Cities: Skylines - Switch Edition Review

October 9, 2018
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We don’t know about anyone else but building cities, for us, can be rather relaxing. Sure there are some stresses in running an entire city but the flow of Cities: Skylines - Switch Edition, like its brethren, can be a rather chilled affair. This is, in part, down to its relaxing, rather airy, soundtrack but also due to the fact that in order to grow, you must wait and you must plan. It’s these moments while you watch your residential zones sprout new inhabitants that you can soak in the views and appreciate the prettiness that your urbanisation is currently sprawling into. Cities: Skylines is never short of a vista or two and lends itself rather nicely to pretty screenshots.

There’s been some obvious streamlining and for those of you who may have played Cities: Skylines on another format will instantly spot the reduced draw distances and jaggier angles. This is only really noticeable if you zoom all the way in and it’s also here you start to notice the less detailed textures too. This isn’t a surprise and like many Switch ports it’s a necessary step to ensure the best gaming experience possible on Nintendo’s diminutive console. Though despite everyone’s best efforts here it seems that all their graphical cutbacks were mostly for naught.

Trees as far as the eye can.. Oh wait, there’s factories.

Even in a relatively small city any densely populated area can cause the game to lag when rotating round your map. Similarly, if you’re zoomed in and quickly drag across to make a long road the camera judders across trying its best to keep up. Whilst our review city isn’t a large settlement by any stretch, the fact we saw any juddering here suggests larger and more dense cities may exacerbate these issues. It’s probably a good thing, then, that the Switch edition only includes the first two expansions: Snowfall and After Dark. Had they included Natural Disasters or Mass Transit for example (two expansions that added quite a bit to the base game) it’s possible that the increase of assets that would have been displayed may have amplified these graphical issues and sooner.

The lack of the expansions means you’re getting a very lean version of Cities: Skylines. Some of them added some really fun and useful additions, especially the Mass Transit expansion. In the base game each public transport option was its own island. You could use all of them but there was no way to make them work together. Mass Transit changed all this as it allowed you to link them together via hubs. Mass Transit also tweaked a few things, our favourite being the addition of more visual indicators when laying roads. Nice big blue circles appear and line up and snap with other roads so you can connect your blocks up more easily. In the Switch edition, these are absent. Instead, you have to line them up using the grid and, with the imprecise left-thumbstick running the show, this is harder to achieve than you think.

Surely the rain’s helping here?

Whilst the HD rumble is leveraged to help you place buildings the controls overall are pretty average and we often found ourselves demolishing badly placed roads more often than we’d like. The Switch’s touchscreen isn’t used at all which we feel is a missed opportunity as it would’ve been a rather useful alternative for when we were laying out our roads or navigating around our city. Still, the controller layout is pretty straightforward with ZL and ZR handling zoom, L and R for moving through sub-menus and the right-thumbstick used for rotation. The D-pad is your main menu mover with Y used to select the miscellaneous menus for changing your zone-painting type or to access things like your finances. If you’ve played Cities: Skylines on the Xbox One then this layout should be pretty familiar and it does work. Despite this, however, the graphical stutters we faced playing the Switch edition makes it really, really easy to make mistakes.

Radio stations are also absent in this port which is a shame. On PC players are able to tune into different stations and, if they wish, purchase extra ones to expand their audible horizons. On Switch, however, there are none whatsoever to give you relief from the repetitive soundtrack. It can be drowned out by the rather delightful sounds of your, hopefully, bustling city but it’s a shame that there’s no ability to tune in to other sources of music. Joining radio stations in the absentee list are mods which, if we’re being honest, is no surprise. What it does mean is that Switch players are cut off from a fairly active mod community. Unable to enjoy the simple joys of browsing through an almost endless trove of different interchanges or types of oil tanks.

You’d think it’d look a tad more livelier.

Tantalus Media should be commended on what they’ve achieved in bringing the basic Cities: Skylines experience to the Nintendo Switch. Everything from the base game is here to help to you build the city of your dreams (or nightmares if you’re so inclined). It looks pretty good whether you’re playing on the Switch’s 6.2” screen or on your TV. Having a city builder this complex and rich playable on the go is wonderful and this reviewer would be lying if he said he didn’t play it late at night in bed hoping to fix his heavy traffic woes.

However, the graphical issues experienced dampen things somewhat as does the lack of scenarios or additional DLC. Whilst the latter may still be in the offing at some point in the future, the former was a great distraction from your own city’s problems as well as a great learning tool. Without them you’re forced to learn on the fly or scour the internet for tips and discussions on how to build successful cities. If you’re keen to have a city-building game to take with you on the go Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer but cross your fingers that the performance issues will be patched out in due course.

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Cities Skylines: Switch Edition is a serviceable city builder for Nintendo's portable wonder. However its graphical sluggishness, imprecise controls and lack of scenarios to complete dampens things somewhat.
Pete Taylor

A long time gamer since the days of the mighty ZX Spectrum +2. The bug really bit when I got a Sega Mega Drive 2 and it hasn’t let up since. Huge racing fan but I also enjoy losing myself in a well-told RPG and management sims. It doesn’t have to be good-looking to win my heart, it’s what’s deep down inside that matters.