What I Played in 2015: City Skylines

I’ve never seen such a poignant or well timed “fuck you” from one developer to another.

This game was made for one reason and made for one audience. The reason was to right all the wrongs that EA and Maxis Emeryville had committed with the “reboot” of Sim City. The audience was everyone that got fucked over by that “reboot”.

Let’s not mince words, the Sim City reboot sucked ass. Even after the notoriously horrible online play got sorted out, we were still left with a game that was serviceable, but pretty meek compared to what we expected. I mean we’re talking about “Sim City” here, not some fly-by-night franchise. This was the once-and-future king of city building games. All patrons bowed before this franchise, all other games to be measured. Upon his head, Will Wright wore the crown of simulation games.

But it floundered all that reputation. It got up its own ass with unnecessary online connectivity. It prioritized small and measured gameplay in a series that was known for large and expansive play-spaces. It killed true simulation in the womb, and made off with some weird fascination with sewer lines.

I don’t blame the developers at Maxis Emeryville for their intentions. In fact, if you look at Sim City 2013 from a very basic level, it seems as though they had all the right intentions. I just feel as though it is a classic, and perhaps a perfect, example of a publisher mucking up a game they had no business mucking in. Every system and scale in Sim City 2013 that showed promise seemed whittled down and truncated for the use of online connectivity and DLC sales. I have very rarely played a game where I could feel the omnipresent hand of the publisher squashing down the robustness inherent.

And all of this is directly applicable to Cites Skylines. Colossal Order — Cities Skylines developer — didn’t receive the go-ahead from publisher Paradox Interactive until Sim City got lambasted by outlets and the public. Colossal Order (which was a thirteen person team) had the idea for a new city building game before Sim City 2013 came out, but Paradox quite wisely thought that Sim City would dominate the city building space. When Sim City proved to be an astounding dud, Paradox gave the funding to Colossal Order. And with 13 people they managed to deliver a game more true to the spirt of Sim City than all of EA could.

O, how the mighty have fallen. Like I said, I have never seen such a direct and blatant “fuck you” in all of gaming. The promotional videos for Cites Skylines were pointed directly at Sim City’s shortcomings. Every city building game fan (myself included) rallied behind this indie movement hoping for a better future for the genre. And we got it, for the most part.

Cities Skylines plays like a fan made sequel to Sim City 4, minus the extreme mathematical complexities and frustrating difficulty. And while that might be a turnoff to some old fans, I am happy with what we got.

Let me speak to the city-building fans in the room for a moment… Is everyone else out? Everyone else gone?….Ok… Here we go. This is literally the best you’re going to get. No one else has any interest in this genre. Sim City 2013 was the last big push to make the genre viable for new generations, and it flopped horribly. EA, or any big publisher won’t touch this genre for another 5 years at least. The folks at Colossal Order and Paradox hold the last candle. They are our last bastion. They are doing a fine-ass job and deserve our money. They were successful in their initial release of the game, and if we want to see more content we need to support them. Help me Colossal Order, you are my only hope.