I’m a huge fan of city management sims – I play them on my phone, my PC, and finally I can play my favorite city builder on the PS4. Cities: Skylines is an immensely detailed city building and management sim that takes a lot from SimCity while doing away with almost all of their mistakes, and expanding in significant ways to give you countless hours of peaceful, or stressful, gameplay.
Building your city begins with laying down some roads, zoning areas for residential, commercial and industrial purposes, and then providing the basic amenities. It then goes into managing taxes and budgets, planning road layouts, providing more amenities, luxuries, controlling pollution, building mass transportation, and so much more. The tools for doing all of these things are neatly and clearly presented in the bottom menu bar. Colossal Order, Tantalus Media and Paradox Interactive have done a fantastic job of making this game, with so much to manage and control, playable with a controller. It’s not as simple or fluid as playing on the PC, but I’m just happy that this game exists on consoles, and am totally willing to give up a few comforts.
There is so much to manage here, and with time I learned that panicking and providing instant solutions is hardly ever the right way to go about things. Soon I started letting the city grow for a bit before adding any upgrades or starting any new plans, and the overall flow of the game easily sucked me in for so many hours. It’s hard to explain the sheer joy and satisfaction in building everything from scratch, seeing how it goes, and if doesn’t go according to plan, just starting a new city and going at it again.
There were so many times that I would think – ‘Maybe I should play something else, there’s definitely that other game that also pending for review’. But it’s just so easy to be lost in the minutiae of city building, that I would hardly realize as minutes turned to hours. You can eventually unlock more grids around the city, and start expanding. Cities Skylines quickly becomes an addictive loop of building new connections, planning ahead for the future, laying down massive transportation networks, specialized districts, etc.
Almost all buildings have upgraded versions that unlock as the city grew bigger, and I was constantly looking forward to what milestone I would achieve next. If you wish to, you can play with all milestones unlocked and with unlimited money, but working on a budget is way more satisfying and encourages planning.
The only thing missing are random disasters that were present in SimCity, but you can trigger a few disasters if you do mess up. I once bulldozed a dam built on a river close to a city, and the water overflowed and flooded almost two-thirds of my city. My initial dismay quickly turned to fascination as I watched the whole district come to a halt, with residents unable to get to work or get back home. Alerts started going off, and soon I had to abandon the whole thing entirely. Disasters are kinda cool, when they’re contained within virtual/digital spaces!
Cities: Skylines also looks great on the PS4, almost as good as the PC version, without the strong depth of field effects. I did miss it at the beginning, since it made for some great panning shots of the city, but the game still looks really sharp and nicely detailed. The UI is easy to get a hang of, and all necessary information is presented well.
Cities: Skylines is easily the best city building and management game available today, on both PC and consoles. There are so many tools to tinker with, offering a lot of flexibility, and hours of gameplay. Building massive cities and getting everything to actually run is immensely satisfying. The lack of random disasters or public events is disappointing, but is barely noticeable in comparison to everything else the game does so well. You can eventually unlock more grids around the city, and start expanding.