With EA busy polishing a hot turd instead of rejoicing at a true SimCity successor, I guess it was only a matter of time before someone else decided to take the lead. Last week I got a brief look at Paradox and Colossal Order's upcoming city builder, Cities: Skylines, and it looks at this stage like everything the SimCity sequel was not.
First and foremost, Cities: Skylines lets you make cities. No, I'm not being facetious. The biggest problem — well, one of the biggest — with EA's recent SimCity outing is that you could only really build towns. I mean, everything looked like it belonged in a city, but the maps were so constrained it was impossible to get that "major city" look.
When we booted up Cities: Skylines and only had a four square kilometer map to work with I feared we were in for more of the same. Then we found out that this was just the initial build space — you eventually earn enough money to buy nine of those tiles, for a total of 36 square kilometers. Sure, it's still "simulation size" — that's approximately 3 miles by 3 miles, or in other words smaller than the real-life size of a relatively small city like San Francisco.
It doesn't seem small, though. We were shown a late-game save where the map was packed with skyscrapers, and it was impressively dense.
Another nice touch: Those nine tiles don't need to be arranged in a square. The actual size of the map is five tiles by five tiles, so you can pick and choose which ones you want as long as they're touching. You could, for instance, follow the banks of a river or coastline.
You can also set up districts in your city and name them. You can set different civil policies for each district, ensuring that neighborhoods have a different feel just as they would in real life. For instance, you could set one district to have a high-rise ban, while another district embraces skyscrapers and becomes the de facto "downtown."
Cities: Skylines also claims to simulate every single person, the same as the most recent SimCity. Of course, those claims later turned out to be complete garbage in the case of SimCity, with the game simply fudging the numbers. I'm told that isn't the case this time around, but I have no way of independently verifying that at the moment.
All I can do is repeat what I was told, which is that the system is built off the same fundamentals as Colossal Order's previous Cities in Motion games. Those games relied on tracking every civilian in order to accurately simulate traffic, so the hard work was mostly done. We'll see how it works when there are thousands of people to track, but at least Colossal Order has a plausible explanation for why Cities: Skylines will work as advertised.
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