Republished on Wednesday 29th April 2020: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of May's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
In terms of city-building games, the PlayStation 4 – hell, every console in general – is pretty light. Simulation games as a whole seem to be married to the PC, the complexity of running a metropolis requiring menus, precise clicks, and control systems that simply aren’t compatible with the simplicity of a controller.
Cities: Skylines, then, has found a gap – no, a canyon – in the market, but its lack of competition hasn’t made developer Colossal Order’s task of porting the highly complex urban planning sim to PlayStation any less... colossal. The sheer amount of variables to keep track of when creating your town – from population happiness and electricity demand to crime and pollution – demands precision control over every aspect of city maintenance. Having the streets flood with poo just because you can’t find the menu for sewage pipes would be as frustrating as it would be hilarious.
Thankfully, Colossal Order has done an excellent job at creating a control scheme that is simple to operate, yet carries out complex tasks. Road-building, often the fiddliest and most tedious task when it comes to city-building, is easy as streets automatically snap and curve when connected with others. Buildings are easy to manage, too: you can decide the nature of the buildings on one street, whether you want it to be residential, commercial, or industrial, by filling in the street with a sector’s corresponding colour.
In fact, colour plays a huge role in maintaining your city. There are over 20 different colour-coded views to look at your city through – you can look at your city in terms of pollution, for example, and the intensity of the colour green will show where pollution is affecting your city most. These minimalistic views are often prettier than looking at the city itself, as the graphics look a bit dated when zoomed in.
Still, there is a nice tilt-shift effect when you zoom into different districts in your city, as well as a sound change that corresponds to the type of district that you’re inspecting. Zoom into a residential district, for example, and the droning sounds of traffic will be replaced with the sound of dogs barking and people chatting. It’s little touches like these that Colossal Order has used magnificently to make cities seem more alive.
Though the interface is a little drab with grey menus aplenty, it’s incredibly simple to use. Every type of building, from rubbish tips to police stations, is accessible from a toolbar at the bottom of the screen, while holding circle brings up a radial menu that allows you to manage the finances of your city. How much different sectors are taxed, how much funding each public service gets, getting loans and bailouts from banks – every fiscal function is there, allowing you to micromanage the financial situation of your city in case you start losing money. Trust us when we say that it’ll happen a lot.
The constant financial peril that you always seem to be in makes Cities: Skylines makes a much more difficult game than first anticipated. Even when choosing the easiest maps with the most natural resources – a high wind speed, plenty of water for sewage disposal, etc – it’s still quite challenging to get a city started, especially if you make it too large, too quickly. It’s very easy to get into debt in the early stages of city-planning – in fact, the hardest part of the game as a whole is the beginning, which can be a turnoff for players who want a more relaxing experience.
After clearing that first hurdle of bankruptcy, however, the game’s difficulty generally tones down the larger your city gets – all thanks to the milestone system. Upon hitting certain population levels, more services and buildings are unlocked that help keep your city afloat, generally getting more efficient and profitable. You’ll start off with rubbish tips and sewage pumps, and end with rubbish incinerators and water purification stations. Yes, we know it sounds incredibly boring – city-building games are for a certain person, after all – but the feeling of running a finely-tuned city and ironing out problems is pretty fun.
In fact, the only major issue with Cities: Skylines is the technical aspect. At night – which is a shame, as this is when the game is at its most beautiful – there are quite a few framerate issues when zooming in and out, and dynamic objects such as wind turbines have weird stuttering effects at times. It’s a shame really, because in terms of gameplay, Cities: Skylines is an incredibly hard game to fault.
With Cities: Skylines, developer Colossal Order has laid the foundations for the city-building genre to return to consoles. Simple controls, immeasurable details, and accessible gameplay all ensure that the urban planning sim is a fun yet challenging experience.
If anyone has any questions, fire away!
This is one of those games I'd really love to get into but just don't have the time for. Really nice to see a good city builder on console though - hope I get the chance to try it out eventually!
Sounds great, I reckon I'll pick this up later in the year. Nice review, Sam.
Yeah, I love these kind of games. I'm in when I've got a bit more time.
How is the movement across your map.. Is it as smooth as say Tropico?
@SegaBlueSky Yeah, it's good to see genres that you wouldn't normally see on consoles come to PS4.
@VotesForCows Nope, it's completely narrative-free. Apart from regular Tweets from your citizens that pop up, it's completely a sandbox game.
@dellyrascal Smooth and easy to use, although at night the framerate drops cause it to slow a bit.
When I read the sub title I thought it said sky crapper 😂 Luckily it didn't and the review was positive.
@Anchorsam_9 Great review, glad this turned out well!
You said you experienced frame rate issues. Did you play on a regular PS4 or the Pro?
Great review - does it contain any of the DLC (after dark, etc.) - or just the vanilla version? Thanks!
