Console Vs PC
Cities Skylines has no doubt been the best city builder since the the fall of Sim City. The graphics are amazing, the gameplay is solid, and every city always feels alive and evolving. Community mods help further develop a city into a real life metropolis with stunning detail. Sadly however the console version of the game has not been received with the same high praise. This is mostly due to the inability to use mods although on Xbox, there is a “mod section” however it only for props and the community hasn’t really taken to it. Also while you can cross play Skylines with a PC, the “PC” version is not the same as the Stream version. Thus it’ must brought twice to play it on PC and Xbox.
I brought the console version of the game merely to see how well it translates and after realizing I would have to buy it twice to cross play with my Xbox, I decided to go for the PS4 version instead. I’m proud to say that aside not having mods, the game itself is still superb. There is a learning curve with using the controller especially if one is coming from PC. That being said, the buttons have been mapped well and after around two weeks of gameplay, it’s no longer a struggle to navigate.
Screen space however is too cramped mostly due to the empty black bar below the main toolbar. This is especially challenging when trying to build a road network or zone out a new district, or when trying to place large buildings like airports and multi-level train stations. Movements of the thumb sticks are just not precise enough when wanting to move in small increments. This can be seen when creating a new district area as it take an extremely steady hand to create a smooth container around the destinated area. Personally I prefer the PS4 controller over the Xbox as it fits the hands better and after hours of gaming my hands don’t feel tire. I’m curious if either the Xbox’s elite or PS4 elite controllers would improves this precision issue with their supposedly more precise thumb sticks and extra buttons.
These issues however don’t spoil the game for me. Not having mods just makes it more challenge and forces one to rethink their city building strategy. The thumb sticks may not be as precise as a mouse but as a trade off, there’re the perfect tool for smooth movements when showcasing your cities in cinematic mode.
DLC & Mods
Admittingly, the base game does not have the tools to properly build and maintain a city especially when dealing with the traffic. Ideally it’s best to go with the complete addition or this case the Mayor addition. It’s $99.99 and it comes with every DLC that has come out for the game since it’s release. The Season Pass 2 is an alternate for the city builders of a budget. It provides all the essential DLC with the exception of the Campus City pack which will be added later at some point. If however there are city builders on an Extremely tight budget and can only buy one or two DLC packs at a time, I recommend the Mass Transit Pack and if you can spare it, the Park Life Pack. These two packs provide the tools need to spruce up your cities and help better manage the traffic. The Mass Transit pack however is an absolute must no matter what budget because Skylines traffic simulator is hell. Civilians don’t use all the lanes available to them on the road, they feel they need to get in their correct lane miles before the turn or exit, they ignore emergence vehicles, and always assume themselves to have the right of way no matter the intersection.
Park Life adds city parks, national parks, amusement parks, and zoos yet the thing that I really like about this pack is the compactness of it. Unlike the other DLCs, Park Life’s props and specialized buildings don’t take up a lot of space. This means you create a five star park within a small space like a single city block in a downtown area or in a suburb, or on the side of a mountain. Props and buildings can also mix and match to create truly unique parks. The more you build within the park area the higher the land value goes up for the surrounding area. After the park is built, you can arrange nightly tours and bus tourist to the most attractive places in the city.
Since July I have built two cities Sundale and Haw Creek. Both have been built on two very different maps that have presented their own unique challenges. Sundale is a coastal metropolitan city of 120,000 while Haw Creek is a small mountain town built in the valley of a mountain range. Today however, we’re going to focus on Haw Creek.
What started as a simply quest to create a small mountain town from a crude stretch I put into a journal back in 2007, has become a grand adventure of roundabouts, a national park, a coal mine atop a mountain, and never ending battle with traffic.
First obstacle I faced and continue to face is the map. I was looking for a mountainous terrain where the mountains were a dominant feature. This was difficult choice because again consoles don’t have mods so there are no custom maps just the defaults. the original maps of the base game are flat and always connected to a sea. this is great for building large cities however not very realistic. I’m not obsesses with realism but I do like certain aspects of it such as smooth road transitions, preserving the nature beauty of an area, and some sense a symmetry. Thankfully with each new DLC pack, maps are getting more unique. Park Life has a great mix of forest, mountains, and coast while Snowfall now has mountains. Ultimately however, I decided to go with the mountain map from the Natural Disaster DLC. Check out my review of both packs in an early article I wrote. Both are great additions although the Natural Disaster falls flat on it’s scenarios. Prussian Peaks is the name of the map and while it does have the mountains the trade off for those mountains is a small amount build-able land. This fact has been the most challenge part about this city. Even if I had mods, I would still struggle to build a large city with so little build-able area. Traffic has been constant challenge as mountains only have four ways to get by them; climb them, go around them, go through them or remove them entirely which is by far the most expensive and environmentally scarring. Preserving the natural beauty of the map is another Priority because one thing Skylines does well is capture that beauty of the land with the changing colors especially around sunrise and sunset. The snaking roads up the mountains is signature of the city along the overlook bridges that provide a sightseeing opportunity for tourist and locals alike.
