Cities: Skylines review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Tantalus Media
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been deeply interested in politics and government. It caught my interest when I was still in elementary school, I have one degree in political science and I’m currently working towards another, and every job I’ve ever had has interested with politics in one way or another.

In other words, Cities: Skylines was made for someone like me.

However, I don’t think I was made for a game like Cities: Skylines. It’s all about careful planning and prudent micromanagement, whereas I’m more about big picture stuff. Ask me to come up with a communications plan for selling a policy or an announcement and I’m set, but ask me to think deeply about zoning and electrical grids and bus routes, and I’m a little out of my depth.

Seeing as those things are the basis of Cities: Skylines, and it should come as no surprise that I’m quite bad at the game. My first few playthroughs all led to my creations crashing and burning in spectacular fashion before they could even reach village status. Several simply went bankrupt, some didn’t have sufficient running water or electricity one time I even had the entire city die off from water-borne illnesses when I placed the water pumping station a little too close to the sewage treatment plant.

It was only when I started the game with all money and features unlocked that I could truly build my utopia. Tree-lined boulevards, wind- and solar-powered homes, bike lanes everywhere, hospitals and schools everywhere — all are options in Cities: Skylines, and I took full advantage of every one of them. It’s a credit to the developers that they recognized that not every player will be able to get the hang of city-building simulation right off the bat, and that they make both options available to players from the get-go.

There are a couple of things that are less deserving of credit, of course. While Cities: Skylines mostly does a good job of providing console gamers with a full-fledged city sim, there are some places where you have to imagine a mouse and keyboard would’ve been more fitting. Case in point: curving roads with a button and thumbstick is kind of a pain. Likewise, no matter how far you can zoom in, it’s difficult to be precise with where you place things. None of these issues are game-breakers, but they do make the game a little less enjoyable than I imagine it is on a PC.

But make no mistake: Cities: Skylines is still pretty fun. It’s deep enough so that people who thrive on depth and complexity will find more than enough to sink their teeth into, while the more shallow among us (i.e. people like me) who just want to build huge megalopolises without putting too much though into it can do that too.

Grade: A-