PCReviewXbox One

Cities: Skylines Review

June 8, 2017 — by Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey0

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PCReviewXbox One

Cities: Skylines Review

June 8, 2017 — by Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey0

A city simulation enthusiast’s wet dream

Simulation games demand an incredible amount of attention and patience. Very few possess the patience needed to sit down for hours or even days building an entire city from scratch. However, the endless hours of toiling and doing the same thing over and over again to achieve the best combination of every aspect is what makes Cities: Skylines a beautiful city simulator.

Cities: SkylinesIn its default state, the game allows for insane depth in its micromanagement capabilities. There was a void left for a robust city simulator after SimCity and as soon as Cities: Skylines came out, people got hooked to it. In just a matter of weeks, we’ve witnessed some amazing cityscapes, beaming with life and the hustle bustle of a real city. Colossal Order, the developers of the game, were also open to having mods in the game and the modding community wholeheartedly delivered. Right now, there are hundreds of mods available for download. There are so many wonderful mods, that they deserve an article of their own and we look forward to trying most of the popular ones soon. Cities: Skylines was initially launched for PC and has now made its way to the Xbox One. You can now purchase the game from the Windows Store and play it on your Xbox One console and PC. With that out of the way, let’s talk about our experiences with the little nuances of micromanagement in the game and how we were able to overcome a few of them.

The game is fairly easy

Creating a new game lets you pick one of the available maps and drops you in a selected portion of the map. These portions are square areas that can be extended as you progress, up to a grid of nine such squares around the initial square. These maps have varying amounts of natural resources and terrain that affects your business. In the default game mode, you have limited money in the beginning but enough to sustain yourself if you spend smartly. We aren’t saying you’ll be able to nail the expenditure in the first go, but once you’re familiar how much money goes into building the different elements, you’ll be fine. There’s a main highway running across the map which needs to be branched out for your city. You have options of single-lane, two-lane, four-lane, six-lane roads and highways to build. Picking the right roads for the right location is essential in your city. Building roads lets you assign zones around them including low and medium density residential zones, low and medium density commercial zones, office zones, and industrial zones. Being low on budget, it’s smarter to spend as little as you can on roads, power lines and pipes. Your electricity power plants will generate pollution so it’s best to place them away from residential and commercial zones. The electricity plants need to be connected to the rest of the city which can be done with the help of power grids. The water pumping station will require a river or any water body as a source, and you will also need to place a sewage disposal plant as well. Then you proceed to connecting your tiny city with pipes to supply water and drain the sewage collected. With the basic amenities taken care of, now you will move on to creating other facilities related to education, law, fire safety, transport, garbage disposal, leisure activities, etc.

Cities: Skylines is essentially the game that has all the basic things you need to take care of while building your dream city. The starting sum of money is sufficient for humble beginnings. If you aren’t comfortable with limited funds, then you can opt for the default mode of unlimited money and play. As you play more and your population keeps on rising, you will continue to unlock many features, buildings, and even policies. The entire game acts on the butterfly effect. One tiny unintentional change and you might just make everyone abandon your city. These nuances make the game beautiful and complicated, and also break it sometimes.

Cities: Skylines

Micromanagement at its best

Mixing different zones with each other will highly affect the progress of the game. So, if you place industrial zones near the residential zones, your citizens will start falling sick more frequently. Build commercial zones too close to residential zones, and your citizens will start complaining about noise pollution as it scales. Not only zones, even the location of certain buildings around particular zones and even buildings affects the gameplay. Like placing the water pumping station and sewage disposal plant close by will eventually result in the sewage entering the water pumping lines and making your citizens ill. In case you built the water pumping station on a riverbed, the direction of the river current will decide whether fresh water is obtained. If you build the sewage disposal plant upstream, then the river will bring in polluted water into the pumping station. Once you finish zoning appropriately, you will need to build schools, police stations and fire stations. If there aren’t enough schools, high-schools and universities, your citizens won’t be educated enough for jobs available in the commercial and industrial zones. You will also need to maintain a certain number of these education buildings. Because you might end up having too many university passed out students rather than high-school students and not fill certain jobs in the city. Do note, citizens could be underqualified and even overqualified for jobs, keeping them unemployed. Hence, a balance is necessary. Lower employment will also result in companies not hiring anyone and abandoning the buildings. This goes on to affect your city’s income, lowering your budget to spend on the city. Also, abandoned buildings aren’t welcome by citizens as they hurt the aesthetics, which lowers the citizen’s happiness. With lower number of hospitals and care centres in the city, there will be more people falling sick and probably dying. Even though you might have just the right number of hospitals, accessibility and proximity also tends to be a mechanism affecting gameplay. People will eventually die of old age and if there aren’t enough crematoriums, dead bodies will start piling up and lower citizen’s happiness. Business, law enforcement and healthcare might start dropping within your city with poor connectivity of roads. If your industrial zone isn’t connected to commercial zones properly, you’ll have a lower number of buyers and sales stagnating. Bad connectivity will mean ambulances, police cars and fire trucks won’t be able to reach the intended locations easily and quickly.

