I debated about a dozen different ways to open this review and explain why I like Cities: Skylines so much. I could talk about what a disaster EA's SimCity reboot was (culminating in the closure of veteran studio Maxis Emeryville last week). I could describe how I blinked in confusion at the clock the other night, pausing in the middle of constructing a massive coastal highway to realize it was four in the morning.
But the key to Cities: Skylines is scale, and scale just can't be described. Here:
And that's when I only owned eight of the nine regions I could eventually purchase, only three of which I'd really built on. Cities: Skylines is, true to its name, a city builder.
Progression. Satisfactory progression. It's at the heart of any city builder, where the easiest measure of said progress is "How much of this space can I fill with buildings?" And Cities: Skylines gives you a lot of space to fill with buildings.
But it starts with a single road. Here's my city of Springwood at its humble beginnings: A few strips of asphalt, a coal power station, water, and sewage.
To say Cities: Skylines is "in the SimCity vein" is a polite way of saying "Cities: Skylines straight up rips off a lot of traditional SimCity ideas." Maybe that's why I like it so much.
Zoning colors, for instance: Blue for commercial, yellow for industry, green for residential. In essence, Cities: Skylines goes "Hey, you didn't like that new SimCity? What if I told you I could give you SimCity 2000, but bigger?" And to that I say...well, I've played until four in the morning multiple nights this week. So I guess I'm on board.
Seriously, Cities: Skylines is one of the best city builders I've played in years. You can basically do anything you want with your city. Want to make rolling suburbs with nice curved streets for wealthy families? Sure, you can do that. Want to create the Judge Dredd-esque all high-rise buildings nightmare dystopia of your dreams? Yeah, you can do that too. Want to make your entire population live next door to garbage incinerators and heavy industry? Mmm, poison those citizens. Want to make a penis-shaped city?
Well. [Clears throat.] You can. Not that I would know.
(You can also really do anything, thanks to built-in mod/Steam Workshop support, but that's not really pertinent to this review except to say "Remember when EA wanted to charge you for every single DLC building in SimCity?" Okay, moving on.)
There's a lot to do in Cities: Skylines, but it's kept fairly manageable thanks to a gated unlock system that adds new concepts to the game as you add population. For the most part these unlocks make sense according to your city size--you wouldn't see an international airport in a town of 500 people for instance.
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