by Sergio Brinkhuis, reviewed on
Going to the bank
“Boy there are a lot of people waiting at ‘Zoologische Garten’ Metro Station. Didn’t I just add another train to that line? I must have but the people keep piling up and their faces are starting to turn red. Where are all these people going? Hmmm… they’re going to Potsdammer Platz and they seem to be transferring to Line 4 from there, which leads to… Mitte! Of course, and that’s pretty crowded too. I could take the pressure off both stations by having a direct line, or at least I hope it will work that way. No money though… Bank interest isn’t too high right now, let’s take a loan and make this happen.”
You will be talking to yourself a lot like that while playing Paradox’ new transport sim Cities in Motion and for good reason. Setting up a transportation network is quite a bit of work and almost every new addition that you make will have some sort of effect on your network or the city as a whole. I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here; a short introduction of the game is in order.
In Cities in Motion you are a city transport planner, project manager, financial controller and marketing manager all rolled into one. The game takes place on one of four maps that change dynamically based on the era in which you play. At its longest, a game can span 100 years and the size of the city, the amount of passengers and the available vehicles vary depending on how far back in history you choose to play. Starting a game in 1920 means you will have to make do with the slow, cramped vehicles available at that time.
From the start, you can run transport lines with busses, trams, (metro) trains and boats until someone invents the helicopter and then you can use those as well. For trams and trains, you will have to lay down tracks, which is an easy enough drag and drop process. The dragging part has the occasional hiccup when it needs to go through a bend or intersection. Obviously you won’t have to do this when you plan to run a bus, boat or helicopter line, simply placing and selecting the stops for the line will do the trick. Once you have assigned a vehicle to the line, it’s time to lean back and see your handiwork in action.
As you probably figured out from the opening of this review, there is no rest for the wicked. There is always something that requires your attention, and that is what makes it a game, right? In Cities in Motion, a city is a truly dynamic environment that is influenced by a myriad of factors, including your own hand. For one thing, the map grows. Unless you play in a late era, new buildings will be added to the map over time and some can really change passenger destinations and behavior. A new train station for instance, can be a real crowd magnet and make a previously uninteresting area of the city into a very good investment. The size of the population grows as well, putting an ever increasing demand on your services.
The hand of… you!
Most of those changes are gradual though. Your own influence is often quicker and more directly felt. One great example of this occurred during one of my playthroughs on the Helsinki map when I almost saw my enterprise at the cliffs of financial ruin because of traffic jams! Setting up my first line, I had not taken notice of the already existing traffic and simply laid a long track of tram rails in an almost square along four main roads. If I had paid attention beforehand, I would have noticed that these streets were absolutely packed with cars that were hardly moving at all. My trams only added to the mess and got stuck in traffic, people were getting fed up at the stops and no money was coming in. “Uh oh…” I had barely enough money left so I put my trams in the tram depot, sold all the stops and even the tracks – at a considerable loss – to afford new tracks almost parallel to the original ones but on quieter roads. As my trams started servicing the new line, people flocked to public transport and slowly but surely, traffic on the previously jammed roads decreased and I could finally set up the line I intended to be there in the first place.
As you progress through time, however, faster, bigger and more economically running vehicles will become available. Gaining access to new vehicles isn’t just about being able to cram more people into them and earning more cash. In that same game on the Helsinki map, I had so many trams running on a single line to meet up with demand that I almost created a new traffic jam. A bigger tram means that you can service the same amount of people with fewer vehicles, keeping the roads open for traffic.
Beautifully crafted and incredibly dynamic game world.
No AI, no multiplayer.