Strategy games are normally geared towards PC due to the interface involving a mouse and keyboard. Real-time strategy and tower defense games are the mainstay with most types of strategy games, however, years ago there was an epic city-building simulation: Sim City. The original even released on the Super Nintendo at launch. Fast-forward to modern day and the most recent Sim City was a critical failure. A publisher decided to jump on that failure with Cities: Skylines for PC. Selling over a million copies since its launch, Paradox has handed the keys over to developer Tantalus Media to bring it to consoles. Known as Cities: Skylines – PlayStation 4 Edition, the port worked wonderfully and the controller interface is successful.
The idea of a city-simulator sounds boring. Find some land, attract people with jobs and real estate, and manage money. Sounds like something your parents would preach to you about. However, the act of doing this is incredibly addicting, and that holds true with this game. The way Skylines starts its cities off is pretty straight forward. Just outside of the area limits is a highway that features two roads. Building roads off of these exit ramps will be how citizens get to the area. From here, players will choose different zones, either industrial, commercial or residential. Higher density areas unlock over time to allow better structures (such as high-rises). The zoning takes places roadside, so there are no block areas that need to be covered. This can be cured with how the streets are presented.
There are a ton of little things that are involved with starting a city. Players will need to add a power plant and either a water pump or water tower to supply areas with both. Trash and sewage also need to be handled, so a landfill and sewage lines will need to be added. What happens when this isn’t done correctly involves negative feedback (besides the obvious of waterless homes with stopped up toilets). Too much negative feedback will cause people to leave the town. From here, players will keep citizens happy by adding schools, hospitals, and other normal stuff you see in towns. At this point, players will need to choose funding and balance this out. By this time, there will be demand for either more housing, commercial sites, or jobs. This is indicated by the graph on the bottom right.
New structures and areas are unlocked when achieving a certain population. Roads can be upgraded on the fly and structures can easily be destroyed for free. Everything will auto-populate in these marked off areas as long as there is access to them. You will even see places up close that mock real-life corporations (Denny’s for instance). Each location can be tagged to follow those citizen’s feelings. There is a random twitter bar across the top of the screen that isn’t much useful. There’s bars and graphs to view what areas need what and how people are feeling so things can be rectified to keep them happy all while taxing them like crazy. The most important aspect of all of this is how easy it is to do. The entire interface is very user-friendly and extremely quick.
As for the controller, the game does not use the touchpad of the DualShock 4, and it doesn’t need to. Rotating the map is linked to the right stick and searching linked to the left stick. Holding down triangle brings up the menu for looking at finances and other details. There is no digging for anything, and hovering over a location will lock on to that small point. It really helps with how fast the game zooms in-and-out. Mapping out roads will automatically build bridges if it needs to, and players can easily raise or lower the road on the terrain.
Thanks to newer technology, rendering a large city full of what Paradox hopes to a million unique citizens fulfilling daily routines is a lot more stable. Running on a PS4 Pro, there were no major slowdowns as players can view their cities from way above or at street level. The game is very colorful and includes smog over industrial areas, cars on the highway in the distance, and other small details that add some uniqueness to the town. Players will also unlock other connecting areas over time to help connect their towns to make their Meca-Burg. Landmarks also come with time, and everything looks great up close. Not to mention, the cities offer a day-to-night transition so players can get a different view of their areas. It does not go along with the day as players can put the speed of days on a high setting, otherwise something like that could cause epilepsy. I did struggle with picking out locations at night and navigating, it seemed to be much easier during the day. The sounds of the populated cities sound the best. While the music is fitting, it doesn’t stand up to soundtrack of older Sim City titles. There were times where no music was playing, so a bit more could have been done with the soundtrack.
One noticeably thing missing as a fan of old Sim City titles is the ability to load cities. Players could load places like New York and London and manage something that was already built. Also, with content sharing like it is nowadays, it would be nice to see the option for players to share their cities, but the idea is to build a city from the ground up. Lastly, there are expansions and mod-created content on the PC version of the game, and this is missing on the console version.
Cities: Skylines – PlayStation 4 Edition brings an excellent city-simulator to consoles offering an amazing interface and excellent visuals. Everything is straightforward in terms of gameplay and the game feels like a modern take on the older and excellent versions of Sim City. While the console version may lack some of the content the PC version does, there is more than enough here to keep anyone busy.