Cities: Skylines is the best city building simulation I have ever played. It is stunningly beautiful, runs smoothly and has everything an excellent city sim should have. I love its parks, its upgradeable roads, its maps that get bigger and better, its attention to detail, its districts and policies, its cars and sprawling enterprises, its environmentally friendly options and most of all, its ability to pull me into the design whilst hours go by and all I think about is where to add a few more parks or bus stops.
I want more. I want to build eco-utopias with smart houses and cycling routes, free public transport that lead to a gazillion parks and urban forests, museums and scientific institutes. The integrated content manager provides quite a bit more. I can build my own parks just the size and shape I want them. I can build the junctions I like to use and add them in with a quick click. The options feel limitless and my biggest constraint is self-imposed limitations I brought with me from previous city sim building.
It takes me a while to realize that I do not have to build tiny square blocks to maximize the use of space. Space is mine to do with as I please. I have an abundance of resources and the aim of the game is to use them creatively in any way I can fathom.
There is so much to do and when I get bored with improving my established residential havens, I build new ones and then I wonder why nobody takes the free bus into town. Public transport networks have never been my forte and I was hoping the creators of Cities in Motion would give me a few more pointers and tools to build better transport systems. I’m pretty sure that the obstacles I have encountered have not been created by the game, but my lack of ability to optimize what I have. Congestion is a problem I create and when I implement solutions, they work. I have not encountered any frustrating bugs or constraints that make it impossible to build the city I envision.
- Single player multi-tiered simulation
- Extensive local traffic simulation
- Steam Workshop: integrated modding support
- Steam Cloud saving
- Languages: English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish
The user interface is sleek and mostly provides lighter coloured text and icons against a darker, static background, good for improving visibility. The text size is standard and I found myself needing to lean in when reading blocks of text in submenus, but the use of colour and sound, combined with highlighted interactive elements made the main UI comfortable to use with mild to moderate visual difficulties. It is not a game for blind users and anyone with a moderate to severe visual impairment is going to find the lack of enlarged text problematic.
There is no flash or flicker, no bright special effects and I found it highly accessible to play with photophobia (light sensitivity).
Colour is used extensively throughout, which is helpful to those with reduced vision, however as it is used as the primary indicator of zones, networks and other critical data, those with colour blindness may find it difficult to play. Some of the colour combinations are very close together, for example offices and low density commercial areas are both shades of light blue. I found that confusing, as offices are clumped together with industry, which are yellow, not commercial buildings which are blue.
Motion (simulation) sickness and balance disorders
It is highly accessible to play with motion (simulation) sickness or balance disorders that are affected by simulated motion. It is an almost static display for the most part and movement across the map is with keyboard controls or moving the mouse to the edge of the screen. Edge scrolling sensitivity and mouse sensitivity can be adjusted in the Options menu.
Cities: Skylines is highly accessible to play for deaf players or anyone with a hearing impairment, chronic tinnitus or hyperacusis (sound/noise sensitivity). I played it without any sound most of the time and did not experience any issues at all.
Sound can also be adjusted with 5 independent sliders for main volume, music, ambient, effects and user interface volume. Adjusting the sound can help make playing more accessible to those with both a hearing and visual impairment where, for example, sound effects can augment gameplay when the music is turned down.
Input and Touch
There is no requirement for quick reflexes and Cities: Skylines can even be played whilst the game is paused. There is a moderate requirement for precision when placing roads, utilities and zones and a high requirement when placing public transports stops which are a small dot on a specific side of the road.
The physical controls are highly accessible and the game can be played with just a mouse, just a keyboard or any combination of both. All keys are fully remappable and mouse sensitivity is adjustable.
The game can be paused and saved at any point, making it ideal to play for anyone who struggles with fatigue, can only play in short sessions or have to be able to stop playing unpredictably.
Ease of Use
Cities: Skylines starts with a comprehensive tutorial and helpful tips and guidance is integrated throughout the game. It is a city building simulation and inherently quite complicated, but with a well designed UI providing all the information I could possibly need, I found it fun to play and had no issues pop up due to a lack of concentration, focus, memory or poor organization.
The ability to create districts were particularly helpful and as my city expanded, I discovered that I felt as if I knew every block of it and could improve problem areas whilst building new districts at the same time without feeling overwhelmed.
It also achieves the amazing feat of always providing me with plenty to do. In over twenty hours of game play, I never sat and watched the timer. I built footpaths for pedestrians, planted trees, improved roads, tweaked my public transport systems, planned new zones, kept and eye on the provision of utilities and services and never for a moment felt as if I would run out of interesting things to do.
Language and Math
There is a definite literacy requirement to play and both reading and math are vital skills, but neither is particularly complicated. The user interface is icon based with graphs, colour coding and other visual aids helping to make information easy to digest.
It is a single player game with no social interaction and the game mechanics is focused on designing, building and maintaining a growing city. The success of your skills is evaluated by the inhabitants of the city and there is a small social element in making them happy. It is a scientific formula, citizens want utilities and services that run smoothly and like parks and pretty buildings, making them easy to understand and hopefully, making it clear what would make them happy or unhappy.
Trigger warnings & age ratings
There is no violence, bad language, or any adult rated content. The game does include daily life elements, citizens die, get sick and if bodies aren’t removed quickly, neighbours start to complain about the smell. There is the option to legalize some recreational drugs or ban smoking. All of these elements occur on the periphery of the game and are handled extremely well, enhancing game play in a way that made my cities feel like real cities where my decisions have a significant impact.
Cities: Skylines is an excellent city building simulation in which the biggest shortcoming is my lack of imagination. I find myself rebuilding instead of expanding, complaining about a small corner that has nothing on it until I remember that I can purchase an adjacent plot to grow into and make myself a little park that would fit perfectly in that tiny corner. It is a beautifully balanced game that celebrates the creative aspect of city building whilst simultaneously offering as many graphs, bars and charts to keep in the green.
If I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one game with me, this would be it. I could play it too as it has offline support. Cities: Skylines is out today. Get it, it’s brilliant.
Product: Cities: Skylines | Developer: Colossal Order | Publisher: Paradox Interactive | Platform: Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OS | Genre: City building simulation | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | Release Date: 10 March 2015 | Distribution: Download