure with my administration, all of which were entirely related to my own neglect of my city’s electricity, water or sanitation capacity. I learned my lesson before people complained about my emergency, police and education systems. It’s about as forgiving as anyone could reasonably expect.

      • jrodman says:

        Having played it now I’ll say that the game is fairly forgiving, but the feedback in some areas is poor. It’s pretty unclear how much upkeep you have going into things like roads and pipes except in a very global way.

        The worst though is the transport introspection (which is surprising, given the dev background). You can have businesses failing because “not enough workers”. Does that mean the workers can’t get there? Does that mean that not enough people live in the town? Do jobs really not drive up demand for housing, making that a rare problem?

        I ended up in the red rather quickly trying to figure out fire coverage because it seems no one will drive on some streets at all. Buh?

        • jrodman says:

          Also I must ask: Why does it make people happy when you remove the road that connects to their driveway?

          • Harlander says:

            It’s noting the improvement in mood from reduced noise pollution, I think. It gets quiet quickly, but it takes a while to realise you can’t drive to your house any more.

          • jrodman says:

            What about the bulldozer’s noise pollution?

          • Harlander says:

            Everything in Skylines gets bulldozed with only about a half-second of modestly loud engine noise, so it’s never a big problem

  30. cpy says:

    I have preordered this thing, no regrets. It is what it is and it works. Variety might be low right now, but gameplay really works and it is what they promised. So yeah we have city builder that really works. I have to agree with article.

  31. Pantalaimon says:

    The anti-aliasing this game uses is like staring through an etched glass window. Everything in the UI is incredibly indistinct, particularly the fonts and icons. I’m going to futz around with graphics card options but if there’s no way to make improvements this is really disappointing.

    • hollowroom says:

      I heard it was pretty bad. What resolution are you playing it in?

      • Pantalaimon says:

        1440×900 with everything maxed on my usual gaming display (ASUS). Also tried it at 1080p on a better display that I use for editing, there’s a marginal improvement just because the display is sharper, but the default AA is not really usable IMO (unless you’re running a very high resolution).

        I had to turn off the default AA and Aniso filtering that the game uses, and turn off the tilt shift, and override everything with NVIDIA Inspector. The result is that UI text looks very blurry if any kind of ‘better’ AA is applied (because they’re using rendered fonts and they don’t display cleanly), there are extremely noticeable jaggies on roads and some constructions.

        To be honest, this game does not look as good as I expected from watching developer streams. It might look good on particular setups but not on mine. It kind of looks like CiM 2 (but that had a sharper UI).

        • Koozer says:

          My fonts look similarly fuzzy, like my monitor isn’t set up correctly (it is). The anti-aliasing looks like FXAA which seems to be all the rage these days, which just looks awful.

        • Pantalaimon says:

          After tinkering for an hour I did manage to find an NVIDIA Inspector profile setting that works (I think) to apply AA in a decent fashion using MSAA with SGSSAA for transparency, using the antialiasing bit from CiM 2. Well, I think it’s working, at any rate. This seems to apply a decent level of AA, without making the fonts a blurry mess (it’s not as clear as CSAA or anything but it’s playable). I am using 2x both with -0.375 LOD bias, disabling FXAA.

          I do hope that the devs work to improve the existing in-game AA, though, as it’s still rather hard on the eyes. Or to tell us what the antialiasing bit is, if it’s not the CiM 2 one.

          • Pantalaimon says:

            By the way, I should add, if that sounds like garblegarble, here are the nvidia inspector settings I’m using:
            link to imgur.com

            Until confirmed by the devs I have no idea if the bit is correct, however, as far as I can tell the AA is being applied. I imagine this would look pretty good at 1080p+ resolutions. I’m going to try downsampling as well and see what it looks like using the graphics card scaler.

          • hollowroom says:

            After playing this last night, I’ve had similar issues with the graphics. It looks OK but seems to use weird rendering – almost like it’s being played in a window.

            I notice that it’s the only game I’ve tried so far that doesn’t work with GSYNC.

