Review: Cities Skylines (Switch)

Is the Nintendo Switch’s hardware up to the task of a full-fledged, city simulation game?

By Dustin Grissom. Posted 10/29/2018 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Checks all the boxes for a City Simulation game; decent presentation; large maps; easy to pick up and play
Poison Mushroom for...
Performance issues; lack of sandbox customization/cheat codes; few interesting unlockable structures; inaccurate controls

I find the Nintendo Switch to be the perfect gaming system to allow me to play games I normally wouldn’t feel I had the time play between my busy work schedule, personal life, and backlog of marquee games I still need to complete. This feeling for a need of responsibility with my time has unfortunately casted several types of games I enjoyed when I was younger to the side. You may see where I am going with this, but growing up (as well as in college where I hadn’t developed strong feelings for “time management” yet) I adored the City Simulation genre. Sim City 4 is the game I always went back to if I needed my city-development kick, because other games in the genre just never resonated well with me. They were either all too simplified or too complicated. Finding a City Simulation game I can pick up and put down but not sacrifice depth or immersion is a daunting task, yet I believe Cities Skylines: Nintendo Switch Edition comes awfully close to matching that description despite a few flaws and technical hitches.

First, it is very important to discuss if Cities Skylines: Nintendo Switch Edition is, bottom line, a good city simulation game. More or less, the answer is “yes.” It has everything you’d want out of the genre even if it follows the same basic gameplay structure established over a decade ago from older games. You can design your city’s roads, electricity, and water pipelines as well as placing down zones for residential, industrial, and commercial buildings to be constructed. These buildings will grow larger and more profitable based on how well you are designing your city’s infrastructure, particularly if you’re placing good schools and hospitals, and so on. Pretty basic stuff, but the game does it rather well. The drawback between playing this game on a console versus a PC is the accuracy required to place some of these objects, especially roads. I found myself incorrectly placing buildings or roads due to the lack of accuracy by using a thumb stick on a Pro Controller or Joy-Con instead of a mouse. The game, unfortunately, does not support touch control.

When zoomed in, this game does have some nice detail

The game’s menus can be daunting at first, but aren’t difficult to get the hang of once you play for about an hour. The game’s electricity and water system is, as in most city simulation games, oftentimes frustrating. It’s usually the last thing you want to focus on, but seems to always be the biggest thorn in your side when trying to expand your city. With my previous experiences in this genre, I found that most games had a cheat to turn these off, however this game only appears to let you choose from a handful of crutches, such as unlimited money. It’s unfortunate that you cannot edit the rules more thoroughly and this can take away from the fun if you wanted to play the game like a true sandbox-mode.

The game’s progression works well for the most part. It is very satisfying seeing your city grow from small mom and pop shops and cottages to towering skyscrapers and apartment buildings. It takes skill to build a bustling metropolis, but once you have a self-sustaining, mega city, it is extremely satisfying. Being able to zone out districts to specialize in things such as entertainment or other specific industries is a great addition to the genre I appreciated. Besides upgrading your zones, you can also unlock landmarks, school, parks, and other specialized structures. I found this part of the game to be slightly disappointing with its scope and lack of options. I was also disappointed with the map size at first, which caused me to have flashbacks to the recent, disappointing Sim City reboot, however I soon learned that you can continuously buy more and more land for your city- creating one of the biggest maps I think I’ve ever seen in the genre. You can surely work on one city for dozens of hours if not more.

At this point, your game might begin to run a little slow when fast-forwarding

However, growing your city does have some drawbacks. I mentioned before that having the game on Switch was really the bridge I needed to come back to this genre I loved so much… but the system doesn’t seem to be able to handle the game perfectly. I know this isn’t entirely a Switch problem specifically, as the game has frame rate issues on the Xbox One and even some higher-end PCs as well, but the performance overall is rather disappointing. The game runs fine and looks pretty good for the most part, but after about an hour or two of growing your city to be larger and larger, you’ll start to run into consistent frame rate dips if you continue to fast forward through the days. This wouldn’t be a big problem, because the game runs just fine if you turn it down to normal speed, but when you do this… the gameplay is just too slow to be very interesting. The game is best played at a fast-forwarded speed, so having to sacrifice a lower frame rate for this is not at all an ideal situation and I hope it gets fixed with future patches or updates. The game appears to perform the same in both handheld and docked mode. I wouldn’t let this deter someone from buying the game if they are a city simulation fan like myself, because having a game this expansive and in-depth on a handheld is honestly remarkable, but it is something to consider.

Overall, this is a PC-quality, bonafide City Simulation game on a handheld console. Regardless of the system it is on, Cities Skylines is a one of the better games in the genre despite some flaws and missing features. If you can look past the performance issues during certain circumstances, this is a wonderful and remarkable game to be able to play on the go and at home that can keep you busy and entertained for the foreseeable future.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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