For over a month I have built, maintained, and expended Haw Creek Adding new districts, highways, and unique attractions. The National Park is a particular favorite as it was my first national park. I used a fresh water outlet to create river for my walk ways to follow and to help plan out where the campsites would be. The results have been beautiful. Creating a national park and for that matter any of the four parks available is a true time soaker. Even if you’re not a realistic buff, you will be spend a great chunk of time placing props, walk ways, and planting trees. I can only imagine the hours with not days one would spend on PC with an endless collection of props from the community. If the water could have a mist property when you create a waterfall and rapids when flowing through rocks the Bear Paw National Park would be an breathing taking place to be.
Traffic in Haw Creek has been an ongoing struggle. The mountains have certainly made it more difficult but ultimately the real struggle is the way Skylines simulates the traffic. On PC this simulator can be tweak and changed with the Traffic Manager: President Edition and the Network Essential 2. On console however, all you have to manage the traffic is mass transit, a budge, and a couple info maps. Increasing the mass transit budge will allow for more vehicles to be summoned to carry cims to their destinations. Roads however don’t have enough options to aid you especially in the small road category. There is a 3-lane road option which has it’s uses if you don’t want a full avenue however adding a 4-lane small road would be even better. Also having a 3 and 4-lane one ways in the industrial areas would aid in managing fright traffic. Trains are the saviors of fright trucks if the map has a train connection outside the city, connect to it as soon as possible. This will allow fright to enter and leave you city without ever having to touch the road. Still even if the map doesn’t have one or in Haw Creek’s case it’s a bit hidden, start making a fright line to get trucks off the road. The simulate always chooses the fastest route even if visually it doesn’t appear that way. I notice this in my Coal Mine atop a mountain. At first when I added the rail, trucks were slow to use it preferring the winding mountain road instead. As time went on however and I added more stations throughout the city their mood has changed. The addition Cargo Airport provides an alternate to rail to import and export fright and with the hub combo, fright can travel seamlessly from air to rail and back.
To get civilians to use mass transit, you almost have to force it and on the this map that was very easy to do thanks to the mountains. If there is a river create a ferry line it’s easy, cheap, and provides a steady means of transit. Create a passenger line and if possible make the two line separate so fright doesn’t clog up the passenger and vice versa. On PC this is easier to do with the help of the Traffic Manager: President Edition. The actual track can be selected and restrict which trains are allowed to use it. A critical advantage I use to unclog my rails on Sundale PC.
Monorails and subways are the ultimate weapon against traffic. They’re the fastest and least invasive means to get cims to their destination. They are however very expensive especially subways. The Metro as Skylines’ call it is however are the easiest to build because it’s always underground avoiding all roads, bridges, buildings, etc. Their stations only take up one square while being able to handle large amounts of commuters. Monorails are the most elegant of all the mass transit options. Using magnets to lift the train so that it guides alone the track without any physical contact is amazing. Their tracks are always elevated so it will go over the jams and speed through the districts without interruption. The mass transit DLC adds serial monorail hubs that combine different transports into one building. The biggest has four monorails, four trains, and a subway which provides a great place to bring a lot of commuters to one place.
How To Decide
Overall there is no one way to fix the traffic because as the city grows and develops the traffic will change presenting new problems and challenges. Skylines provides serial traffic maps that have color codes for each form of transport. The routes map shows the routes cims are taken to get somewhere. The transport map will shows in great detail the routes of your mass transits, how many are using it, and how many cims are at each stop. I finding it more useful to used these maps to better get an idea where the jams are happening and more importantly why. Once you know WHY the jams are happening, you can then plan out a HOW to fix it. widen the road will aid in clearing the jam however make the road too wide and the problem will be amplified. Avoid Diamond interchanges for major city connections as they clog up quickly without manually changing the red light timing. Avoid putting intersections close to one another as these will clog up and not allow the road to be use to full potential. Bus stops should never be place near a busy intersection as the buses don’t fully pull into their stops causing the cars behind to jam up. Avoid putting multiple bus stops in one area but instead use a hub to get them off the road.
Roundabouts are a great tool to provide a constant flow of traffic. They can be small or large, can connect highways and avenues, don’t cost much, and are better looking then a 4-way intersection. As for highways interchanges, the best tool is the real world as these are proving structures and layouts that work.
Haw Creek in it’s sister city of Oakland continue to grow. The current population is 71,000 and after hitting 46,000, the area now has both a cargo and passenger airport. Oakland after 60,000 purchased a new piece of land and now has a small farm community. The Bear Paw National Park at last has a connection at the top allowing visitors to walk the mountain from top to bottom and vice versa. Tigerville a coastal town by the bay opens Haw Creek’s 1st amusement park. Traffic remains an issues but more people continue to move in to this beautiful place in a mountain valley.