Cities: Skylines is our answer to not having Sim City on Linux, and it’s time for us to take a look at this new city building sim.
I was able to secure an early testing key, and have been testing it out and reporting issues directly back to them. I don’t often get to do that, so it was really great to be able to. Big thanks to Paradox for that.
About the game (Official)
Cities: Skylines is a modern take on the classic city simulation. The game introduces new gameplay elements to realize the thrill and hardships of creating and maintaining a real city whilst expanding on some well-established tropes of the city building experience.
From the makers of the Cities in Motion franchise, the game boasts a fully realized transport system. It also includes the ability to mod the game to suit your play style as a fine counter balance to the layered and challenging simulation. You’re only limited by your imagination, so take control and reach for the sky!
To get this straight, I’m probably the worst mayor and city planner ever.
The Linux Port
Truth be told, I haven’t played a proper city builder since Sim City 3000, and I played Sim City 2000 even more before that, so I do have a history with these types of games. Hell, I even played the original to death on the Amiga.
It’s lucky really, as I found a few Linux specific bugs early on and reported them, and within about two days they had fixed them. I was really pleased to see them get on at least those issues so quickly for us.
Performance wise it’s a little bad, as I was originally getting around 100FPS on High settings, and then a patch a couple days before release nerfed it down to around 30FPS, and this is on an Nvidia 970. Having the level of detail set to Very High makes it even worse, and does make it very sluggish when you zoom in, so the game is a bit of a hog.
Even with the performance drop, the game is still playable. This is what I especially like about Cities: Skylines, as even at 30FPS with dips below on High settings it’s reasonably playable. I wouldn’t like to be on a lower end card, but the performance could be caused by the “memory issue” that the 970 cards have if it’s pushing my card to use more than 3.5GB.
I also wouldn’t buy it for Intel GPU’s, as in my testing the performance and graphical glitches give you an unplayable experience, so you have been duly warned.
I did notify my original contacts at Paradox who provided the key about this performance issue multiple times, and they didn’t reply. So I ended up tweeting to the actual developers, who sent me a different Paradox email, so maybe something will come of it now. I really do hope they find what is causing it, and I have sent them some logs to look over at their request.
A game of this type needs very little in the way of explaining, but I will for those who haven’t really played it before. You manage and build a city with different zones like residential areas for people to live in, commercial zones to shop in, industry to bring in some more money, manage power, fresh water, sewage and lots more. There’s quite a lot of content to this game.
Their focus on official modding support has me excited, and it already comes with a number of mods ready to go such as unlimited money, a “hard mode”, having all progression unlocked right away and more.
Although, this is a bit buggy right now, as the pre-installed mods are doubled up, and the remove option isn’t working, this has also been reported by me, so hopefully they will get around to fixing it.
The Steam Workshop support is a nice touch too, as you can see what designs others have made and download them into your games, so I can’t wait to see more content in it.
With their focus on modding, steam workshop, in-built asset editors and a map editor, I do wonder what they are leaving themselves to do in DLC. Since the community will be able to pump out content faster.
The game has a focus on unlocking buildings and services as you reach a higher population milestone, and it makes it easy to understand as to not overwhelm you. I really like this feature, as it allowed me to get into it slowly and get to grips with the different features.
It also helps that the UI is clean, simple and easy to understand. They did a really good job at laying everything out in different viewing modes, like noise level, pollution, happiness etc.
Things can get tricky if, like me, you’re not very good at planning anything. I was constantly removing water and sewage pipes to re-shape them, as they cannot cross each other. While doing a livestream someone kindly pointed out I only needed one pipe, as each pipe is a dual-pipe to carry fresh water and get rid of sewage, oh my. That made me feel a bit stupid!
I do like that you can create different districts within the city, and give each of them different names and policies that you unlock:
Districts are also used for specialised industry sectors as well, like oil, and farming.
Issues I have with it
The default graphical setting for Colour Correction Override is awful for me, and adds some sort of terrible blue hue all over the game, setting it to Tropical sorted that out, see the difference below:
You may not notice it much from those two shots, but it's very noticeable while playing it. The default blue hue makes it feel like it's constantly night time, and I don't like it. I am very happy there's an option to change it though, so while being an issue, it's an easily correctable one.
Adding in water pipes every time you expand isn't fun, in fact it does start to feel a little tedious to remember it, and do it every single time you expand an area.
This doesn't happen with power lines, as long as all areas are linked the area of power just increases, so I wish they could have done something simpler with the water pipes.
Power lines are just as annoying, you can’t just drag them over a road and have it work perfectly. When dragging a powerline, new pylons are automatically placed, and they don’t appear where you want them. I would have liked it to be a little more flexible with that, as it can ruin some of your building work to have to accommodate the power lines, but that’s part of the strategy they are going for I guess.
I haven’t quite figured out a way to reduce pollution, going by my livestream from people “in the know” there isn’t a way, and that bugs me. Look what happens to a polluted area:
That purple mash all over the ground, that’s pollution from industry. And it makes everything look pretty horrible after a while.
I was a bit surprised to find out there aren’t any disasters that happen, like tornados, earthquakes and things like that, so I hope someone mods some fun things into the game. Sim City, another game in the genre has such disasters, so I was looking forward to seeing what Cities: Skylines came up with. Sadly, nothing.
One thing that did catch me off-guard is that all zones need to be linked directly to a road, so you can’t place down a zone without a road already being in place. I would have loved it if I was able to draw out a zone, and carve out a road in and around it. It feels quite limiting to be forced to build a road for zoning to be available.
There’s a little bit more to the game that I didn’t cover like unique buildings, defining bus routes from bus stations and little extras, but I will let you discover those yourself in the game.
Final Verdict: There’s a lot to love about the game, from the easy to use road builder allowing you to do all sorts of crazy road designs, to the great style of the game itself. It’s quite relaxing, and interesting, but the performance has me worried about the Linux version.
Buy it if you don’t mind lower performance, but again it could just be my Nvidia 970 card acting funny.
You can grab it from our store on Games Republic, and this helps us too. You can see what time it releases on their big reddit chart here.