Here’s a new game taking the world by storm. It’s Cities: Skylines by Colossal Order and published by Paradox Interactive. This game got the green-light when SimCity:
2013 2014… whatever… pulled the bone-headed stunt of making it online only play. It didn’t help that there were significant bugs in the simulation that could kill your city through no fault of your own, but this isn’t a post about SimCity. This is a post about the game we all wanted instead of SimCity: 2013 2014… whatever. It’ll go through setup options and give an introduction to the game play. Written as a text only post, that could get a bit dry, and you’d not really get an appreciation for what the game is actually like.
So here’s how I’m going to do this. I started a city and took lots and lots of screen captures. I’m going to give this to you in a gallery with my comments on that particular game aspect in the screen cap’s description. You can flip through and read each one, or you can choose an interesting picture and read just its comments. That should hopefully keep you from becoming too bored.
The opening screen has the standard New/Load Saved/Options, etc. selection, but here you can also see its close integration with the Steam Workshop. I’ll go into Options, Content Manager and Tools in a bit more detail in the follow on screen caps. If you have a Paradox account you can sign into here as well, though I don’t know what that will get you. I don’t have a Paradox account. I find it interesting that the news feed still refers to the Paradox Beta Store. That must be a Paradox thing, but don’t let it give you the wrong impression. Cities: Skylines is released and full featured.
The options are full featured. I especially like that you can specify the aspect ratio of your monitor, and that further refines the resolutions presented. I took a lot of these screen caps on my laptop which is standard 16:9 high definition. However, I finished my last session on my main system with a 16:10 monitor. The game scaled nicely between the two, though I ultimately dropped the main system to 1920×1080 windowed so these screen captures would remain the same size. After running through most of the settings, I found none that required a program restart. That’s another big plus for the developer.
The Gameplay tab has a tremendous amount of customization options. Most of these come down to key mappings that give the player great latitude in how the game operates under their touch. You can also turn edge scrolling on or off and if on set its sensitivity. Thank goodness. I hate edge scrolling. 😡
This game was developed in Europe. You can tell just by looking at all the available localization options. Many of the big developers may give you three, but often localization is severely lacking. I’m happy to say that isn’t the case with Cities: Skylines.
The Content Manager gives you access to maps, save games, assets, mods and the Steam Workshop. Maps and save games are self explanatory. Assets are available with a direct link to the Steam Workshop, though clicking on the link did not work for me. 😦
Did I mention this game is comes with full modding support? You can also turn mods on and off inside the game. It’s also interesting to me that changing mods and then loading a saved game will affect that saved game. See the last sentence for confirmation.
As well as the link under assets not working, I found the Steam Workshop tab blank. I’ve not had time to look into this. I don’t think it’s broken. I think I’m just being dense.
Under the Tools options is where you can edit maps and assets – just as the icons indicate. 😉 These will not let you edit the in developer provided assets. These you must create yourself. Each tool has you choose from an environment theme and for the assets from among various asset types. There are enough options for Tools to warrant a post all by itself. This is just to whet your appetite.
The new game option is familiar and doesn’t need a lot of explanation. Players of the good SimCity versions will recognize it at once. Note the detailed statistics at the bottom. This will give you an idea of what your city production can be. You are of course free to disregard these hints – at your own peril. And as further evidence this game comes from a world oriented company, you can even switch traffic flow to left handed if so inclined.
The game load screen comes with helpful hints just as classic SimCity did. The Twitter like bird is named Chirpy, and gives you messages about how your city is doing via Chirper. It is blatantly a Twitter rip off, and I find I feel the same way about it that I do about Twitter. However, there is one thing I’d like to see the developers do: integrate Twitter directly into the game with a game specific hashtag. It’d be opt in only, but that way you would have a line on what the rest of Cities: Skylines players are up to in real time. Of course, people would want to spam it with their own Twitch feeds, etc., but it might be interesting NTL.
So now we get to the game play interface. Look familiar? Anyone who’s played SimCity should be right at home with this interface.
As with all worthwhile city simulators, you start with laying down a road network . If your city is a body, your road network is its skeleton. You’ll notice that road building comes with a variety of options and the adviser is quick to tell you all about them. This is great when you are first starting, but I’m a LOT of experience with this sort of game and within a few minutes I wished I could just turn it off. I’ve not figured out how to do that, and it has become the biggest annoyance on the game for me. But there is something really worthwhile to point out on this screen cap. If you lay a road down, and you get it wrong, you can bulldoze it right away and get your money back. From what I could tell, the refund ends when you put a zone beside it. That gives you plenty of time to decide if that’s the layout you want. Nice.
At the top left corner you’ll see the information icon. This is where you’ll find out exactly how your city is doing. One thing the game provides lots of is feedback. You can get it using the information icon. You can get it by examining individual buildings. There are a plethora of charts available which I’ll showcase later. In this screen cap, I am determining where to put my wind turbines. The darker the shade, the better the wind. I like wind turbines. They are a bit more expensive per megawatt, but you can place them as you need them and they only generate noise pollution.
