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You Really Shouldn't Overhype Cities: Skylines

All yesterday and today I've seen disappointment with Cities XXL (which is somewhat justified) and nothing but gushing and anticipation for Cities: Skylines, to the point that I've decided that, as a Colossal Order and Cities in Motion fan, I need to put my word in for everyone's sake.

For those not privy, Cities: Skylines is a new game developed by Finnish developer Colossal Order and published by Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive. Colossal Order has released two games to date, of which I own both. They are both entries in the Cities in Motion series, which is all about building a mass transit system in an evolving city.


People have been burned by city builders recently, which has really sucked for those of us that like city builders. I loved SimCity 2000 and 3000 (although SimCity 4 wasn't my forte, sorry guys) and I loved Cities XL. I've been successively burned by each release of Cities XL since then and I also bought the new SimCity which, while novel and genuinely interesting for a while, quickly lost its charm.

Naturally, the second that Paradox Interactive, the bona fide hipster cult publisher, announced they were publishing a city builder, the hype train was on. Everyone really wants a city builder that doesn't suck, one that invokes that late 90's, early 2000's nostalgia ride that recalls early SimCity titles. You're even willing to overlook that it's not Paradox developing it and it's actually Colossal Order.

As a Colossal Order fan, you should wait until it's out to hype it. It's not worth it.


Let me give it to you straight, Cities in Motion is an entertaining series... for about an hour every month. The first game, Cities in Motion, thrived off its simplicity and straightforward art style. It was very much a success because it was simple.

Then Cities in Motion 2 came along. I pre-ordered it, played it for a little while (not long at all, full disclosure), and I kinda decided that the magic was gone. I'm not sure what it was. It seemed like the extra complexity on top of the Cities in Motion model just made it tedious and annoying. I deleted it and went back to the first game.


What's my point? I'm not sure Colossal Order is good at complexity, and (more to the point) making complexity fun. That was what made SimCity 2000 and 3000 fun. It wasn't that there were sprawling cities or photorealistic graphics. It wasn't that there was a metro system or deals with neighbors. It was that it all made sense intuitively and things worked well.


Cities in Motion 2 was not that, and Cities in Motion itself wasn't either, it just thrived off of having exactly five different types of transportation and a clearly budgeted art style. Cities in Motion 2 is similar to other Paradox titles, it definitely has a lot of functionality, but none of the functionality is particularly intuitive.

Basically, Cities in Motion is similar to Crusader Kings, not to SimCity.

Knowing what I do about Colossal Order, I see it like this:

  • Best Case Scenario:

A genuinely good city simulator that does everything right, but you'll need to read a manual to figure out how to do things properly.

  • Worst Case Scenario:

The functionality is there, but it's tedious. Like Cities in Motion 2, the city looks good on the surface, but in reality the underlying logic backing the city is a mess. Traffic and intersections are badly handled, mass transit feels like a reskinned Cities in Motion that has all the same basic flaws.


You name it, it could go wrong.

This is probably going to be a good game for a hardcore simulator gamer, but everything short of that, you're going to want to wait until after launch. I liked (just liked) Cities in Motion because I'm a big fan of business/tycoon simulators. I micromanage the hell out of my Cities XL cities and make a killing in my theme parks in Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. Even then, Cities in Motion was a tedious game that never had much payoff.


I caution you, that might be where Cities: Skylines is going to end up. It's not going to be like SimCity. I used to play SimCity 3000 when I was just eight years old, but it didn't matter because the game design was intuitive and it all made sense. Even at age eight I could make a giant city work (albeit terribly). I probably would not do the same for Cities: Skylines, because it isn't built that way. If it works out, hey, that's great, but hyping it now is asking for failure, and this one will hurt far more than SimCity and Cities XL.


Oh, and by the way, you'd better hope that Colossal Order and Paradox learned their lesson about DLC with Cities in Motion 2, otherwise Paradox is about to give you a reason to hate them.

Dexomega is a reader on TAY that more commonly contributes to the reader-run anime community Ani-TAY, but occasionally finds himself writing about games again for some reason.

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