On The Road Again
It's time to charge the flux capacitor one last time, we're going home!
It's 2015, Not content with their domination of the airwaves, One Direction are on tour.
A public warning has been issued labelled "On the Road Again"
The announcement includes the groups whereabouts and an anticipated timeline to allow the general public to avoid several high risk locations, which are often large venues where people would normally gather, despicable.
Anyway, the Bigger news of 2015 is that the city builder is back!
It's what's not there that's missing
All the mechanics that are in place are excellent, but there are a few little things missing.
We have water pollution which follows the flow of the water but I haven't noticed a similar air pollution mechanic.
We can build raised roads and bridges but we can't build tunnels.
One way roads have to be built in the direction you want the traffic to flow, which can be fiddly when placing them sets off your OCD.
There are no disasters in the game, no earthquakes, alien invasions, sea monsters etc...
Beyond that I can't fault it.
You can't imagine my relief when I realised I could purchase new plots of land to expand my fledgling metropolis.
The map is in fact huge, you can buy and unlock land to expand out not only in "One Direction" but in which ever direction you choose!
I swear I've never felt such relief when playing a game before.
It was like finding out that Guns N Roses hadn't really been taken down by aliens, It wasn't only an amazing discovery, it was a game changer!
Bus Replacement Service
Another important event of this time period was the release of "Cities in Motion".
An excellent little transport simulation game by Colossal Order which had you placing bus stops and metro stations across little city maps then sitting back and watching the ensuing commuter nightmare as your ineffective planning came to light.
My own gaming limitations aside, this was a gem of a game and left me wishing that I could manage the city development around the transportation network I was building.
The other, other big news of 2013 was the release of SimCity.
Yes I know we started our time travelling journey witnessing the birth of SimCity back in 1989, but it seems that, despite spawning 3 sequels over the interceding years, a meeting was held by shady men of power where they discussed what they could possibly call the next game in the SimCity Franchise.
They'd already had SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4 (I assume they'd dropped the three zeros because they thought their audience incapable of counting up in 1000 increments any further.....) so they came up with SimCity 5.
I speculate that It was at this point one of them decided that the One Direction haggled minds of the current generation could not be expected to count all the way to 5.... so they decided to drop the number off the game title all together and SimCity was reborn!
Up All Night
So now we've witnessed the city building "big bang" we need to get out of here before the Libyans find us.
It's time to go back, not to the future, well to the future of the past, but not the future of the present! (I love time travel!)
It's 2011, One Direction have just released their first album
(One Direction rose to popularity to fill the gap in the time line left by Guns N Roses who may or may not have gone missing during the alien attack on Los Angeles in 2010 as depicted in the documentary "Battle Los Angeles" **)
(** Almost certainly true but citation is pending.)
Whilst Amiga and Atari ST owners argued over who's computer was better <cough> Amiga <cough>
both sides could agreed that the PC with its blocky graphics and awful sound would never be a true gaming platform.
Do you want to... Park?
Another thing I'd like to mention about the traffic in Skylines is that the cars actually park!
I know, you're thinking
"I've seen cars park in driveways in city builders before."
This is true, but cars here will park at the side of the road.
I LOVE this mechanic!
It's great to see a row of cars parked up on the edge of a congested street.
It's impact on the immersion, on making your city feel like a real, living, breathing space is huge.
City Building Games are like Buses.
You wait for years for one to come along and then two arrive at the same time.
Firstly we've had the release of Cities XXL, a competent city builder in its own right, but much like many of One Directions songs, it's almost an exact copy of what came before it.
This hasn't gone down well with people already exposed to that particular franchise, if you've heard one song, you've heard them all, right?
And now we have Cities Skylines, but is this the salvation of the city building genre we've all been hoping for ?
Zoning itself is the usual, industrial, commercial, residential affair. The better the services provided are in any given area, the happier the residents will be, resulting in better buildings.
Don't zone houses by factories if you can help it, avoid putting a coal burning PowerStation down in some ones back garden, if you've played a city builder before you know the drill.
There are special buildings you can construct and resources you can exploit.
There is a district system in Cities Skylines which is something I haven't seen before.
You can pick an area, decide it's best suited for agriculture and use the "district brush" to paint that area into an agricultural district. You can even set relevant policies to drill down into what is and isn't allowed in your city.
There are the usual services to place, police stations, hospitals, fire stations, etc. all of which come with their own excellently animated vehicles which will zoom around your city, putting out fires or fighting crime etc.
It's great fun to watch.
So what does bother me about Cities Skylines?
Not much is the answer.
This is undeniably a great game and any criticism I level at it just feels like nit picking.
Take It Home
Cities Skylines is not only a polished, deep and extremely satisfying experience, at the time of writing It's the best modern city building game money can buy!
Head and shoulders above the competition, if you're looking for a city builder you shouldn't hesitate to pick this one up.
It's time to build a place where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.....
