Cities: Skylines has been out for a few years now and its available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it was no surprise really that we get to see the city builder on the Nintendo Switch as well. But has the transition from medium to high-end systems to a less powerful portable system like the Nintendo Switch? The Switch version comes with only two expansions ‘Snowfall’ and ‘After Dark’ with no confirmation of any other DLC’s which are already out on PC which includes the following;
- Green Cities
- Mass Transit
- Natural Disasters
- Content Creators Pack: European Suburbia
- Content Creators Pack: High Tech Building
- Content Creators Pack: Art Deco
- and more…
Cities: Skylines is a city-builder by developers Colossal Order (Cities in Motion, Cities in Motion 2), published by Paradox Interactive and developed on the switch by Tantalus. The game builds upon the experience gained by the developers after creating their Cities in Motion titles and unleashes you on an open plain to build your very own city from the ground up. It is your job to manage roads, zoning, public services, transport, policies and most importantly your budget as you aim to grow from a small village into a major city. Your success relies on all of these factors and more, and the game will challenge you to keep track of your every growing city, the needs of its people and the problems which may arise along the way as you strive towards its greatness!
Now to the city-builder fan, or indeed anyone who might have a basic knowledge of popular gaming titles, that description is going to sound a lot like a Sim City game. For the first couple of hours of play in Cities: Skylines, a Sim City game is exactly what it looks and feels like too. It isn’t a Sim City clone then, but it does show very clear signals that this was its inspiration. And again, if you are a city-builder fan or know of the Sim City saga, you will know that had the latest release stuck to the traditional model, it might have been a much better game. Cities: Skylines then, although it does not feel entirely original in its construction, is an interesting and exciting game for any city-builder fan to take a look at.
So as with most city-builder games, you start off by picking an empty plot of land to build on, thinking carefully of course about water supply, transport connections and so on and so forth. Then you build a road or two, create some zones for residential, commercial and industrial buildings to be built in, build a power source and water and sewerage lines, and then watch as your empty plot of land comes to life. It’s that simple to begin with, but then Cities: Skylines unique features come into play. Unlike many city-builders, Cities: Skylines has a progression system, and surprisingly this actually works for the game. Traditionally in this style of game, you hit small milestones or goals to unlock new buildings or features. Essentially that is the case here too, however in this instance your city effectively “levels-up” and you unlock a bunch of things at once. This happens each time your population reaches a certain point, but that doesn’t mean you can just build balls loads of houses and watch them fill up. While the game keeps things simple in terms of telling you what people want, using tiny speech bubbles and some kind of Twitter feed-type feature, common sense dictates that jobs, healthcare, safety and the like are what will attract new people to your city. So when you level up and unlock the police and fire services, for example, you must then try to use these effectively to level up again. Simple, effective, well designed and clever, this feature sets Cities: Skylines aside from similar games, but some of its other features do this on a much grander scale.
Perhaps the most unique and intuitive feature of the game is your ability to create set regions throughout your city which have different political policies in effect to others. For example, you might make a residential area a low-energy zone, make an industrial sector a pet free section, allow people in your parks to legally use drugs or give low-density commercial properties a tax break. You can also set city-wide policies in action too if you feel the need, for example, you might want to bring in free public transport or recycling. In any case, this use of policy and particularly in this way is something very special about Cities: Skylines, and I for one think it is fantastic! It adds an all-too-often missing element to this city-builder and makes it (almost) the complete package when it comes to city management simulation.
I do have some problems with the game though, and these begin with one of Sim City’s old features which I had hoped not to see too much of again. Cities: Skylines forces you to build pipes and power lines to each new set of buildings, and this is something which I had always found a little mundane. Sure, I can see why the feature is there, but it is one of the very minor things in a city-builder where I would happily just build the power station and assume everything is connected then. Some people might disagree, but I have always found this part of these games to be mundane and unnecessary to sit and play through. The only other real issue which I have is that it misses the opportunity to create a multiplayer experience, or even to simply allow you to trade with other computer-controlled towns. When my energy levels get low, for example, I would like to be able to buy power from elsewhere, rather than feeling like the only city on the planet. If one thing is missing from Cities: Skylines which would make it a complete package, trade is probably it.
All in all then, Cities: Skyline is not original, but it progresses the city-builder genre in a very positive direction indeed. Despite it not being a new idea, it keeps everything that makes this type of game in check, improved upon some aspects, and adds its own brilliant features and charms along the way. The Port to Nintendo Switch has some FPS drops when you zoom in and out of your city and some control issues, which to me, being a huge fan of the franchise and have played the game on PC and Xbox One, upsets me. The Developers should have spent a little more time to optimize the game better on the platform and improve the control setup, they have to consider that the majority of us Switch Games play portable.
There is still plenty of room for improvement, and I hope they bring all the DLC which has been released on all other platforms, as Switch Owners deserve to play everything that is on offer on all other systems.