A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cities: Skylines is a downloadable strategy game similar to SimCity. Players work to maintain the city's budget, population, health, happiness, employment, pollution, traffic flow, and many other factors. The game lets you approach and explore how to balance and tweak all these things to maintain harmony more or less on your own. Other than a potential option for players to legalize marijuana use among their citizens late in the game (which you don't see used but reap the tax profit from), there's no inappropriate content. The limited tutorial and explanation of mechanics could frustrate newcomers to the game.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
There's no story at all in CITIES: SKYLINES. You control the camera and tilt it around as you build roads, chart out districts, and impose public policies on the people who move in to live, work, and play. It's an open-ended city-building simulation where you're the mayor and everybody's depending on you. Their complaints pop up, and you have to decide how to adapt -- all while keeping an eye on your fluctuating budget.
Is it any good?
Whether you enjoy this city simulator ultimately has to do with how much you like futzing with the tiniest of details. For example, each and every time you chart out a road, you must decide whether it has an incline and if so, how steep; if not, should it be a two-lane, four-lane, or six-lane. These details cascade and stack, so it'll only be another hour or two before you recognize why that wasn't the move to make. Suddenly, you'll find that more people have moved in and traffic in that area is creating too much noise pollution, triggering a chain effect in other districts. It's a game where strategy is important, and patience is key.
Newcomers will be intimidated by the sheer amount of strategy you'll need to wrap your head around. For example, public policies can be shifted or reversed, if you want, during the nighttime. Different rules can be in effect during the day. Then there's poring over the ledger and tweaking taxes, finessing your budget, and deciding whether you should go green, use coal, or use less eco-friendly power sources. It's all a manic sort of fun, and it will take a few games before you start to survive without being tempted to cheat and continually take out loans to stay afloat. All of this is further complicated by the fact that there's practically no content in the tutorial, so you'll rely on a lot of trial and error, along with multiple gameplay sessions, to figure out how to actually be successful. The difficulty in itself should be enough to give people pause, but on top of that, the game's insistence on having realistic graphics creates an eye-straining effect. You can play for hours and hours if you really want to, but taking in that much detail just gets difficult. All in all, it's a fun and soothing way to spend an evening -- until suddenly catastrophe strikes and you'll have learned a valuable, though costly, lesson for the next time you start building a city.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about civic planning. How do the choices architects and politicians make affect the lives of individuals, including your family members?
What issues do you notice in the neighborhood you live in? What are the problems everyone in it seems to be struggling with? Do they think moving somewhere else will fix that problem? Why, or why not? What do you think?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.