Cities Skylines: Charging the elephant in the room.

CEO Mariina Hallikainen is musing. “Colossal Order was made to make this game.” I look at the screen and double-take. It’s SimCity . The buildings aren’t so shiny, but what the Cities in Motion developer is showing is surely last year’s SimCity. A cityscape, saturated colours, bounded lots, curved roads, easy zoning... why would you make the game again?

“We’re the generation that always liked Transport Tycoon, Theme Park or  Sim City 4. When we started Colossal Order we wanted to get our hands on a really large scale city builder that was the dream. Unfortunately, being five people when we started, we started work on smaller, niche stuff first.” That was Cities in Motion, the transport sim. Sadly, while they were working on that and its sequel, SimCity was announced. Hallikainen thought the dream was dead. Then SimCity was released and, frankly, stunk like a three-week old skunk corpse dunked in andouillette. And the dream was revived.

That’s a long-winded way of saying, yes, this is an indie version of SimCity. You play a mayor building a city, mainly by zoning districts as industrial, residential and commercial, but also by building amenities and utilities, mucking around with tax rates, and managing sewage and water inlets and outlets (don’t cross the streams.)
In the end, you’ll have an area to build upon about nine times the size of SimCity’s
But there are significant differences too. Though you start with SimCity’s same crazy-limited area, as you improve your city you reach milestones that expand the area you can play with, and which unlock new services, zones, roads and buildings. Once you’ve unlocked all the milestones, you’ll have an area to build upon about nine times the size of SimCity’s, with up to 1,000,000 citizens. It genuinely has the scale of a real city, though perhaps not the realism: the tilt-shift camera effect makes everything look a touch toytown.

Among many improvements, creating districts is one. You name an arbitrary area and change the local laws, reducing taxes and passing edicts like ‘ban gay marriage’ or ‘ban alligators’, just in that jurisdiction. Yes,  Skylines will allow you to create your own gay or heterosexual ghettos. Great.

Monuments are unlocked by both negative and positive achievements: Lazaret Plaza, for example, is unlocked if everyone in your city is unhealthy for three weeks. You can also create your own maps, beyond the premade nine included.

Colossal is planning more simulation elements after release: disasters, new city settings, new services, Steam Workshop support and a 3D model editor so that players can upload their own creations. “If SimCity  had been a huge success, a relatively perfect game, we would have been discouraged from even attempting our own with a fraction of their budget.” But it wasn’t, so there’s room for this, too.

Post a Comment