• Cities: Skylines


  • Simulation


  • Colossal Order


  • Paradox Interactive

Release Date:

  • 10 March 2015



Steam Release Date:

  • September 2, 2016



  • PC, Mac, Linux, console ports came later

Box Art Credit:

  • Wikipedia. I'm not searching for screenshots.

In my in my old SimCity 4 review (since rewritten), I wrote about this game, and I quote:

Luckily, there's another contender on the horizon, Cities: Skylines which is looking to be pretty good, and despite not having the marketing team of an EA, managed to sell a million copies within a month. That's probably a third of what SC4 sold about 5 years. Once I get my hands on a copy, then you'll probably see another page like this.

Unfortunately, when I actually played it, and later talked about it in my April 2020 games (prerequisite reading to this review), I was less than enthusiastic. Appalled, actually. To quote Jay Sherman, "It stinks". There were so many things that I wanted to see that weren't there, all the new features were badly implemented, and they managed to take everything bad about SimCity 4 and make it worse. Hence, I give it my worst rating, not even worth the hard disk space. There's no consistent art style, ground-level exploration (which is after all, what full 3D would allow you to do) looks really quite bad, there's no real wealth levels, everything is broken, and it's astounding to me that there are eleven full DLC packs, but everything is done so terribly and awfully it has no real interest to me. When you tell me that there's an Airport DLC, for example, I'm listening. City sims have had airports for years, but they generally lack detail and importance. IAH in Houston has an intricate quasi-highway terminal road and the whole thing is connected with direct ramps to highways, businesses oriented toward airport travelers (stuff I briefly covered under this page), its own little "transit system" with park and ride lots, and a big economic engine. But then when I'm told it's basically a drag-and-drop construction set that does nothing to enhance the existing airports (and looks very ugly and out of scale, with planes zipping around curves like racecars). At six minutes in, the review admits all the bad stuff—the airport buildings look worse than the vanilla game pre-made airports (bad sign considering nothing in the vanilla game looks very good), no continuous paved tarmac, runways can't cross each other (very bad, as almost all real airports have multiple crossing runways, either resembling an "X", an "A", or something more complicated), no parking lots, and no general/small aviation. It's quite telling that there's all that coming from what is an extremely generous review perspective. I don't think I could ever be that kind.

Most of the other expansion packs aren't conceptually bad and could be good ideas (I explored "Campus" and "Industries" in the old page), but if there was a Venn diagram between "what I expect" and "what the DLC has", the overlap is either tiny or non-existent. It's the same with the actual game. Part of the problem is that it wasn't really meant to be a big-budget AAA game, it was designed to be a budget game (same vein of the off-brand "Tycoon" games that used to crowd the Wal-Mart electronics section), but that could be rectified by simply focusing on a sequel that addresses the issues of the original game while making it a spectacular title. I guess it speaks to the incompetence to the developers and their love of the utterly stupid and pointless "features" (Chirper, particularly) why a sequel doesn't exist.

An embarassing fanbase for a game doesn't generally affect the game if it's good or not (though I did not care for Undertale) but it's unbelievable that the "advantages" here aren't actually advantages. "Oh, but there's realistic traffic simulations!". An emphatic NO to that! I've seen how Cities: Skylines does traffic. Stoplights are hopelessly broken, on-ramps are poorly calibrated, the simulation generates too much traffic per area (have you seen what a small town gets in terms of traffic off of the major thoroughfares? Almost nothing!). "Oh, but there's no grid!" That's not true either. The node-based roadway construction is awkward and builds a grid to the road, which not only results in no true grid but lots of weird-looking dead space. In gridless suburbia, some lots are just going to be bigger than others. "Oh, but it's a city painter!" fails too because so many of the placement of the roads look wrong (there's a "stripe painter" mod), and if you were going to go that road you could always try to download a bunch of 3D models on a flat plane.

People have said that mods can help Cities: Skylines but they often slow down the game, most of the building-based ones are terrible (SimCity 4 mods are higher quality, generally), they often break due to the developers fiddling around, and they rarely can fix core problems. Banishing Chirper, rebalancing power plants so you don't need a second one when you have more than six blocks, and installing what have you only go so far.

Point is—I'm still waiting for a true successor to SimCity 4, Cities: Skylines is just another pretender to the throne.