Cities: Skylines

The depth of micromanagement is intimidating at first. Few of them are expected whereas some really blow your mind. There are times where you won’t be able to figure out what went wrong and why are people suddenly falling sick. Monitoring the “Info Views” tab on the top left is important as it makes it easier to deduce the problems in your city. We faced the same problem but the cause wasn’t mentioned. The Chirper ticket on the top announced about citizens avoiding tap water but on inspection, the pipes weren’t polluted. Looking at the data of sewage production and draining capacity, it didn’t show any bottlenecking. Trying to look for a solution, we decided to separate two areas of the map and provide them their own pumping and sewage drains. And it actually worked. Another roadblock (literally) we came across was the crazy traffic problem. As our population grew, the highways brought in more traffic and more vehicles wanted to enter and leave the city. The Traffic info view highlights traffic density and we found the highways and intersections from one side being the most crowded. Vehicles started lining up in the middle lane and not use the other empty lanes. Rerouting the traffic used to temporarily solve the problem since after a while, the same traffic coming from one area piled up on a different intersection. We don’t know for sure whether the game’s system lacks a granular reporting mechanism scaled to all the possibilities of the game or it wants us to actually figure out such complex problems.

Cities: Skylines

Graphics performance

Simulators are usually CPU intensive because of the crazy number of quick granular changes that keep occurring continuously. We ran the game on an Intel Core i7-3770K and the usage hardly touched 100% even on maps with populations of up to 70,000. The lighting is dynamic as it changes according to the time of the day and also weather conditions. You can zoom into your city and see your city and its citizens in considerably good detail. However, the game did stutter when we zoomed in completely and moved around the map. Running on an MSI Radeon RX 470 Gaming X, we hit 100% usage and an average FPS of 29-30 fps during fully zoomed flybys. Otherwise, the game was able to hold a stable FPS of over 60.

Cities: Skylines

Should you buy Cities: Skylines?

Ever wanted to create your own dream city? Designing your own efficient transport system? If your answer to these questions was yes, then there’s nothing stopping you from buying Cities: Skylines. But if you’re a fan of fast-paced games and can’t wait an hour for a particular event to happen, this game isn’t for you. Simulator buffs who simply love building stuff and are always eager to find out how their creations are doing will definitely love this game. The developers also seem to be quite active with releasing new DLCs, Mass Transit being the most recent one. The community is also going strong, going completely overboard with their creations and designing incredible road networks. There’s a number of mods to enhance your gameplay or just add some crazy fun to the game. We would have loved if natural disasters were part of the game by default rather than as DLC because crisis management is an important metric in city simulation. Another thing missing from the game is civil problems such as riots, strikes, and even anarchy. This is another mechanism we would want Colossal Order to introduce. If you love simulation games, you should not miss this Cities: Skylines. You can buy Cities from the Microsoft Store and Steam as well, just remember, the Summer Sales are on their way and you might be able to pick it up for cheaper.

MOAR
Platforms: Windows PC & Xbox One
Price: Rs. 1,207 (Steam), Rs. 1,900 (Microsoft Store)
Reviewed on: Windows
Developers: Colossal Order
Publishers: Paradox Interactive

Ever wanted to create your own dream city? Designing your own efficient transport system? If your answer to these questions was yes, then there’s nothing stopping you from buying Cities: Skylines. But if you’re a fan of fast-paced games and can’t wait an hour for a particular event to happen, this game isn’t for you. Simulator buffs who simply love building stuff and are always eager to find out how their creations are doing will definitely love this game. The developers also seem to be quite active with releasing new DLCs, Mass Transit being the most recent one. The community is also going strong, going completely overboard with their creations and designing incredible road networks. There’s a number of mods to enhance your gameplay or just add some crazy fun to the game. We would have loved if natural disasters were part of the game by default rather than as DLC because crisis management is an important metric in city simulation. Another thing missing from the game is civil problems such as riots, strikes, and even anarchy. This is another mechanism we would want Colossal Order to introduce. If you love simulation games, you should not miss this Cities: Skylines. You can buy Cities from the Microsoft Store and Steam as well, just remember, the Summer Sales are on their way and you might be able to pick it up for cheaper.

Cities: Skylines Review
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Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey

This ape-descended life form believed that coming down from the trees was a bad idea until he was introduced to video games. Has spent endless hours playing Prince of Persia, Hitman, Assassin's Creed, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead. This makes it three sentences, Half-Life 3 confirmed.

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