Cities: Skylines makes the switch to…the Switch.
If you’re interested in city building games and haven’t heard of Cities: Skylines, then where have you been? Since the gradual decline of the SimCity franchise, culminating in the disastrous online launch of the series reboot in 2013, the Cities games have grown in quality and popularity. In 2015, Paradox Interactive published Colossal Order’s Cities: Skylines for PC and Mac, and since then it’s been considered king of the genre thanks to its solid gameplay, regular DLC releases, and Steam Workshop support. Since then, the game has seen releases on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Now it’s Nintendo’s turn.
Cities: Skylines plays very much like many city building games. You build roads, designate zones as either residential, commercial, or industrial, and build services to keep the people settling in your burgeoning metropolis happy. You’ll manage taxes, power, water, and the road network to keep things running smoothly, with no real goal beyond developing the best city you can. There is a sense of progression thank to different buildings only being available to build once you’ve reached a certain population, but beyond that you can build as you see fit.
The Switch release doesn’t add anything special beyond what has been seen before. In fact, the only Switch specific feature beyond portability is that of an HD rumble feature that hints at where the best position to place a building is. The portability, though, is where Cities: Skylines is at its strongest. There are few (if any) city building games with this level of depth that you can take with you wherever you go. In portable mode, the game maintains its visuals and remains smooth. It’s a shame there are no touch screen options, but simply having this available to play on the go is a fantastic thing.
There are some downsides, however. First would be a problem on every system bar PC – Cities: Skylines was initially developed with keyboard and mouse in mind. Trying to play this with a controller (whether it’s Nintendo’s Joycons or otherwise) is very fiddly, and lead to me moving buildings back and forth because it simply wouldn’t go exactly where I wanted it to. Holding a button to temporarily slow the movement of the cursor might have been a good way around this. I’d have liked some more button remapping options too, rather than just having a collection of presets.
Also an issue – and this one irritates me slightly more – is that this version comes with a couple of the DLC packs, but doesn’t include others. After Dark (introducing day/night cycles) and Snowfall (snow covered environments) both come included with this package. These are the oldest DLC packs, but none of the more recent ones are included or even available to purchase at time of writing. I’m surprised that Parklife, Mass Transit, Natural Disasters and all the others aren’t here yet. Some of these other DLC packs are over two years old so I’m a little confused about the lack of them at this point.
With that said, this release of Cities: Skylines is as moreish as ever. There’s always that ‘I’ll just do this before I go to bed’ feeling as you head towards the end of your play sessions, leading to unintended late nights. You’ll find yourself regularly setting your own goals to reach another milestone, or prevent an impending problem, and waiting just another couple of minutes for your finances to be strong enough to afford that new police station, or extra wind turbine is always tempting. If you start a city, you’d better be prepared to lose more than a few evenings to it.
Beyond the missing content packs, the base game is feature complete, with a solid tutorial that guides you through the basics before letting you loose to discover more for yourself. If it spots you doing something silly, a relevant tool-tip will appear to alert you to the issue. They’re non-intrusive and allow you to teach you about mistakes without taking control away from you or allowing you to meet with a catastrophic disaster that you’ll struggle to recover from.
In spite of there being less content than I might like considering the price (and the age of said content), this is an excellent addition to the Nintendo Switch library. You’ll struggle to find a more in-depth city builder that you can play wherever you go. If I’m honest, those that are interested in games of this genre and own a Nintendo Switch are probably already playing Cities: Skylines. But if you’re on the fence, rest assured that regardless of your experience in city building games, this is a great option.