Town planning simulators are a small but proud genre. If you do not take into account the infinite number of business strategies from the Tycoon series that are close, but not identical to “urban planning” by “species”, only a few names of such games based on the modern setting come to mind, leaving at least some mark in the history of the industry . It is impossible not to call SimCity – wherever without it! – Tropico, Cities XL.
Yet? Then all sorts of “related” projects begin: either we are talking about standard strategies with a certain bias towards peaceful development, or about games affecting matters of bygone days. People who like to build full-fledged megapolises with the latest-fashion infrastructure are forced to be content with SimCity 4. Alternatively, spitting, buying another copy of Cities XL with an additional X in the title, but without any noticeable changes in gameplay compared to with the version of the year 2009. Will anyone is able to change this situation and support the genre, to save him, one might say, from an untimely death?
Such a hero was found! The Finns from the Colossal Order, which many people remember from Cities in Motion, a successful simulator of the transport system, have now released a real urban planning Cities: Skylines. Let’s try to find out what eventually happened: another fruitless attempt to surpass SimCity or a real revolution in the genre.
So, we have to try ourselves in the traditional role of voice-over mayor, whose task is to “grow” the city and bring it to prosperity. The land that we will explore is represented by several types of maps to choose from. There are not too many of them yet, but if you wish, we can draw our own, as well as our own objects: for this, the developers have provided the built-in editor and support for the Steam Workshop. But the size of the site for construction is quite decent: the initially accessible area is small, but in the process of development we can buy more and more new cells, constantly expanding the territory of our city.
Everything begins traditionally – with the laying of roads, next to which we are allowed to place residential, commercial, industrial, and later office areas. Tedious “tutorial” is not here, but there is a system of hints, right in the process of the game, teaching us to interact with one or other mayoral instruments. Such care about the player turns out to be not at all superfluous: there are many subtleties in the game, without which everything will start to fall apart very quickly.
If we think that it is enough to draw a road and draw roadside space into zones, then we can quietly rest on our laurels, watching our city grow, we will be very mistaken. Residents begin to settle – and it turns out that they have no place to wash their hands, and the e-mail without electricity refuses to work.
Pile of roads
Laying communications is a very important part of the gameplay of Cities: Skylines. A bad engineering solution can easily ruin the entire population. For example, if we do not notice that there is a current in the river from which the city takes to water, and we put the water intake structure below the drain, the residents will very quickly begin to ache and die. No hospitals will not help them if they do not solve the main problem.
However, this is not all. Suppose we did everything correctly, took into account the direction of the flow, began to grow and develop. Why, after a while, the water in the dwellings still begins to stink, and the inhabitants of the settlement hurt? The fact is that the river into which we dump waste is gradually polluted. The water intake station may well be in the “bad water” zone not immediately, but several years after construction.
Such details in Cities: Skylines full. Take, say, the noise level. The silence is broken not only by windmills, which provide the city with energy, but also shops and cars scurrying along the roads. Therefore, residents do not like living at intersections, and the construction of a new highway near a residential area may well force citizens to withdraw from their places and leave in search of a better life. Then new ones will come to their place, of course, but some time after such inept expansion, the population will decrease, not grow, and so will income.
The city that Jack built
In fact, issues related to income require the nerves of rubber and steel jaws from the mayor. The amount that they give us for construction initially is not as great as we would like, and the content of all necessary communications even in a very small regional center is not cheap. The city is not settled at all instantly: we, albeit at a rapidly accelerated pace, still watch the foundation grow, the forests are exposed, the building is created – and only then the first inhabitants will perhaps enter the house. No, this does not mean that all the buildings in the zones delimited by us are being built simultaneously. Take turns, Mr. Mayor, take turns.
What is the result? We drew several roads, outlined the boundaries of the first quarters, laid communications. And then it remains only to observe with increasing despair how our meager savings are melting before our eyes?
Well, of course, in reality, not everything is so bad: when people, shops, and enterprises still appear on the territory entrusted to us, the loss will turn into income, which with time may become not so small at all. If we do not make mistakes. If we do it, we’ll have to blame ourselves. The financial system is very sensitive to the outflow of the population, so it is worthwhile for us to find out that people are dying or leaving, as the green numbers in the “profit” column are very quickly replaced with red, symbolizing ruin.
