Saving the newly erected Ass from poop water in Cities: Skylines

Scratching that Sim City itch

Paradox is sticking with, “let’s talk about our product on its own merits” tact with its upcoming city-builder from developer Colossal Order, but I am under no such nice-marketing guide (nor do I know tact, as this post will confirm).

Cities: Skylines is looking to be what busted ol’ SimCity should’ve been.

I started my four square kilometer city next to a river that flowed into the ocean. A smart city planner would’ve taken this advantageous location location location and immediately gotten sewage treatment plants funneling shit (literally!) downstream and out into the ocean where it’s fine and not a problem at all. A smart city designer would’ve taken a screenshot of their work rather than snap a camera phone picture. However, the city starts on the Roads panel. Draw some roads from the highway that serve as the foundation for your city. It’s easy, too, to paint on lines or curves.

It’s a bit too easy, in fact, to start painting beautiful, phallic roadways and eat into your starting budget. I made too large a dick to handle — fiscally, anyways. I painted the automatic areas on either side of the street with zoning designation (residential, commercial, industrial) and suddenly I had houses erecting and entitled citizens demanding things like power and water.

Skylines is actually quite good at leading you. Little icon demands pop up over homes showing what you’re missing (power, water) and you go over to those tabs and start building. Erect power lines, funnel water to homes. As you hit population milestones, more options open up. Schools, fire departments, police departments, hospitals.

I was a bit stuck, though, before all that as I had a city — I named it Ass, by the way — in turmoil. Shit-covered turmoil, limping along one stretch of pipe at a time, as much as the budget could handle, inching my way towards the coast so I could empty houses of their fecal waste. Buildings were abandoned, people tweeted obnoxiously with the built-in, faux-Twitter app that citizens occasionally use to talk about their Ass.

Once I got the shit out of the homes, though, I really turned things around and Ass began growing exponentially, to the point where I was working on beautification projects (parks) as much as adding a second fire department to cover the eastern half of Ass. With built-in Steam Workshop support, too, your own potential Asses aren’t limited to the 3D models provided.

An hour in, crisis averted, I was still in a relatively podunk state. I hadn’t come close to filling my starting four square kilometer tile, and you can patch together up to nine of them. And despite the scope, you can zero in on the most minute details of the simulation, as far as naming an individual city inhabitant and following them until they die.

If you are looking big picture, though, there’s lots to do beyond rote construction. You can map out and name districts, add city policies (want a smoking-free haven?), set taxes. Maybe build yourself a nice gentrified city, or develop a suburb escape as urban areas filled with crime. My simulated town of Ass never reached significant complexity, but Cities: Skylines‘ usability, given everything there is to do, impresses and should prove enough scaffold learning to facilitate highly functioning, complex cities from even the stupidest of us. Like the ones who name their city Ass and draw it like a dick.

Steven Hansen