            Still eminently playable mind you…

  32. Ejia says:

    What I want to know is how are the terrain editing tools? Can I make mountains and craters and rivers aplenty before even starting to build on a piece of land?

    • Strazz says:

      You can, but you have to do those changes in the map editor. You can’t terraform while playing.

    • Pantalaimon says:

      There’s no random terrain generation which I personally would have liked to use. You can import heightmaps, though, so perhaps someone will rig up a decent heightmap randomiser.

      I’m sure the existing default maps are fine, but for some reason playing on pre-built maps is just not quite as exciting as rolling your own fresh, unique creation.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        I agree with this. The lack of a random map is the closest thing to a major “flaw” with the game.

        On launch day, did anyone else bumble around, trying to see if a topographic heatmap existed for their hometown on the internet somewhere?

  33. ulix says:

    Not being able to terraform while playing is already annoying. The game (slightly) reshapes the terrain while you’re laying down streets, buildings, zones. You just can’t undo these changes.

    That’s the biggest citicism I have so far, other than that the game is pretty great.

  34. Universal Quitter says:

    Seems weird to worry about design inspirations we can’t experience when there’s a fantastic game to be playing. Besides, even if we did live in a fantasy universe where this game was literally conceived the day after Sim City released, isn’t the speedy delivery of a superior game quite an accomplishment in and of itself?

  35. Grendel says:

    “Billy Big Balls” hahahahaha! In combination with the bloke walking with spreaded legs it’s just hilarious! :D

  36. Armitage says:

    I have about 10 hours in the game and I have never once thought districts looked like man-protein. You sir, have a dirty mind.

  37. jrodman says:

    The biggest problem with this game is that placeement of roads, rails is just annoying. Getting a desired curve requires imagining how it will work out in a series of segments and having to do it over if you make a mistake. ROADS CANNOT CROSS OTHER ROADS! WTF?

    • jrodman says:

      Or say you want to add a train station to an existing rail line. You can’t! You have to bulldoze out the existing line, and then add your station with rail segment to that line. BUT WAIT. You can’t insert your rail station into the line, you can ONLY build your rail station in exact alignment with an existing road. So you have to use the crappy road-building tools to get a perfect angled line and perfect distance from the rail. Oh whoops you messed up, BULLDOZE EVERYTHING AND TRY AGAIN. Come on Colossal Order. Did you play test this?

  38. RegisteredUser says:

    For anyone cursed with as much OCD when planning as me, be aware that pure right angle grid layouting and perfect 100% coverage and alignment and road management is far far less optimal and possible than one would thing given the helper tools and grid previews.
    If you want a perfectly spaced, snapped and managed city builder grid, Cities:Skylines sadly failes to deliver despite actually trying to be a city planner interface.
    I don’t know why this incredibly important aspect is so neglected. No city planner on a drawing board has little white or unuseable spots left over. Why would a game simulating it?
    There isn’t even a toggleable right angle full map grid view and the snap-to doesn’t have a “press ctrl to force” option or similiar thing, either.
    Its incredibly, incredibly annoying. At least if you are as messed up mentally as me.

    Just a fair warning. It just doesn’t make superoptimizing easy-breezy, nor even basic layouting.

  39. macek677 says:

    I will tell you about my personal experience with the game.

    I have bought the game, and the same day was my last day playing it.
    Let me explain why.
    I have build a city that is self sufficient,
    I am on profit all the time,
    Traffic is fluid on every corner,
    Everything that can be build is already constructed,
    I can leave the game overnight to generate more money….

    It is kinda pointless to play this game from this point on. I have everything, I am on profit and there is nothing else to do besides expanding therefore increasing my profits which I don’t need anymore.

    Game is too easy and is lacking in the ‘end game’.
    If you played Sim City before, do not waste your money on this one, it is almost the same, but easier.

    • macek677 says:

      Forgot to add to it a very annoying chirper sound that CAN NOT be turned off.

  40. zombiegamer-nl says:

    on g2play you can buy the game for € 15,49