Review and Tips: Cities: Skylines

Release: 10 March 2015
Genre: Simulator, City-building
Developer: Colossal Order, published byParadox Interactive
Relations: Sim City 4
Runs on: Windows, Mac, Linux

Example of a developed city

Cities: Skylines has described itself to be a modern take of the classic city simulation game and we know what game is worth mentioning: the old game release more than 10 years ago but kept very alive by mods and community improvements, Sim City 4. Cities: Skylines not only created a modern version of the game, it blew anything Maxis or EA has ever created out of the water. It is no wonder why the reviews are overwhelmingly positive on Steam.

Gameplay: Map

The game starts of with you choosing a map where you will build your first mini-city. After you have gained a certain population, you receive unlocks, new features, as well as the ability to buy surrounding land. The menu shows you what resources are available on the map so you can choose what kind of industry you want to create, for example forestry or agriculture.

Choose your resources wisely.

The scale of the surrounding land surprised me, and after buying the land next to my current city, I was surprised to find access to the next piece of land seamless. One can just build over as though it is an extension of your city. Thumbs up!

Buying Land

Gameplay: Traffic

Traffic has been key in any city building game that is good. Old games used to only worry whether road access is possible, but if you were the mayor, one of your jobs is to make sure people get to where they want, how they want, in the most cost-effective and sensible way possible, which is the entire point of planning. It was so important that Sim City 4 had an entire expansion solely based on road planning, called Rush Hour.

The ring road around my city

The ring road around my city with the industrial districts to the west and commercial districts to the east of the river

Tip: Build a large one way road circling your city with one way lanes feeding from and into it, with dense residential and commercial areas around this with good access to landfill services. This will severely aid traffic congestion, akin to the ring road you see in Manchester. 

You can even build roads across dams. Hopefully someone will create a mod with the roads underwater, like MCE.

You can even build roads across dams. Hopefully someone will create a mod with the roads underwater, like MCE.

I remember having played Sim City 4, where i had to count 8 boxes before laying another road to create a grid system for good access. In C:S, once you place your road, the zonable areas automatically light up. Likewise, once you destroy a road, within a few seconds, the old zones will dezone itself.

Public transport is also amazing, where you can choose your draw your transportation lines and even colour your lines. For example, my green line is the East-West line, a familiar colour used in Singapore.

Public Transport

Coloured bus lines and the green subway. The buses change color too!

I am also glad that the game forces you to use one way roads and like many modern cities, there are 4 lane one way roads!

Tip: Place one way roads to prevent heavy use of unnecessary traffic lights. This can reduce congestion.

Everything is simulated in this game, so even if there is no congestion, but you built the roads such that the garbage truck has no access to a building, the thrash will pile up.

Tip: Build the incinerator as soon as you can. I know that in Sim City 4, your could build recycling centres until your landfill reverses, but thats not even possible in C:S in real life. Thrash must go somewhere and some of it must be burnt, no matter how much you recycle.

Gameplay: Zoning areas, Districts and pollution

You can now place early industries next to residential. If uncontrolled, a lot of waste can make your people sick, but you can create districts and control the particular district, for example, I painted an area I wanted to make a district called Cooper Heights and this consists of farmland next to homes with scattered commercial areas and offices.. Thats feasible in real life, some people live in farms and don’t get sick. I really didn’t understand the extent of the agriculture industry on pollution in the old Sim City.

Farming industry next to high density residential area.

Farming industry next to high density residential area.

This itself can change the entire system of a city. By building homes next to industries, people can get to work by walking, easing the burden of transport. Unfortunately, many other types of industries still cause pollution and for the start, I recommend agriculture. Just keep the population in the region uneducated *evil grin*.

The pollution overlay

Pollution overlay showing little to no pollution of the same district.

Of course, the old system of high-tech industries still exist. That is by levelling up buildings. Both commercial and residential buildings can be levelled up by raising land value. You should use mixed-development districts but cater to make the district dominant in one field.

Low level upgrades are achieved by the green bars. As you can see, this is still an early city.

Low level upgrades are achieved by the green bars. As you can see, this is still an early city.

Gameplay: Basic necessities, services and utilities and leisure

Firefighting, crime, education, healthcare and waste-management are all integral to this game as per the games before it. This game goes one step ahead in design, that is the water pumps. Water and sewage are classified under the same tab, and naturally so because they are all involved in plumbing. Your job is to ensure that all the buildings have some form of plumbing and the sewage flows downstream rather than upstream. It is funny to watch how the sewage water that turns the water dark starts to make people sick when it flows towards the water pumps.

Tip: Lay your pipes along roads to ensure good coverage and less haphazardness.

Collection services are also key. People die and the game simulates that as well. Your city must have a cemetery to collect the dead and good road access for the hearses. Eventually, you will come to a time where you experience a death wave. A death wave may sound like the plague but it is actually caused by old age, placing huge strain to death care. This is due to rapid expansion of the early city so many people in the city are of the same age. This isn’t as well simulated in the older games.

Many things are intelligent and automated as long as the system is in place. You don’t have to tell your firefighters where to go, they will make their way themselves, which was a major annoyance in Sim City 4.

Tip: Expand consistently so you have a range of aged people.

Shopping = ? Large hadron collider ?

Shopping = ? Large hadron collider ?

Lastly, make sure you build your statue of shopping!! Leisure is a new system in place and is used to raise land value as

Gameplay: Difficulty

For those who have played city building games extensively, this would be too easy vanilla so I would recommend turning on hard mode. In fact, after going to the options to turn on hard mode, I did have quite a difficult time at the start of the game.

Pick hard mode and the difficulty will be as hard or harder than Sim City 4.

Pick hard mode and the difficulty will be as hard or harder than Sim City 4. These are available from the start. Click on the link to get to steam workshop to download more mods that can change your city-building experience.

For those who are new, the difficulty is on the right scale, so long as you don’t make your residents drink sewage water.

Unlike the older games where the advisor would nag at you for not following their ‘ideal’ advice, now you can choose your own ideal playstyle and feedback will be in the form of residents tweeting at the top of the screen with a logo of a blue bird likely referencing twitter.


#iwantfreedom lol

Graphics and Sound

The game has quite heavy requirements, not supporting Intel integrated graphics cards but only those from ATI/Nvidia, GTX 260 is what they have listed as the minimum requirement, which is more than what most people demand, but once you have played the game and enjoyed the graphics, you would understand.

Sound quality is always considered a non-essential but the pieces are well chosen and not excessively disruptive to gameplay.

Modding community

The developers respect the modding community and there are a lot of ongoing projects simply because they have a good system to integrate new user-created content and a mature modding tool.

This was severely lacking in many modern iterations of the city builder.

Overall impression

Cities Skylines

9.5/10 – This is a brilliant AAA game of which criticism of its minor flaws would be considered unreasonable considering the product they have produced. However, I couldn’t give it 10/10 despite discounting the minor bugs because I feel that the early game forced you to expand too quickly. You will have many landfills or filled cemeteries in no time if you fail to unlock the incinerator and the cemetery on time. This makes the early game feel like there is a hurdle to achieve equilibrium.

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