About a year and a half ago I was dancing around the living room because EA finally was releasing a new edition of their famous SimCity franchise. I bought the thing, I I gave it my very best, and at no time did I feel I was playing the game that got me hooked on video games to begin with, back in the mythical nineties when your mum was young and cellphones weighed four kilos each. We walked twenty miles to and from work, uphill and against the raging blizzard winds both ways and damnit, we had the best game back then — and EA completely failed to deliver on their updated, online version.
Paradox Games to the rescue. This month saw the release of Cities: Skylines and frankly, it’s everything I ever wanted, with additional tools for modders and fiddlers. It’s not even half the price that SimCity was, either, and there is so much more content, so much better simulation, so much better everything. Eh, the teeny tiny detail on the graphics might be a slight step downwards, but it’s not something you really notice a lot. The ability to add policies such as a ban on heavy traffic or free public transit to individual city districts blew me away — and I haven’t even got my town over 5,000 inhabitants yet after thirty hours of game play.
It ain’t easy. Cities: Skylines does not have the intuitive, here-let-me-show-you-to-do-this interactivity that SimCity prides itself on. You can access the wiki and tutorials from in-game via the Steam interface, and you will need to, more so if you never played the older SimCity games. There are myriads of little fiddly details that will make you face palm when you figure them out — such as your coal power plant needing to import coal if you don’t produce your own, and that ain’t going to happen if the truck driver has to fight his way through heavily congested traffic — and trust me, your citizens aren’t going to be happy when the power plants begin operating at lower output to preserve what little coal reserves they have left.
The Steam interface makes it easy to add and remove user created content. Users and Paradox both provide mods (that affect how the game is played and how things operate behind the scenes) and assets (ploppable or buildable things such as houses, highway crossings, cloverleafs, entire skeleton city districts…) Three days after release there were eight thousand mods and assets available for free, rated by users. Nom nom nom.
My only real issue at this time is the lack of documentation early on that comes from the wiki manual being user generated and driven. It’s going to take a few weeks before players have properly tested, understood, and explained how some of the more fiddly things work. All things considered, and more so how quickly I threw EA’s version away, I can live with that.