Cities Skylines: Nintendo Switch Edition Review
Whenever you start a city in Cities Skylines, you always start off with the most honourable of intentions. You lay a good foundation, you build up your services and everyone is happy. Eventually, however, you have to make your city bigger, and that means spending money, laying down roads or expanding public transport. But sometimes it just doesn’t work; you’ve got traffic jams, people dying and sewerage building up and for some reason only 14 people using your meticulously designed metro.
Cities Skylines on the Nintendo Switch is a lot like a city in the game that’s just got a little bit out of control. You’ve got this tremendous base of a game, but it’s so clogged down that, while it works – it could work a whole lot better.
I’ve played a lot of city building games, and usually, that meant playing them on the PC. Anything from Sim City 2000, to now Cities Skylines, the best in the business, I’ve played them all. I’ve also longed for a terrific portable way to play these games. I even played Sim City 2000 on the GameBoy Avance; anything to continue building my metropolis masterpieces on the go. The Nintendo Switch version of Cities Skylines does what it says on the theoretical box: it’s Cities Skylines on the Switch and most of the time it works pretty well.
For those who haven’t played Cities Skylines before or any Sim-city-like game, it’s fairly simple to start. You begin with one region of land that’s a blank slate (and each map has different resource allocations), put down some roads, establish zonings such as residential and business, plus ensure everything is adequately powered supplied with water. Following this, you’ll then get into things like public transport, highways, and budgeting. While things start out pretty simple, the game can get hard, especially because aside from a quick tutorial there’s little information telling you why things are happening. Just that they are. There are so many notifications and popups you might just end up turning most of them off.
Once you have your town at a certain level, you’ll want to expand, and increasing population unlocks more ways to upgrade. If you don’t want to worry about this, you can start the game with unlimited money and everything unlocked – probably not the best choice if you’re new to it all. Luckily, if anything becomes too much there are many guides out there on the internet; some things you would think are simple, you still might need to look them up.
Cities Skylines makes the transition to console, and to the Nintendo Switch amicably. While not precise as the keyboard and mouse, the game’s controls work in doing a lot of heavy lifting, where menus and keys are all explained at the bottom of the screen. It’s not perfect and you’ll have to wrestle with the camera and the plotter to make sure your streets are 100% correct. Trying to make round-a-bouts perfect so your city doesn’t fall into gridlock mayhem can be mildly frustrating. Two small annoying complaints would be how the Y button works; if you hold it down it opens a radial menu to modify what the currently-equipped tool does. For roads, it can change them from straight, to curved, or change the direction of the traffic.
The issue comes from having to hold down Y, followed by moving the menu all the way in any direction, pause, and then releasing Y. It sounds like I’m whining about something small, but it’s just frustrating to upgrade a road unintentionally or mistakenly change traffic and having to undo it. The other issue has to do with public transport lines – they sometimes just don’t seem to work. You can make a complete, but simple, loop of the trains and you’ll end up making more lines than you need; they won’t complete and you can’t delete them. The game then complains about you having open lines until you delete everything, breaking the fully operational lines in the process. I had to blow away a city and start again because I couldn’t finish off a line.
At this point I’m really complaining about issues that are unique to the Switch version and could be patched, which reflects the core game – there’s not much wrong with it. Like I mentioned in my opening analogy, the core of this game is still amazing. It’s just doing too much.
There’s no shying away from it, despite the tremendous work Tantalus have done to get Cities Skylines running on the Switch – it’s rough. There’s been a lot of criticism about saying it runs poorly and that it’s has a low framerate – and it does. It’s not too troubling, however, because the game isn’t one of action; the slow framerate doesn’t impede on you enjoying the game, at least until you reach a certain point. Eventually, your city will get to a point where it’s big, and while the framerate struggles, it’s the other issues that are really distracting. The game sounds like it’s falling apart, the game’s audio pops and cracks as you move around your metropolis, and the game’s tools become slow and unresponsive. This happens in both handheld and docked modes, so there’s no escaping it.
Cities Skylines isn’t the prettiest game on the Switch either because of this; it’s fuzzy, and textures take a while to load in sometimes. The game’s weather effects make things almost impossible to see anything, and visual contrast is an issue during the in-game evening – it’s so dark and the sky’s colouring looks distorted to such a low color range that I just had to turn the day/night cycle off to get anything built.
Despite the issues mentioned here, Cities Skylines on the Switch is still tremendous fun to play no matter if you’re playing it on the TV or in handheld mode. Here’s hoping some of the technical issues can be ironed out as time goes on, but if you can put up with a little jank and don’t have a PC to check it out on, Cities Skylines is still the best city sim out there and now you can play it anywhere.
- Extremely competent city builder on the go
- Fully-fledged experience
- Lots of content built-in
- Framerate can be downright unplayable
- Low colour and clarity with real-time day/night cycle
- No mods