Cities: Skylines Review

Dan Webb

I like to think that under an incredible veil of secrecy, national and local governments the world over use games like SimCity and Cities: Skylines to intricately plan city layouts and work out budgeting policies. Just imagine it now, Trump and Pence/May and Boris, huddled around a computer screen arguing where to place the next potentially environmental catastrophic fossil fuelled power station or how to screw over the little man without making the government look bad. It genuinely wouldn't surprise me. Just like when it came to light that Premier League football clubs would use Football Manager to scout players around the world for their prospective clubs.

Since SimCity fucked it, the once hugely popular sim genre has been in limbo a bit. When a door closes though, a window is opened, so to speak, as Colossal Order has stepped into fill the void with Cities: Skylines: Xbox One Edition and potentially save the world from the next major disaster. Well, not quite, but you get the point.

Gotta love a city filled with lovely trees.

Clearly, Colossal Order looked at the once-loved sim genre and went with what makes sense, and that's going back to the genre's basics, using that as a foundation. A solution that clearly worked and sent PC fans doolally with its launch in 2015, but making that work for consoles has always been a tricky one. Somehow, Colossal Order has pulled it off with relative ease, but like the PC version, the game is not without its foibles.

Cities: Skylines is one of those rare occasions you can commend a game both for its simplicity and its complexity. If you want to push the six-figure population milestone in your aspiring city, you have to think smart and learn the nuances of the game. Therein lays one of the game's biggest problems though: its unpredictability and its ambiguity.

While Cities: Skylines is easy to pick up and play, sometimes its complexity isn't really signposted and can often lead to moments of pure bewilderment. For instance, at one point in the game I had four landfills, with trash building up city-wide, yet despite that and me pushing the waste disposal budget to 150% none of my trucks would be out collecting garbage... why? There are numerous reasons that could be, from the simple "the budget isn't high enough" (it clearly was) to the slightly more complex, "oh, mate! There's a fuck ton of traffic."

But sometimes there's just no conceivable reason that presents itself and the game does absolutely nothing to help you on your journey to find out why. Sure, we don't mind being thrown into the deep end to work things out for ourselves, but if logic can't find a reasonable solution, you have to believe it's not your fault. The fact there's tons of people worldwide taking to the forums to query such situations, you have to believe there's wider issues at play here - the joys of reviewing a console port, eh? If it wasn’t trash, it was a lack of ambulances, hearses, and the like. Issues that would spring up out of nowhere and be nigh on impossible to fix.

For the most part though, Cities: Skylines lets you live out your innermost fantasy as a city planner and town mayor, whether that's planning road systems, plotting various districts to match the needs of the city, introducing public transport, building services for your city and managing the budgets. All the tools are there at your disposal to work out what's going right and what's going wrong - thanks to some easy overlays - so you'll be building monstrous metropolises in no time. Delicately balancing the needs of the people with the needs of the city, while budgeting for success, is what makes Cities: Skylines the new city planner we all never knew we wanted. Nay, needed!

It’s as deep as you want it to be as well. Having troubles managing the traffic issues? Then the way forward is planning complex public transport systems. Want to build a green city, free of pollution? Then go right ahead. Want to gentrify an area without flattening a row of houses? Then just price them out of the area with district-specific tax policies. Want to encourage learning over working? Do so with a policy. Eager to replace your low density commercial areas with high density housing areas? Force them out the region with a tax hike. As the city grows, so do your headaches, but that’s where Cities: Skylines comes into its element.

As far as ports go, it must be said that Colossal Order has managed to do a fine job with the Xbox One version of Cities: Skylines. So much so that they've even managed to replicate some of the PC game's issues! Whether that's finicky road laying tools, infrequent crashes and graphical bugs, awkward slopes that make building tricky (the Xbox One version doesn’t have the terraforming patch, like the PC version does), there are a ton of minor issues that can hamper the enjoyment somewhat. It’s probably worth mentioning that the game suffers from a lack of fast-forward  as well, meaning it can take an absolute age to build a huge city, with a lot of time spent twiddling your thumbs.

Oh, look! The opening to EastEnders!

Controls-wise, the Xbox One version can't really be faulted. Sure, the UI could do with being brought into the 21st Century, but it controls as one would expect from a city-building simulation game with thousands of options. Is it as intuitive as a mouse and keyboard? Of course not, and it never will be. Does it hold the game back using a controller? Heck no! It’s simple to play, easy to control and aside from a few issues when placing roads, there aren’t really that many issues. From a technical standpoint, we wish we could say the same, but it’s clear that the Xbox One does struggle at times with keeping a constant frame-rate, especially when the city grows.

One of the game’s biggest problems is its scope, in that it doesn’t really have one. Cities: Skylines has one mode: and that’s to build a city. That’s it. Sure, there’s different maps to use, but they don’t really differentiate themselves from one another all too much. Well, in the grand scheme of things. The game could have done with a challenge mode of sorts: save this city from pollution, etc. It’s cool it has one mode and all, that works great, but once you’ve built a couple of cities, you’ll probably be done with it.

Cities: Skylines: Xbox One Edition is a decent revival for the city building sim, and it’s great to see Colossal Order and Paradox supporting consoles – and doing such a fine job of it. It’s a game that’s not without its problems, but they are by far outweighed by an enjoyable experience that does more things right than it does wrong. Hopefully this will lay the foundation for a franchise that is supported for many years to come. And on consoles too!

Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines is a pretty damn good city building sim game for consoles. It’s got its problems and it’s incredibly limited in its scope, but if you’re looking to kill more than a few hours with one of the most therapeutic game in some time, this is it.

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The audio is all over the place. The music is pretty decent, but the constant blaring sirens while zoomed in on the city are bloody infuriating!


It looks pretty good on consoles, it’s just a shame about the frame-rate.


As far as console controls go for a sim game, Colossal Order has done a sterling job at making Cities: Skylines intuitive and fun to control.


An impressive city builder at its heart, but one that lacks any real modes or options. Basically: build a city, that’s it. A great foundation for the future though!


The achievement list is… well… interesting. It basically requires you unlock everything and building a monstrous city. Not an issue, well, if there was a fast-forward option, that is.

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