Genre: City building, Simulation
Year: 2015
Developed by: Colossal Order
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC, Mac, XBOX One, PS4, Switch, PS5, XBOX Series X/S
Feeling Like: Skeys the Limit

I said in my Top 10 of 2015 that Cities: Skylines would only get better with time. I was right, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.

I should have.

I don’t know what it is about city builders, whether it’s the strong nostalgia tied to playing Sim City 2000 with dad, or the isometric camera angle or the clean slate to create anything, but I’m always drawn to them. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pre-set goal or if I’m just trying to build a cooler version of Victoria, I can always find the right mix of challenge and relaxation. There’s a reason Dorfromantik made my Top 10 last year and I don’t even know if it counts as a city builder. It’s far more peaceful and I don’t have to direct traffic, but Cities scratches a different itch.

It’s one of the few games where I’m not necessarily interested in playing it legitimately. Setting budgets and expanding at a sensible speed isn’t always what I’m in the mood for. I’ll generally have one city where I try to play by the rules, and another where I just have infinite money and use every cheat code at my disposal.

Guess which one I have more fun with?

It’s such a thrill to see little buildings pop up and tiny teeny cars drive by. I can zoom in on my new park and just listen to the birds chirp. In a matter of seconds, I’m flying effortlessly over my city to the industrial sector since I’m getting reports of terrible gridlock. That part isn’t as stress free, but all in a day’s work of an omnipotent city planner.

I played it at launch, which continues to be a moronic decision. How long until I learn that games get significantly better over time, as long as the developers continue to support it? A little patience would go a long way.

Look at the list of current official DLCs and Add-Ons for Cities: Skylines.

Mods go beyond adding in new types of intersections, there are some that literally cut down on load times, or launch your denizens far into the future, Blade Runner style. It’s gotten to the point where the choices are overwhelming in the best possible way.

As technology improves, the quality of the city builder also improves alongside with it. Scrolling the camera far in to see individual people adds in an element of immersion unlike anything else previously seen. The smoothness of the framerate ensures you’re constantly viewing a living town, instead of something that resembles a slideshow. The variety of colors and building types allows for unique areas, giving them more personality than “that area with the High School”. Beautiful.

Usually when I look back on a specific genre that I haven’t played in a while, I express a desire for somebody to make an updated version, but Colossal Order has already done it. The game is eight years old now (eight!), but with all the new content being released, both by the developer and players, it feels consistently fresh.

I swear I don’t time these entries on purpose, but after saying all that, they just announced a sequel and I am freaking out. I’ll stick with it this time. Typically when I beat games, I’ll uninstall them right away as sort of a check-mark thing. If I see the end credits, I’ll update Backloggery, Grouvee and the Almighty Spreadsheet. Check reviews. Score it, un-install and move on. A few manage to escape the purge, like Slay the Spire or Dorfromantik. The replayability is unmeasurable and they’re endlessly comforting. As long as they fix the terrible traffic and add in a few bells and whistles, Cities: Skylines 2 will also endure long after I’ve had my fill.

I may be unworthy compared to those who can master every tool and add-on Cities: Skylines can offer, but that won’t stop me from trying to make the perfect city. Watching the sun set and hearing the quiet of the city as rush hour ends, the lights come up on my new highway and the river reflects the new bridge I built cannot be replicated in any other type of game.

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