After a long wait, Xbox One owners will soon be able to get their hands on the massively popular city simulator Cities Skylines. The game will arrive on April 21st.
Karoliina Korppoo of Colossal Order took to the stage during EGX Rezzed this weekend to discuss the game in more detail. Although the main purpose was to delve into the latest PC expansion pack "Mass Transit", Karoliina also spoke about the design decisions behind Cities during development. One of the key aspects was that the game would attract fans of the genre and new gamers alike,as well as the fact that it's adaptable to player types – you can play the game casually, checking in from time to time, or you can sink several hours in at a time micro-managing your metropolis for maximum efficiency.
This is something I noticed during my brief time with the game. Accessing the game's many menus, toolboxes and systems will thrill hardcore genre fanatics, but casual gamers could quite easily ignore a fair amount of these and enjoy the game's basics... as long as they can accept having a less-than-perfect city. There's plenty of room on the spectrum for players in between these two extremes too. The main thing I took away from the experience however was just how much I missed the days in which I would sink hours and hours into the Sim City series before its decline. A lot of the basic concepts are identical in Cities such as zoning and road building, though these are considerably slicker than I remember thanks to modern technology. I was struck by the prettiness of the architecture, lighting and sound too. You could easily lose a few minutes simply watching the metropolis tick. By the end of the fifteen minutes I was pretty comfortable with the basics and started to look a little closer at the city's inhabitants. My session ended with the sobering realisation that my citizens were so well-educated that districts with low-skilled jobs were failing to find employees. It really showed off how complex and organic city management can get in the game, depending on how deep you want to dive into it.
Many have been wondering whether a game like Cities could ever effectively translate the keyboard and mouse setup onto a console controller. When I got my hands on the demo, I was struck by the fluidity of the menus that I saw and how quickly navigation became second nature. I found myself getting to grips with the majority of basic tools and stats within five minutes of play, which is not at all bad considering that I jumped into an already-running city rather than a tutorial. Common actions such as selecting the function of your cursor are tied to the D-Pad, while navigating between menu tabs sits sensibly on the shoulder buttons. It might seem obvious on paper, but it's surprising how often we see this kind of thing going wrong even on basic menu systems. The competence of the controller-based interface could well be down to the fact that Colossal Order outsourced its development to Tantalus Media, who started out converting coin-ops to consoles and have considerable experience porting games and franchises between different machines.
We already know that the existing PC expansion "After Dark" will be included in the Xbox One edition of the game, but it's still not yet clear if and when the game's further expansions will be ported. The developers were obviously excited to talk about their latest expansion for the PC version, "Mass Transit", but with four other expansions already out on PC it might be a little while before we see any of its blimps and cable cars making their way to Xbox One. There's also no firm word on the inclusion of mod support, though Karoliina did make the interesting point that, despite thousands upon thousands of mods being created on Steam Workshop, the majority of current Steam players do not make use of them. Colossal Order do keep an eye on the community modding scene and a lot of their updates and expansions are based on elements that the modders have either tweaked, fixed or added over the years, so a lot of the best improvements are still seen by non-modding audiences in the long run.
Even if Xbox players don't see the later expansions or mods for some time, the base game looks like it will provide more than enough to occupy our attention for now. You can find out for yourselves when the game releases on April 21st. Although the Windows 10 Edition is still in the pipeline, no release date for that version has been confirmed.
Get the biggest Xbox news delivered straight to your inbox every week.