Cities Skylines has now been released for PS4. After a few years of strategy drought on PS4 and XBOX one we now have a decent amount of games coming out. The excellent Tropico has been mentioned before but with Dungeons 2, Halo Wars 2 and the forthcoming Sudden Strike 4 all available, the top down manager in us all finally has a home console choice.
Cities Skylines is a major success story on Steam. Released at a time when everyone had been burnt by EA’s attempted reboot of Sim City, Cities had a decent pedigree in the genre with developer Colossal Order releasing the Cities: In Motion series. Now they have hit the big time with a spiritual successor and many would say upgrade to Sim City. As such gameplay is less of a surprise, more of an expected form of excellence. Where Skylines excels is in its public transport systems.
Reducing traffic is a major goal in the game, leading to happiness, environment and therefore success and Skylines makes designing intricate public transport systems as important as roads, water and power were in the old Sim City so when starting off it is something you should always be thinking about.
Like all these kind of games, the first few hours of city-building are the hardest. Unlike mission based strategy games, city builders are not designed to be completed as quickly as possible, they are blank canvasses for your imagination and the constant struggle to balance the books in Skylines is a bit at odds with your desire to begin creating perfectly laid out cities. Too often you find yourself getting into stressful situations because your grand designs have overstretched your mediocre starting budget. The key to getting over this hurdle is in the games progression system of milestones. Hit your milestones and you suddenly get access to larger buildings and more income friendly designs that allow you to make the next step. It’s a clever way of stopping you getting complacent and keeping you playing as the stressful situation is suddenly replaced by a quick moment of happiness before you begin heading towards the next milestone, once this game has you in the loop it is hard to let go, many people will be sending their other halves to bed and suddenly realising it is 2 am.
The control scheme is tailored for consoles with the use of radial menus and a slow moving cursor, the game, however, doesn’t have a fast forward feature which is something I personally prefer. Too often in games like Tropico, the temptation is there to hit the fast forward meaning you miss out on various small details. Here you have to wait while changes you have put in place are implemented. It may be at this time that you are alerted to a crisis in one of the zones in your town. Is crime soaring? Is there a lack of work for the commercial zones? The slow pace of the game allows you to see the detail the game can go into.
When creating your roads and public transport it can be advisable to hit up or down on the d-pad to add elevation to your designs, whether it is to put your monorail under the ground or build a bridge for traffic the objective of keeping everything moving is paramount. When things eventually begin to grow, you use the district painter tool to assign districts within your city to allow you to keep a close eye on them, this is when the game’s brilliant info view comes into play. Think of it as a hybrid version of google maps. The normal satellite view disappears and is replaced with an x-ray of the district in gray with all the important aspects highlights, sewage, traffic flow, water, and power are all displayed and can be gauged to see if they need improving. Assigning districts is essential when the town you create turns into a city.
One early example of this is setting a district specific policy. If you are in need of workers in a district you can be alerted to this and then act accordingly. To solve this you can change your higher education strategy to encourage people to leave school and get jobs. This is the level you suddenly find yourself operating at a few hours into the game. Of course, because of the detail, it is very easy to make mistakes.
In the case of mistakes, you can either use the autosave system or you can try and fix the issue yourself. Mistakes are all quite logical but they can catch you out if you are playing the game for relaxation. You may decide to put your draining system too close to your water system or misjudge the flow and suddenly end up with neither functioning. A careless relabeling of a district can cause loss of buildings and my personal favorite, upgrades to building types lead you to delete the obsolete buildings before the new ones are constructed leaving your city without a vital service. In this case, there is a loan system to get you out of jail as quickly as possible. Most people don’t tend to rely on this but it is there for emergencies and can be used sparingly.
In all Cities Skylines comes with all the hype but delivers exactly what you would expect. It is currently the premier City Building game and is user-friendly on a console. The only word of warning is that the game can eat up hours of your life and can get quite stressful if you aren’t great at managing finances. Highly recommended if you are in need of a strategy fix on PS4.
You can buy it below