Cities Skylines is a city-building simulation game developed by the Finnish studio Colossal Order and published by Paradox Interactive. It was released for Microsoft Windows in March 2015, and for macOS and Linux in September 2015. The game is a spiritual successor to the Sim City series made by Maxis and Electronic Arts, and quickly became very successful.
In Cities Skylines the goal – if it can be called a goal – is to develop and run a growing and prospering city in all its aspects, from providing a good environment to encouraging industry and commerce. After having chosen a location for the city, the player has to build roads, buildings, and other infrastructure, and they must also manage the city’s economy, traffic, and crime. The game is played from a top-down perspective, and players can zoom in and out of the city to get a closer look at their creations.
The general idea is well-known from the Sim City franchise with the base being the different zones allowing for residential, industrial and commercial areas to be developed. These in turn all have their own different sub-variants like light and dense residential and commercial areas, while the industial areas can be set for agriculture, forestry, mining, oil, or general industry. A separate zoning possibility for offices also exists.
A more novel aspect is the possibility to place roads in freeform. Gone is the days of having to put down streets in 90 or at best 90 or 45 degree angles only. In Cities Skylines you can lay out streets in sweeping curves if you want to and the housing zones adapt to the roads. The roads also come in all sizes from gravel roads to six lane freeways with the possibility of freely designed freeway on- and offramps. There’s also of course both tunnels and bridges available and while a little tricky to get right at the first try, the system allows for many possibilities in order to get them the way you want them. Be it over or under another road, through a hill or over a river.
Besides roads, you can also plan bus lines, use metro and trains, construct harbours and airports, and more. All these together with the simulation of the individual citizen’s transport needs and movement by foot or car, leads to a very elaborate transport network simulator which can be said to be the core of Cities Skyline’s gameplay.
The game’s graphics are downright beautiful, with a possibility to zoom in to street level and watch the bustling city life and its people going about their daily business. This level of detail also serves as the main indicator for infrastructure problems. Traffic jams are not exatly a rare occurance and makes a very instant reminder that something has to be done. Not to mention that people living in the vicinity are going to complain about the traffic noise. Just as they will complain about everything from the garbage, pollution, noise from the wind power, lack of parks, and so on. Some people sure never gets happy… But to their defence they do also signal when they are in fact happy with their lives as well.
The game is also very moddable, a fact that have spawned a plethora of mods doing everything from introducing new possibilities to control and adjust the transport networks in even more detail, to mods offering new styles of buildings or landmarks. This moddability together with the built-in map editor means players can make very good approximations of real life cities and landscapes to use in the game.
Cities Skylines is a big and complex game, and it does take some time to learn (and even longer to master). The game does a good job of explaining the basics, and there are plenty of resources available online to help players learn more. As already touched on, the game’s simulation engine is very detailed, and it takes into account a wide range of factors. This both makes the game quite challenging, but it also a big part of what makes it fun and sort of addictive.
There’s no doubt that Cities Skylines is the city simulator and the new gold standard after Sim City, and for very good reasons. Compared with the last iteration of Sim City, Cities Skylines offer more and does it better. If you’re a fan of the city planning game genre this is the game to get.