We built this city on script and code.
One of the advantages of having a PC over a console is the availability of games that don’t fit well with a controller. Be it an RTS game or a simulation style game, they just seem to play better with a keyboard and mouse due to the level of on-screen control needed. But over the years developers have found smart and clever ways in which to port them to the home console. Games like Civ: Revolution, Halo Wars, and Tropico all found a home, and more importantly, a market on consoles. The latest attempt to bring a PC focused game to console is Cities Skyline, a city building sim game that found popularity on the PC after SimCity dropped the ball.
Cities Skyline: Xbox Edition is a game that aims to bring a game normally associated with the PC to a wider market, and for the most part it succeeds. The game isn’t watered down or simplified, and offers just as much as its PC counterpart.
Platform: Xbox One
Price I’d pay: $39.99
If you have ever played a city building game before, then you will know exactly what this game offers. Players start off the game by selecting an area to build in. There are 13 preset areas to choose from, all with slightly different attributes and natural resources. There aren’t any procedurally generated areas on offer, but what is there is varied enough. Players can also select to have unlimited money if they wish, as well as having all facilities unlocked from the start. There is even an option for left-hand traffic as well. From there players will be given a small amount of money (Unless the unlimited money option is selected) to start building. Not all facilities are available from the start, with the game gently breaking players into its systems. Just the abilities to build roads, zone areas and generate power and water are unlocked from the start. With these tools players will be able to start the construction of their very own little town and attract the attention of people and businesses.
As the population of the town grows, more features unlock for use. Waste disposal, education and emergency services will all be needed to keep the town safe, smart and healthy. Education is big factor in Cities Skyline, as the town will not be able to grow fully if its residents aren’t educated. And of course things like the police, fire service and hospitals are essential in keeping everything under control. Fires will break out and houses burgled if there is no deterrent against them. As the population grows even bigger, services like district zoning, transit and monuments become available to enhance the town even further. Building in Cities Skyline is really simple as well. Roads are not only straightforward to build, but also easy to upgrade as the city grows. Utilities are also easy to understand, distribute and maintain. What used to an absolute pain has now been simplified and enhanced. No longer do I have to worry about demolishing a road and having to re-plan as it no longer suits my needs.
But all of these things cost money. Lots of money. Money is earned through taxes, which can be adjusted as players see fit. But be wary, increased taxes can annoy the residents, which will force them to up and leave. There are also several policies that can be introduced to either help with increasing the population, or reducing the cost of running the city. These unlock after certain milestones have been reached, and can prove very useful. This is the same for the unique buildings, which only become available to build after certain conditions are met. For example, the Cathedral is only unlocked once there have been 2000 abandoned buildings in the city. And you can only build the London Eye after you’ve built two airports. There are plenty of milestones to reach, some easy and some requiring more substantial playing time.
Time however is one of the biggest issues I had with the game. As with any game of this type, there will be large periods of time when players will just be waiting, especially in the early stages of the game – waiting to raise enough money, waiting for the population to grow, waiting for zones to fill in. But, unlike most others, Cities Skyline does not have options to speed up time. There is just two speeds; go and stop. That was my single biggest bug-bear and one that I really hope they patch in a later date. I’m not sure if this option is available on the PC version, but even if it isn’t, I’m on a PC, I can do other things while I wait. On console, I can’t. I spent quite a bit of time playing with my phone while I waited. I also ran into a few bugs from time to time. These often involved the UI when trying to build something or lay down roads, when the cursor would often just vanish. There were also a few hard crashes during my play, where I would have to quit out of the game and restart. Annoying? Yes, but nothing a patch can’t fix.
Cities Skyline is a welcome addition to the Xbox One, and consoles in general. It’s a competently made city building game, one that hasn’t been dumbed down for those that prefer a console to PC. It may take a while for the game to open up and kick into gear, but when it does, there is no limit to what you can build.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.