‘Cities: Skylines’ expands the city-building genre

Since the release of “Sim City 4” more than a decade ago, fans of the city builder genre have been through a sort of drought. “Societies” followed in 2007, but it was not well-received by fans, and the disastrous release of “Sim City” in 2013 put the nail in the coffin, with Maxis being shut down by Electronic Arts this year. Other franchises never made up for the absence, and fans have been left wanting.

 

Despite the gloom, there is hope for the aspiring civil engineers of the gaming world. Seemingly out of nowhere, a small Finnish development studio has burst onto the scene with a brand new game. The game is “Cities: Skylines,” and it’s good. Colossal Order is a 13-person development studio based out of Finland’s capital city of Helsinki. Their previous work, the transportation management-based “Cities in Motion” series, lent a promising pedigree to their announcement of “Skylines.”

 

Throughout the course of its development, the team at CO maintained a great amount of transparency and interaction with their rapidly growing community. Following the example of their publishers, Paradox Interactive, the team released dev diaries detailing the game’s progress, and frequently engaged with the community through Q&A sessions and streams. A week prior to the release of “Skylines,” a large number of YouTube creators and streamers were given keys to a pre-release build of the game and given the green light to show it off to all their viewers. This helped clear up any potential confusion with the “Cities XL” series, and it allowed potential buyers to see the game being played. The results speak for themselves; “Cities: Skylines,” has been out since March 10, and in that time, it has racked up more than half a million in sales.

 

The game doesn’t reinvent the wheel; the gameplay is standard city builder fare, but it’s a well-polished serving of the genre. Players build infrastructure, set up utilities and zone land, acting and reacting to situations as new buildings unlock and various issues arise. Because each individual citizen is simulated, things like traffic congestion of public transportation usage are visually apparent. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch the cims, as CO calls them, use the roads, busses and subways in conjunction to reach their destinations.

 

Something unusual for a city builder is the water simulation. The rivers, lakes and seas are not simply static layers, but rather dynamically simulated and flowing bodies of water. This leads to concerns about water pollution and supply. If a player builds a dam in the wrong place, it can reverse a river’s flow and draw sewage-tainted water into the city’s intake pipes.

 

Despite the tiny dev team and budget, “Skylines,” delivers a finely polished experience. What few issues the game has are already on Colossal Order’s radar, and the devs have promised to continue providing patches and content for the foreseeable future. At half the price of most new releases, “Skylines,” should be in the sights of any fan of the Sim City franchise that once was.