In a desolate ruined Maxis HQ, you trudge through the remains, looking at their legacy ashened, and see their final work: Sim City. Shaking off the dust, you look at it and remember the cataclysmic events that led to the end of Maxis and you shed a tear. Wiping your eyes, you notice a gleam off in the distance from the ruins and you see it. Cities: Skyline. You crawl to it and gently touch it; suddenly, your world changes: buildings erupt from the ground, flowers and trees spring to life, clouds clear the sky, and the sun shines on you.

Cities: Skyline is the game that wipes the tears from fans of Sim City and provides a truly exciting change, giving players a lot more fun and freedom than Sim City.

The game has the same mechanics as Sim City: you build your roads, residential zones, industrial zones, and commercial zones; and you add the extra facilities like water, electricity, sewerage, police and the like, in order to keep order in your town and make your residents happy – this is where things change from Sim City.

Be wary: I will be making parallels with Sim City because that’s what this game is succeeding from. Paradox Interactive’s Cities: Skyline is something to behold.

Skyline reintroduced something Sim City removed from their latest game: taxes and budgets. This micro-management of finances gives so much more freedom of choice and allow players to really get into the gritty of being more of a Mayor than just a God creator like in Sim City.

The ability to manage how much money should be allocated to the different services throughout the city, to cut down or to ease with the growing demands, can also be dealt with by using ‘policies’ that place boundaries on the townspeople in exchange for use of the town funds. Skyline does a lot more in order to manage finances and services and that’s something that was lacking from Sim City.

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One of my favourite additions to the game is the district tool, which allows budding Mayors to make certain areas specialised: for example, adding industry zones to farming districts causes wineries, farms and the like to form, instead of the standard factory industrial buildings. It’s something that I haven’t seen in Sim City or its previous iteration, and it adds a new flavour of variety to buildings and infrastructure. You unlock more districts such as oil, ore and logging districts by increasing the population in the town, just like most unlockables in the game.

Another really interesting feature is the ability to purchase adjacent land; a much better way to deal with expansions, rather than creating new cities altogether, like in Sim City. By expanding land it gives a huge canvas for the player to plan out the design of their cities without having spatial limitations. Not having enough space was one of the biggest flaws with Sim City, and being able to build adjacent land to expand is the best solution to deal with this.

The last interesting feature that I’ve dabbled with is the Steam Workshop. The ability for the community to add modifications to the game long after it’s been released is an unbelievably amazing feature, as it’s remedied one of the first things I had wished the game had: the ability to be on the streets of my city and look around as a citizen. Not one week later and the community had already given players that option, and that’s what impressed me so much – by how a fanbase can help make a game such an enjoyable experience.

Cities: Skyline is a hallmark for a fantastic modern city simulator. It’s one of the few that will successfully be considered one of the best because its base game is already rock solid, and the community will continue to make it better. This game is something that will be played by fans of the genre for many months or years to come; I know the hours I’ve put in have been an absolute joy.

Score: 5/5 (Exceptional game, a must-play) 

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