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I’ve been a fan of city builders and simulation games for a couple of decades now. Ever since the early 2000-based games, they’ve always held a place in my heart as an avenue for creativity, strategy, and hours of fun. Cities: Skylines takes the city simulation genre to new heights, handing over the keys of the city to you, the player.

With individually simulated citizens having an array of needs from the basic electricity and water to their own work commute routes that must be traveled via private or public transit, planning out your city has real implications and consequences that may not be apparent until many city blocks later. You’ll need to plan a few steps ahead to make sure you don’t cause a traffic jam — one that could bring your city to its knees due to uncollected trash, no fuel deliveries to power plants, and emergency vehicles stuck in miles of gridlock.

Traffic, real or simulated, fascinates me to no end, and I enjoy watching streams of cars navigate highways and city streets. Managing traffic in Cities: Skylines gives me hours of satisfaction, as I’m continually having to plan new routes for citizens to efficiently access areas of my ever-expanding cities. The wide selection of roads and highways makes for varied planning options. You can also zoom into city for a closer look, and you’ll find those individually simulated citizens driving, walking the sidewalks, and entering and exiting various buildings around the city. Click on a person or car, and you’ll see who they are and where they’re going. Follow them for a while and you’ll end up at their destination, whether that be their home, place of work, or a local store. The level of detail here is just incredible.

And then there’s mods. Cities: Skylines is openly available to be modded, and the community around this game is incredible when it comes to releasing and maintaining a variety of improvements, features, and assets that can be added and removed from the game at will. Really, the mods an extensive amount of control and customization to the game, including thousands of potential assets for players to add to their city.

Even the assets already in the game are intricately detailed, with neon signs and factory smoke behaving as expect, bringing the city to life. Building a wind farm to produce electricity will have the giant blades spinning at different speeds depending on the wind — and the electricity they output will vary with that speed.

Because your citizens all have individual needs, you could end up with their peak electricity usage being higher than what you are producing on a windless day, or if delivery trucks can’t bring enough coal to your power plant in time, and then citizens will be less than pleased with your city and begin to move out. Balancing your income with the happiness if your citizens is an important part of growing your city, because more people generally means more money is coming in, but that balance can go wrong if you’re not careful.

While starting a new city and keeping it going at a reasonable pace is easy, mastering the efficient expansion of a large metropolis is far less trivial. You’ll not run into any major challenges like rampant crime or extreme disapproval from your citizens unless you are blatantly ignoring basic needs, but it’s the little things — like your city water pumps inadvertently sucking up the raw sewer you’re dumping into the river — that cause all your citizens to get sick at once and bring your city to ruin if unchecked. But as long as you react quickly enough, these issues aren’t lasting, either. Traffic still feels like the biggest challenge my cities have faced in nearly 100 hours of playtime.

Overall, Cities: Skylines is a great way to spend relaxing hours building a city to your preference. If you want to build an artfully designed paradise or a smog-ridden money machine, the power is all yours. At the end of the day, the charm of this game for me is largely in the individual citizens that go about their daily lives as I watch from above. It makes for such a fascinating game when mass amounts of people result in mass amounts of traffic, which in turn results in mass amounts of issues if unchecked. If any of that sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend picking up the game and diving in!

Categories: Review