Should I Be Excited About… Cities: Skylines
Announced last week at Gamescom, Cities: Skylines is the next game from Finland’s Colossal Order, the studio behind the Cities in Motion series. There is a clear history here, where the Cities in Motion games dealt primarily with the creation of a transportation system, C:S is a more traditional city builder. Lay out the road system, zone for building and before long houses will start popping up. But those pesky little citizens demand things like power and water so you need to develop the infrastructure, and given its roots, also a transportation system using primarily buses and underground systems.
Of course, comparison to Sim City is inevitable, but Lead Designer Karoliina Korppoo is quick to highlight that there are several key differences between the two. First, Skylines is going to be modder friendly out of the box with support from anything from introducing new models, replacing the existing models for a theme change or even customising rules. This means that you can play the game you want and tweak things as you see fit. Don’t like the way the game handles garbage? Change it. Have a great policy to enact for your city? Now you can!
Korppoo also wanted to stress the scale of Skylines. Colossal Order see it as a spiritual successor to classic city builders such as Sim City 2000, and they aren’t compromising that vision in the way other recent titles may have. Initially, a Skylines city can be built in a 2km square, but as it grows more such squares can be unlocked. The area you’re playing in is actually a 5×5 grid, although ultimately only 9 squares can be unlocked, which gives the player flexibility – it’s possible to create a long thin city following a riverbank, or a dense square city.
This scale means that players might want to treat areas of their city differently – setting a high pollution industry policy is fine for neighbourhoods away from residential homes, but it won’t be popular city-wide. This is where “Districts” come in, a mechanism that allows players to paint areas of their city and have them named. From there you can set policies on a per-district level, and treat each neighbourhood as an individual little community. It’s a nice little touch that reflects the size that Skylines is trying to evoke.
It’s hard to look at Skylines and not see the legacy of Sim City throughout it – and there are even elements here that evoke the newer incarnation, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not everything about the new version was terrible and there are some interesting ideas to iterate on. With a bit of luck, what we’re going to end up with here is the game that we all wish Maxis had made last year. Fans of city builders should get their hard hats out and start drawing up plans for vast urban landscapes in preparation.
Cities: Skylines is anticipated Q1 2015 developed by Colossal Order and published by Paradox Interactive.