For Cities: Skylines (CSL) there have been so many comparisons to Sim City & especially Sim City 4 (SC4) and the debate continues, however I think that the point we all sometimes overlook, and it’s a very important point: Cities: Skylines is not any less a fantastic city-builder than Sim City, it is simply different. As with all games, it has its pros and cons.
As a devotee of Sim City, it was hard at first for me to like Cities: Skylines, much less begin to play it as fervently as I did SC2000,3000, and SC4. Admittedly, I was a little put-off by having to upgrade my computer graphics card. However, after a month of playing CSL, and 40 hours later, all my peevishness vanished.
CSL comes 12 years after Sim City 4, and is a fully 3D city-builder, with large maps and lots of great tools to make your dream city.
I think the major set-backs of the game are some building designs. However, before I start listing my least favorites, my caveat is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may love the plops I dislike and vice versa.
- the cemetery and crematorium
- the police and fire stations I think could use alternatives
- the landfill is so-so, but I like the incinerator much more
- underground views are distorted because you can see trees and buildings floating above you when following a car underground. Better underground views are not a must for improvement, if it’s not possible without losing the game’s current integrity, but it’s a wish.
- the medical clinic is nice, better than the one in Sim City (2013), but I’m not liking the hospital. However, I didn’t like the hospital in Sim City (2013) either, I’m stuck on the Sim City 4 one with 3 wings and a helicopter pad on top).
- the bridged roads are fine, but, I would like to see at least 5-6 options for suspension bridges with a variety of designs and colors like green, red, yellow, silver, and gold (if possible!). However, I don’t see myself willing to sacrifice the flexibility of curved, snake, and raised roads for prettier bridges.
My major contention with the buildings of the game are the urban commercial high-rises in the vanilla game which are filled with tons of neon-colored billboards. The color of the buildings themselves is not as bad as the neon billboards, the occasional building I don’t mind, however there should be fewer buildings with neon billboards in a cluster of commercial buildings.
Ordinarily, the streets in the game are perfect and have lots of flexibility in making curved and raised roads, but for my countryside and rural parts of my city, I find the roads are too urban with their hydrants and lampposts, so I usually make one road going to the rustic parts of the city, and then use the dirt roads to connect the farms and cottages.
Sometimes I am surprised at what CSL can do for me and my work, plus my imagination =) That being said, the saving grace of this game, though there are several, the one that sold me, are the street-views. You can virtually see your city in every angle possible, including full 360.
The things I love are
- the variety of lines you can set-up and color code for subways, trains, and buses. I can’t go on without mentioning riding your own railways and roads with your Cims beats Sim City 4 Rush Hour for me, simply because I could rarely keep myself from bumping into other cars on the roads! This way I follow my Cims and enjoy the beautiful city sights without crashing and burning up!
- my favorite themes are boreal and temperate, as well as the color-changing mods that make my city more realistic or winter or autumn-like.
- the skies, clouds, and smooth green landscape are breathtaking for a city-building game
- the lightly swaying trees are gorgeous and nice variety
- the map editing tools are one of the reasons I’ve stuck with SC4 so long – in CSL you can create your own rivers, mountains, valleys, hills, lakes, and waterfalls and that sold me!
- the larger maps also allow me to feel free to build anywhere, and not feel like I have to fill square inch of space to make a great city
- the multitude of roads is an excellent addition to the game. I don’t see myself making my city super-efficient traffic-wise, but I do like the options of putting in the occasional 6-lane road with bus lanes, one way roads for my industrial areas, underground roads to re-route my garbage trucks and hearses. I do plan on using the dirt roads and pedestrian road paths extensively. The game is so much better with them.
- data views make it easier for me to place subway stations on busy intersections and oil and ore industries
- the variety of zone tools (paint brushes) allow me to make a less griddy city and a more organic one
As a writer
As a writer and a creative person I can’t tell anyone how to use CSL to help her writing, or that you have to use CSL to help your writing at all. We all have difference places where we get our writing ideas. but I can tell you how it’s helped me.
To start off, I will admit, unlike Sim City 4, I had to get more creative to make this game work for me as a springboard for story ideas. After hours of experimentation, I’ve crossed that hurdle and I’ll tell you what I do. As I build my city, questions probe me: what would people do in this city? Where would they go? How would they work? Where would they play? Where would they go for vacation? I decide what places my protagonist may visit, or where he might encounter an enemy, a red herring, or a plot twist. It helps me construct the story in my head before I write it, and when I string the words together, it makes writing a lot easier. The Steam Workshop has lots of tools to create a realistic urban city filled with skyscrapers, or fantasy world with a Quidditch field and fluffy multi-colored trees. It takes a little work and imagination, but the community of mod creators, building makers and players are making it possible.
So all in all, despite its newness, and the fact that a few more improvements can make this game great, CSL is the best city-builder out there right now. It’s not what you expect. And I’d have to say, if you’re thinking about buying this game, you might be surprised, like I was, at what this game can do.