Cities Skyline.... Take it Home.
Cities In Motion Too
Roads aren't neglected either.
There's plenty of choice between different road sizes, one way systems, Yes, you can set streets up so cars can only go in "One Direction" (Best Pun Ever*) , roundabouts etc. All there waiting to help solve your traffic problems by way of substituting them with the problems of noise pollution instead.
(*Best Pun Ever, may have been the hidden bonus track released by the unexplicably popular boy band - reports are unconfirmed but it does seem to relate to the noise pollution issue).
If you Build It, They Will Come
Hop in the Review-Well Delorean because we're going back in time, way back to the glory days of 1989.
Not because this is the year that Back to the Future II was released, not because I want to warn my younger self that Indiana Jones isn't really going on his last crusade and not because Kevin Costner is about to discover his "Field of Dreams"
We're going back to 1989 because this is the year that the City Building game was born.
In the Zone
But we knew transportation would be good based on the developers history, what about the actually city building part of the game, the zoning, the buildings, the economy?
Well I'm happy to say that is all good too!
One Mans Rubbish...
It's this kind of detail which really makes this game shine.
Build a land fill site and you'll see your little garbage trucks head out to pick up the bins.
Build a fossil fuelled power plant and you'll see the trucks bringing in the coaly goodness.
And what a rebirth it was, not since Elsa had taken off her gloves and started freezing everything she touched like a frigid version of Gold Finger had such outrage been seen.
You had to be online all the time to play the game, their servers were overloaded so you often couldn't play at all! (both of these issues were fixed later) but most importantly, the maps were tiny, tiny things with very little room for the one thing this game was supposed to be about, City Building.
There was also agreement about another equally important gaming matter, that this new game "SimCity", no matter which format you played it on, rocked!
You could build your own city, your own roads, railroads, infrastructure. It was mind-blowing.
In fact it was a concept that rocked so hard that the Los Angeles based Guns N Roses
(the "One Direction" of the late 80's*)
released a song to celebrate its greatness called Paradise City.*
(*These facts may be erroneous and are awaiting citation.)
Cities In Motion
As you would expect from a developer who's previous titles have been transportation management sims, the transportation mechanics in Skylines are excellent.
You can place bus stops, set up bus routes, implement a tube system, play with trains and even boats. The public transport system is so fully realised and well implemented I really can't fault it.
Hello, I'll be your stalker today
It's customisation like this that really makes the city you build feel like your own.
You can build your own personalised fully functional metropolis and stalk its residents to your hearts content. It's brilliant, creepy, but brilliant
You can walk home!
Not only will you see cars pull up and park at the roadside, you'll see little people, lets call them... sims, get out of their cars and walk!
You'll also get to build footpaths for them to walk along. Want put a gully through the middle of a sprawling housing estate so people can nip to their local shops to pick up a Harry Styles calendar, now you can!
The Ice Queen Cometh...
It's back up to 88mph again, a flash of light later and we're in 2013.
The Monstrous Sea Creatures emerging from the "Pacific Rim" have failed to take out "One Direction" and in a desperate attempt to free our airwaves from the ironically titled "Best Song Ever" Disney released a counter attack by way of Princess Elsa begging these Guns N Roses replacements to "Let It Go" ***
*** This information may be slightly inaccurate as I fell asleep during Pacific Rim and went outside to "build a snowman" shortly after Frozen started.
Whatever you want it to be!
If you feel the need, you could pick five people, give them random names, say Harry, Zayn, Niall, Liam and Louis.
You could follow them around.
Maybe their building, the "One Rejection Tenement", might set on fire.
Maybe you could cut funding to the fire department, encourage the fire truck to "let it go"
That fire never bothered me anyway...
A Little Misunderstanding
When I first fired up Cities Skylines I was immediately filled with disappointment.
It was pretty, it seemed to have all the features I could want in a city builder, but the map size was tiny, SimCity 5000 tiny.
The same white dotted line marked out the edges of the postage stamp sized buildable area as I'd butted against in SimCity so many times before.... but I was wrong!
It Grows if you Play with it.
The other big news of 2013 was the release of Cities in Motion 2. The BIGGER is BETTER sequel to the previous transportation sim.
It was prettier, the maps were much larger and your transportation decisions would impact city growth.
Whilst still only a transport sim and not a city builder this was another great game in the franchise.
Power and Poo
All the infrastructure you'd expect is present and correct.
You'll need power lines to hook up distant buildings to your grid.
You'll not only need water pumps and a network of pipes to distribute your (hopefully clean) drinking water.
You'll also need a sewage system, but be sure not to dump all that "Sim Sh*ty" upstream of your water pumps or you're going to have a lot of unhappy people when they turn on their taps.
What's your name?
The level of control is amazing, you can edit almost anything.
Want to change the name of a building, you can, want to change the name of a ... sim... you can.
If you're anything like me, you can waste hours personalising your city.