With power taken care of, I am ready to place other essentials. These would be where the sewage goes, and where the town gets its water. Notice I have yet to zone anything. *hint, hint* The simulation tracks water flow. Don’t put your waste pipes up stream. That is all.
With power, sewage and water provided for, it was time to zone. As in SimCity, you can choose from residential, commercial and industrial. The colors are even the same. Zoning costs nothing. You can place zones by fill, selection and by small and large brush fill. Those are the icons to the left of the question mark help icon. This gives you very fine control over your zoning. Also, notice the zones are four squares deep. This should tell you something about what a dense grid should look like. 😉
Just because you have a water uptake plant and some sewage drains, doesn’t mean you still don’t need to connect them to your zones. Electricity too must be connected, at least until all zone blocks between your power generators and buildings are filled in. Then power till pass from building to building. Water and sewage will as well, but pipes seem to be more efficient.
With all the necessities attended to, the town begins to grow. The standard demand indicators tell you what you should be working on to keep the city growing. I find the indicators are quite accurate, unlike other games I’m done mentioning.
As mentioned previously, clicking on a building will provide details on that building. These details include its happiness, size/density and what is needed to make the building work. For industrial buildings like this one that means workers. The dark bar just under the title is a message area. If there is something going wrong, it will tell you what in that bar. You will know there is a problem when a small flag icon appears on the building when viewed from the main map.
One thing I really like about city simulations is the ability to get down to street level and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Cities: Skylines is no exception. Here is my water pumping plant and a small commercial building. The detail is nice, even if the placement of the handicapped spaces isn’t near enough to a door to meet code. 😛
Looking across the city towards the wind farm.
What new residents see as the come over the regional highway overpass for the first time.
A thriving industrial center is crucial to revenue generation in your young city.
Eventually I’ll need to build a bridge across that river. See, I’m already planning for the future!
In no time at all I’ve reached my first milestone. I am now the proud mayor of a little hamlet! Milestones unlock new features, services and buildings for your city. This screen is a none to subtle hint about what you need to think about addressing next as mayor.
One of the buildings you get by reaching the first milestone is a medical clinic. Place them carefully to get maximum effect. Also, pay attention to the weekly costs and that’s not just money. All buildings require services and maintenance. You can blow your budget in more ways than one, so be thoughtful.
Now’s as good a time as any to get into finances. After your first milestone, you can set tax rates for various zones. There are six in total once you’ve unlocked them all.
The budget tab let’s you increase or decrease the budget of your various city services. You can only increase or decrease them by 50%. If you want to eliminate a service expense all together, you will need to close individual buildings on their information pop-up.
The loan tab gives you all the information necessary for deciding on whether you’ll use this budget tool. I have. I needed to complete an energy build-out for an expansion. Take only as much as you need. Pay it back early if you can. This is not where you take money because your weekly expenses are too high. That’s just making a bad decision on your part worse. Loans are for rapid expansion, and your income gain MUST justify their use.
The big green “i” icon near the date and time elapsing indicator gives you quick summary information on your city. It’s a quick way to get an idea of the direction your build-outs should take.
Let the build-out begin!
As I mentioned, there are a plethora of graphs to help you see how your city is doing. They are accessed on the Statistics page which you can get to through the game’s pause menu.
But you’ve a long way to go, so it’s best to save while you’re ahead. And yes, Cities: Skylines comes with full Steam Cloud integration. I love that I can play my city from home or the road!
Before you know it you’ll have hit another milestone, with all the new unlocks they bring. The second milestone unlocks policies which you can place on all, or just parts of your city. Policies help you guide your city in the direction you want it to grow. This milestone is where you’ll receive the first of your industrial specializations.
And if you do your build-out right, you’ll hit yet another milestone in less than 15 minutes!
And your city will really be starting to take shape.
At some point you’ll want to divide your city into districts to help you manage it more effectively. This a a feature I’ve not seen in other city simulations. I really like it. It not only guides different areas of your city in slightly different directions, but it can also help balance the needs of the public with the needs of the budget. For example, I save a little coin by not requiring industrial areas to use smoke detectors. And they were happier for less regulation! I lolz all the way to the bank on that one. 😀
One of the key milestones of the game is when you hit Boom Town. You get more area to expand in, mass transit becomes an option as does more industry specializations.
There are so many new unlocks in fact, it takes two full screens to display them. I’m really going to enjoy this game!
Regardless of whether you flipped through every one or picked and chose which ones you wanted to read, I highly recommend this game for anyone into city simulations. With its open modding support, I see a great deal of fun in my future playing this one. And with the recent demise of Maxis for all intents and purposes, I personally feel we have its successor on hand. You can purchase Cities: Skylines directly from Paradox Interactive’s web site, or you can get it through Steam for $29.99. That isn’t cheap, and I doubt it’ll be on sale any time soon, but if you are a city simulation aficionado I think I can guarantee you’ll find Cities: Skylines worth every cent you pay for it.