The town planning simulator game that SimCity 2013 should have been; in fact, this game is more Sim City than Sim City itself. A similar concept, starting with an empty (but relatively large) plot of land, with two little subs of highway jutting into it, the player builds his or her dream settlement, all the while managing problems and trying to remain profitable.
It doesn’t take long to see how this game is a vast improvement on EA’s effort – despite being developed by an entirely different producer, the similarities are numerous, and immediately evident, but tweaks here and there put the game in a whole new bracket. The first thing you’ll do in Cities is build a road, and straight away the greater level of freedom is obvious. Even though EA’s title allowed freehand road layouts, it doesn’t seem to hold a candle here.
Then, zoning seems easier too. A grid pattern lets you know exactly how much space you need (no more calculating distances based on road cost, or worse, park sizes) and helps you lay out your city to perfection. Then, bridges and tunnels can be plopped easily, and better still, one way roads are now a thing! This means you can improve the traffic flow of your town simply, and even build roundabouts. This greater freedom comes at a small cost, in that it’s not quite as intuitive as Sim City’s town planning.
Do, however, make sure to note what side of the road your citizens drive on. That’s right, you can even go as far as to customize that, but it does mean that if you aren’t quite paying attention, you may, like me, build a roundabout that goes in the wrong way and completely disrupts your traffic flow.
Next, the utilities are an improvement too. Resources follow roads to an extent, but the player can build pipelines and pylons, linking up different regions, or ‘districts’ of their city. Buildings need electricity, water and a sewage system, as expected, and as mayor it is your job to provide these, while still taking pollution into consideration.
Forward thinking is a must in this game, preparing your town for any growing pains it may have, as traffic is a nightmare. Creative solutions can keep your city thriving, but it’s best to avoid them all in the first place with good planning.
Districts are a fantastic addition to this game. As mayor, you define each district and change local laws accordingly, exempting or raising taxes, banning trucks from driving through and even legalizing drugs. All these small changes can have huge knock-on impacts around your town, so think carefully.
However, these districts seem to be a replacement for having multiple cities on the go; players can only have a single save file with one city at a time. This is a huge downside for anyone looking to experiment but still preserve their metropolis. While this is one thing that Sim City can be proud of, the immediate counter punch in Skylines is that there are no server issues, as there is no online play at all.
Feedback from your citizens is provided through a Twitter-like app at the top of the screen, although it is almost always fairly clear what is going on. Just be sure to respond to issues quickly, as they have a habit of piling up on top of each other to create one giant mess.
We keep comparing this game to Sim City, and there is a reason for that, more than just their similar concepts. Everything about this game shamelessly copies the Origin title, right down to the colour scheme of the information charts. This is not necessarily a bad thing (for the player anyway, a lawsuit is not unimaginable here) as that was one of the few things EA did get right.
I persisted with this game despite computer troubles, and am happy I did. At only £30, including DLC, this game is a bargain. Anyone that enjoyed EA’s latest attempt at providing a platform to play God is sure to enjoy this title too, and anyone that was hyped up and the immediately let down by the shambolic release two years ago is going to find that this game more than makes up for it. It is a full package upon release, not requiring any mods to the road network. It is, quite simply, everything that game wanted to be and more.