by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
If you had asked me the week before Gamescom that the most surprising game I would see there would be a city builder, I would have laughed. I’m not a huge fan of city builders Sim City… for the SNES is the last one I played extensively. So when I found myself watching the debut of Colossal Orders Cities: Skylines, I was surprised to find myself genuinely excited.
Cities: Skylines is developed comes from the hands that brought you Cities in Motion. If you’ve played Cities in Motion 2, then you’ll know what the game looks like. The interface with which design your city is clean and easy to navigate, using only a single bar on the bottom of the screen to give you access to whatever you need. The rest of the screen is dedicated to showing off the city that you build with the tools at your disposal.
Roads, power and zoning
Our demonstration started off with building a set of roads that would be used as our city's basic infrastructure. This is as easy to do as selecting the type of road and dragging it across the screen. Making curved roads is no more difficult than straight ones, and placing them on top of each other to create a complex system of roads and highways is just as easy.
Next we started zoning and developing our city properly. There are the classic residential, commercial and industrial zones to choose from, and high level versions of those zones become available as your city grows and meets certain requirements. A nice function that is in place automatically is the ability to see how big each of the zones are, represented by small white squares on the screen. This allows you to either autofill large swaths of areas with a particular type of development, as well as to pick and select individual squares and placing one type of zone at a time. Want to take a 2x2 section and fill half with commercial buildings and the other half with an industrial zone? You can do that!
Next up was adding power and water to the city. There are different types of power available to choose from, including coal, nuclear and wind power, and each has its own benefits. Coal power provides a lot of power at once at the cost of a higher level of pollution, while wind power provides small amounts of power at a time with no pollution whatsoever. Whichever power type you choose also effects how your city will develop and what upgrades will be available for it. When you select a particular type of power building, the map shows you where the best locations are to build them. When we wanted to put down some wind turbines, for example, the map showed which locations were windier, and thus generate more power through the turbine.
In order to grow your city, you’ll need to develop educational institutions, fire departments, police stations, transportation networks, government buildings and more. Each service has a number of additional options. Using healthcare as an example, there are smaller clinics that that can serve less patients yet help them quicker than a hospital could, but aren’t able to service ambulances. Alongside healthcare is death care, which involves managing where your dead citizens go after they pass on. Graveyards take up more space and only hold a limited amount yet they go along with many citizens beliefs, whereas a crematorium is small and efficient, but generates more pollution than the graveyard.
Build a lot of high-rises and your city will attract a younger population. Increase the transportation network by building an airport and a subway and your city might become more attractive to tourists. How you build will dictate what your city will become. No two cities will be alike, and the amount of variety in how you can grow your cities looks promising. In addition, there are government policies that will affect your city in different ways. Tax levels can be changed for each type of zone and district, you can ban pets if you don’t like animals or force a certain part of the city to rely on clean energy.
You start off every new build with one block from which you can develop your city. Over time, you can purchase and select surrounding blocks to stretch your cities boundaries out further. Picking one square over the other also greatly impacts your city, as choosing a mountainous square over one that lies next to a river will force you to change and adapt to the new terrain available.
Mod support will be available right from launch. Players will be able to upload textures and maps to create their versions of real world cities if they so choose. Want to create a texture for your cities bus system and place it in game? Go right ahead. Developed a map that looks identical to Manhattan? Upload it for all to see. It’s refreshing to see this kind of mod support for a game.
There are countless other tools that are available at your disposal that I can spend paragraphs writing about. You can divide your city into districts, create massive transportation networks with highways, buses and above and underground metro, see instant feedback from your citizens on how you govern the city and choose from multiple different biomes to start out. The sheer amount of tools and options available is astounding, and I for one am greatly looking forward to Cities: Skylines when it releases in 2015.