Finance determine the size of your city
What to do? Take a loan, raise taxes and solve problems. However, one should not hope for extortion: both the population and business are ready to tolerate an increase in the “tax” only up to a certain limit. Our “subjects” begin to moan already at fourteen percent of the tax, moreover, that the maximum is twenty. The loan helps to stay afloat for some time, but then, of course, it must be given back. In general, financial management in Cities: Skylines is not a fiction, as in the recently considered Cities XXL, but a truly non-trivial task that needs to be approached wisely.
The more people come and are born, the greater the number of buildings becomes accessible to us. The set as a whole is quite familiar to the genre: clinics-hospitals, police, fire station, parks, schools, and playgrounds are central. Residential, commercial, industrial and office buildings “pumped” over time: they become higher levels, start to bring a little more income. Employees with no education, who come to us initially, send their children to school – and now the next, educated generation is growing up, which comes in handy because the evolving factories and shops just by that moment find the need for people who already know something. Note that the whole learning story takes place almost without our participation. Our business is to build a school in time or there a university.
It is clear that the value of each developed building increases significantly. After all, we cannot simply set up new houses and invite the intelligentsia or the elite there right away — these classes will “grow up” over time if appropriate conditions are created for them. Very reasonable approach. A warm feeling is born in the chest when we look at some nice villa, in which initially there were only a couple of low-skilled workers, and now there is a whole large family with children, teenagers, and educated adults!
Night, the city lives!
Looking at the information panel, you might think that in Cities: Skylines literally all aspects of the life of a modern city are modeled. At any time, we can view information on the satisfaction of residents in general, determine the level of educational coverage of the population, the provision of health care, get acquainted with data on crime in the city and even request a demographic summary. We will be shown how many people are born per year, and how many die. They will help you to get acquainted with the cost of housing – its price, by the way, also depends on pollution, noise level and location. In general, the developers approached the matter thoroughly and sensibly – the interface makes a solid impression.
In order to slightly dilute this solidity with amusing, the creators added a system of notification of the needs of the population, presented in the characteristic “twitter” format. That is, when, for example, the amount of housing becomes clearly insufficient, we are informed about this not by a boring adviser or a faceless pop-up hint, but by the message: “I will buy an apartment in the city, I will consider any options # expensive_housing”. If everything is good, in this very “twitter” there appear any irrelevant records of television programs, the latest scientific discoveries, and requests to sit with a cat during the departure of the hosts. Looks very cute and atmospheric.
Cities: Skylines really has a lot of content. There is also an urban policy that allows us to decide whether, for example, we will recycle garbage for the sake of the environment or prohibit residents from keeping pets, sacrificing their happiness for the sake of greater cleanliness. Moreover, all these rules can be established not only for all at once but also for the inhabitants of certain regions, whose borders we also define ourselves. There are natural resources that can and should be explored. There are unique buildings that attract tourists, and, of course, the transport system in which the developers ate the dog at one time.
Perhaps the only noticeable drawback of the game is the impossibility “to change the appearance of buildings“ inside the gameplay ”. No, we can, of course, work on every little house in the editor, but this is still entertainment for especially persistent. To choose the style of building at the stage, in fact, building, unfortunately, it is impossible. So to build a copy of some London is unlikely.
The Colossal Order turned out to be, undoubtedly, a decent urban planning simulator. The city is constantly evolving, moving, changing and, despite the seeming simplicity of the gameplay, does not forgive its mayor for any missteps. Due to the abundance of parameters, rules, sliders, and options to choose from, the game does not seem boring and monotonous. But this is precisely the main disease of the genre, which the Finns suddenly managed to quite successfully overcome. Well, hold on, SimCity: it looks like your throne has staggered!
Pros: an abundance of diverse content; lively, changing city; difficult financial management; a reasonable system of “pumping” of buildings; cute urban twitter; Interestingly built system of laying communications; gameplay is not boring.
Minuses: in the basic version there are not too many maps; no impact on the visual style of the city.