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Cities: Skylines hands-on preview: We built this city on rocks (and roll)

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 18, 2015
EA's 2013 SimCity reboot was a disaster. Cities XXL has received a similarly-disastrous backlash this month, albeit for different reasons. In the aftermath, all eyes turn towards Cities: Skylines, the upcoming city-builder from Cities in Motion developer Colossal Order.

EA's 2013 SimCity reboot was a disaster. Cities XXL has received a similarly-disastrous backlash this month, albeit for different reasons. In the aftermath, all eyes turn towards Cities: Skylines, the upcoming city-builder from Cities in Motion developer Colossal Order.

It's somewhat unfair to Cities: Skylines. After all, the difference in size between SimCity developer Maxis and Colossal Order is...significant, to say the least. It's like putting Call of Duty in the same category as [Insert small, indie shooter]. But fair or not, people have pinned a lot of hopes on Cities: Skylines.

I recently got a chance to go hands-on with the game. Here's a bit of what I learned ahead of the game's official March 10 release date.

Cities are huge

Yes, like I'd gathered from our hands-off preview a few months back, the cities in Cities: Skylines are actually cities. Shocking, I know!

Upon starting the game you're given a single square to work in, measuring four square kilometers (approximately 1.25 miles per side). After achieving certain milestones you'll unlock the ability to buy up to nine of these tiles total, for an eventual city size of 36 square kilometers.

It's huge. I played the game for about an hour and even after turning an unlimited money cheat on for the second half of my time with the game I didn't even fill one of the game's nine grid squares, let alone populate that much space. And I was trying, believe me — I eventually resorted to just drawing random streets back and forth, and still found myself filling a paltry amount.

Streets, roads, and boulevards

Cities: Skylines sort of combines the way SimCity (2013) and SimCity 2000 worked, in terms of streets.

Things that are like SimCity (2013): Zoning has to run along a street. When you draw out streets, a certain amount of space for zoning is automatically drawn out at the same time. You'll then designate this as space for commercial enterprises, residential housing, or industry with the familiar SimCity blue/green/yellow color scheme.

However, you can't just go off into the middle of nowhere and zone some blocks as industry before you've built a road to that place. It makes sense — people couldn't move into that space without roads regardless. It is a bit annoying in the early game though, when you're trying to figure out how your city might look.

Things that are like SimCity 2000 (et al): Roads are just roads. Electricity? Yeah, you're going to need to at least get power from source to the edges of your city before it can be utilized. Water? I hear someone invented pipes to move that stuff in and out of the city. Sewage? Yeah, there are pipes for that also. And wherever you dump that sewage, you're going to pollute everything downriver. Be careful.

 

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