Cities: Skylines

By Lauren McLean

Note to self: stop contaminating the water supply

From the ashes of … uh… the less than successful SimCity rises a beautiful successor to the city building giant. Cities: Skylines is a wonderful example of exactly what this generation of city builders need to be: a game that works.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdXCuN8HXHc]


Now, I love all things strategy games. I love tycoons, I love simulations, I love anything that is, as Drake lovingly sings, ‘started from the bottom, now we’re here’. Hell, you know what? I even loved SimCity. There were a few things I hated but overall, it was a good game. I went in to Cities: Skylines with, on the one hand, high expectations after hearing awesome things from friends and seeing the reviews it got, and on the other hand, thinking that it was just a knock off and nothing could be as good as the Maxis (RIP) originals that I grew up with. Well, after giving it a solid go over a couple of butt numbing days, I can say that this game this really deserved all the hype that it got. It’s developed by Finnish company Colossal Order, who, interestingly, have a female CEO and lead game designer. You don’t see that much these days, especially in this industry. The game gives out pure gratification when you do things right, such as clearing up all the “Hey! I don’t have any power over here!” bubbles and utter frustration when said bubbles pop up again after adding a hospital. You can honestly sit at your desk for hours just satisfying the needs of your growing population of residents.


Cities: Skylines plays surprisingly like SimCity because, well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s got most of the same mechanics as its predecessor but they’re much better managed. It starts you off slowly – however, without a tutorial whatsoever – which is much appreciated as too much at the start can be overwhelming, especially for someone who may not have played city building games before. (I have memories of starting a town in SimCity 4 with all the available services despite have a population of 300 because I was young and naive. Failure quickly ensued. Anyway, I digress…)


Step 1 on how to piss people off

They start you off with a nice greeting message, the ability to build a road and from there, they let you dribble your success until you hit your new milestone at a certain population (as seen as the ‘lock’ icon in the bottom-left of the screen) then they give you a massive and much needed funding boost as well as opening up new services that you didn’t need before such as schools for the uneducated, slack-jawed yokels who work at the ice cube factory and are just fine with that. Also, the graphics themselves are real cute with the pastel coloured cars (AND THE FUCKIN’ DONUT VANS!!) and the cool looking tilt-shift style camera work.

Constructing your city is super easy, and the tools you click to create give you a quick summary on how to use them correctly. With your roads come easy-to-place areas for either residential, commercial or industrial plans which, like SimCity, is managed by three bars at the bottom of your screen coloured green (R), blue (C) and yellow (I) which the more you need, the more the bar is shown.


Ignore the whiny residents

A sweet feature they have added to Cities: Skylines that wasn’t in SimCity is the policies and districts. After unlocking your second milestone (1,000 population), you also unlock the first three town policies that can either aid or hinder you depending on which stage of city building you are in. For example, adding smoke detectors to every house will cost nothing for your residents and they’ll be so happy that you’re the loving, caring mayor that you are, however, they cost you $5 per house. In the beginning of your one neighbourhood town, that won’t hurt you too much, but when your town grows, you’ll see the chunk of money the smoke detectors are taking out of your weekly income and how much more you earn by taking them away. This is why you need to be constantly monitoring your income and budget and DON’T EVEN THINK OF LEAVING YOUR TOWN RUNNING UNATTENDED. OH BOY!


As you can see… I’m not too great yet

One of the best features they’ve included for excited ex-SimCity fans is… You can build your city HUGE! Like, really big! Once you unlock your second milestone, you have the ability to unlock a WHOLE OTHER SQUARE next to your starting square to expand your town which is great to know for planning you city.


Districts: Shaping neighbourhoods like penises since 2015

The districts are also a really good way to implement order and the policies. You can highlight any part of the map and make them into an individual district/neighbourhood for you to name and set different policies to, so, if you want to have one neighbourhood to recycle because they make more garbage over another, you can! Another great part of the districts, you can set districts of industry to enforce specific specialisations which work in designated areas, eg: the yellow tinged land is good for the farming industry and the grey tinged land is for the ore industry. Once set, they’ll automatically begin building specific building for those industries which is just super.


Whole lotta poo

This last feature is what I seem to be liking the most, not because it’s pretty or anything (I mean, that’s sewerage) but because it adds that extra level of difficulty: The effect on the environment. You add a drainage pipe down stream, as seen here, and your lovely river just turns putrid and if you ever need another water pipe, you have to really think strategically where it’ll be placed as placing it in the purple will make your whole town sick in a matter of minutes. Another factor on the environment is the effect the industrial area has on the Earth (I’m not preaching, I swear). After you build the factories, the ground turns from lush green to dead and brown. If you place a water source nearby, it will become polluted and once again, sick people. You can turn it back to green however, but you have to destroy the industry and plant trees which cost money.

EXTRA features

If city building isn’t your thing, then never fear! There’s something in this game for you (unless you want a FPS, then… sorry). Cities: Skylines includes a map editor and also an asset editor which you can use to create custom intersections, parks, buildings, props and trees. This is for people who are obviously better than me.


Some of my best work

The map editor is pretty straight forward and, as a first, SimCity‘s map builder was better. While the maps look awesome and realistic, it seems slightly clunky and there aren’t many options for what you’d like to do. However, it gets the job done and makes really cool looking maps for you to build your city on and/or upload to the Steam Workshop, a mod superstore for player made content, for others to download such as thing AMAZING recreation of Grand Theft Auto V‘s Los Santos made by Steam user ‘grockefeller’ as seen here.

Now, I haven’t delved into the asset editing world as I really suck at that part so I can’t really comment or review this part but seeing the kinds of things people have been making just makes me more and more impressed with what this game can accomplish.


Cities: Skylines is exactly what I wanted a modern city builder to be. It looks fantastic, it doesn’t throw you into the deep end trying to struggle for air (or money in this case) and the way it functions is awesome and super easy to manage. I can foresee myself playing this hours on end months from now and I haven’t even gotten past 10,000 population yet!

SCORE: 8/10

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Release Date: Out now
Available from: Steam ($29.99 USD)
Developed by: Colossal Order
Published by: Paradox Interactive

045A5543Lauren is one of the four main writers here at OK Games. In her spare time, she likes to complain, bake delicious things and complain about baking delicious things.

Check her out on Twitter where you see more complaining and occasionally something legitimately funny to no one in particular.


Twitter @TheLaurenMcLean

Passionate Animal Crossing fan, and a grower of her Xbox Gamerscore. If you follow POINTNCLICK on social media, she'll be the one annoying you!