This is absolutely on my buy list.
@Anchorsam_9 Great review.
I might have to look into this. I loved games on the PC like Sim City and Sierra's city building series and enjoyed Sim City on the SNES when I was a kid. This game sounds like I wI'll enjoy it as well.
Im definitely getting this in a while after a pricedrop and a couple patches.
I used to play Simcity 2000 as a kid and I have fond memories of that. so Im pretty sure I will enjoy this when I want something other than shooting and killing things.
@darkswabber I admit subtitle puns would've been much easier to write if this game was bad
@Sinton Cheers! I played on a regular PS4 so those issues may not be present on the Pro
@1ManAndHisDroid It contains the vanilla game and the After Dark expansion, though I don't think it contains any of the other DLCs that I know of
@Tasuki Cheers! I've been playing the SNES Simcity recently so to be able to review this game was great!
@Flurpsel This is easily the best city-builder in recent years, especially after the disappointment that was EA's Sim City game in 2013. Hopefully some of the technical issues in Cities: Skylines will get patched too.
@Anchorsam_9 Haha I was thinking of either hooking up my Wii or pulling out the SNES cartridge a few nights ago to play Sim City.
Is this game pretty easy to pick up and play like Sim City is?
Will go off now and look into this - check out how diverse the options are, whether there's regional weather conditions, resources, agriculture, what the politics do - if anything.
@Anchorsam_9 is this game about building city's? so you just plop buildings and structures down?
Excellent, just been checking out their wiki site. it looks pretty awesome. As far as I can see PS4 gets just the base game. I suspect we'll have to dole out more cash for the expansions as they become available. I'm tempted to wait, what with D2, Everybodys Golf and HZD DLC already on my list
@Tasuki I'd say so, yeah. All the concepts are clearly explained with tooltips, and while you might need some pre-existing knowledge with city-builder games, that shouldn't be a problem for you seeing as you've played plenty.
@wittypixel Yep! As games go, it's very open-ended - there's no way to win, you just keep going and going until you're bored.
@nathanSF I didn't know a wiki existed! I'll take a look now, but I'm definitely sure that the After Dark expansion is included in the PS4 as otherwise there wouldn't be a day/night cycle.
Very interested. Is there a retail version?
@Anchorsam_9 Nice review, thank you!
@Anchorsam_9 yes, after dark is included.
@ztpayne7 Not at the moment, no, although if the game sells well there might be one - I'm pretty sure there's a boxed version on PC
I guess I'll be picking this up instead of sudden strike, also hopefully this'll be more fulfilling than Tropico.
@Anchorsam_9 @ztpayne7 Actually, I'm not sure about other territories, but there is a retail release in the UK I believe: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deep-Silver-KMG693-UK-RB-Cities-Skylines/dp/B073D7HJ3K/
@Anchorsam_9 "I'm definitely sure that the After Dark expansion is included in the PS4 as otherwise there wouldn't be a day/night cycle"
The day and night cycle is not a part of the DLC, though. On PC, you don't have to own After Dark to have it.
Edit: I've checked the Playstation site and it specifically says that "After Dark included", so yeah it looks like the DLC is in fact a part of the package.
@Bad-MuthaAdebisi Safe to say that I enjoyed this game way more than Tropico, so that's a good shout.
@get2sammyb I had no idea! That's cool
@Devire Ah, I didn't realise - I had Cities Skylines on PC and I swear that there was never a day/night cycle before the DLC came out, might just be me not remembering it right though. Still, as you say, it's included
Excited for a city builder on ps4, but my backlog is too long for now. I will pick it up on sale later on.
@Anchorsam_9 Well, the day/night cycle indeed did not exist in the game before the first DLC and was introduced with the DLC. But technically it's not a part of the DLC as you don't have to buy the DLC itself to have the cycle because it was implemented into the base game with a free update. I think it's common for Paradox to introduce big changes related to DLCs in their games through patches, while DLCs are required just to use some special features. While Cities were not developed by Paradox themselves, it looks like the game uses the same method of updating the game.
So I just discovered by chance tonight that there IS a retail copy available in the US. It's a GameStop exclusive apparently. As shown on their website. The more you know.
@Devire Ah, I see. That's a good system at least.
I was going to buy this on PS4, but it's 75% off on Steam at the moment, so I bought it there.
I started playing the original SimCity on my XT PC with 12" orange monochrome monitor 😅. I loved that game, reading now about Residential, Commercial or Industrial building types makes me go back in time... Of course I've played newer versions such as SimCity 2000 and the other one in space, can't remember the name. Anyway, I've just built a PC for playing games not available on PS4 (Steam has many gems… and cheap) so I might play this one on PC. Talking about controls, why some specific PS4 games can't be played with (or more correctly, aren't made to use) keyboard and mouse??
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