A Beginner's Guide to Cities: Skylines
Starting out in Cities: Skylines can be a daunting task. The game does minimal hand-holding in those first few hours, providing you with tooltips and not much else to get by. After little more than a few minutes in mayor school you’re pushed into the wide open world and told not to mess things up. Somehow this is the beauty of the game, though – making mistakes and learning from them – and one that can provide an entertaining learning curve.
If, however, the thought of starting another game makes you queasy, then never fear! Following numerous false starts, bankruptcies, floods, traffic nightmares and unhappy cities, I’m here to give you eight tips on starting out in this seminal city builder so your cities don’t end up like my disastrous first attempts.
1. Avoid the Highway
It may become the lifeblood of your city in the future, but it’s is good practice to distance your initial zones away from the highway that connects you to the outside world. Not only will this give you more room to zone and to build, but when the inevitable traffic problems start, having it all clogging the main entrance to your city can really escalate things as you near the larger population goals.
2. Create the Spine
As soon as you have a rough plan for how your town is going to look, designate an area where the ‘spine’ of your city (your main highway) will run. Remember that, while this will be the main road for traversing your burgeoning metropolis, it shouldn’t be where everyone has to go to get to work – build roads that go over or around the highway for those citizens who just want to hop across town for work or to shop.
3. Please your Pedestrians
Just because the pedestrian path is in the ‘decoration’ section of the UI doesn’t mean it’s just for show! Pedestrians, much like real people, will walk to their work or closest shop if it’s close enough. Putting paths for them to do so means they’ll take that chance. Cims in Cities: Skylines will take the shortest route to work – if that shortest route means they can simply walk then that’s one less car clogging up your streets. Pathways can be raised above roads too, meaning you can create cool walkways that criss-cross your main streets.
4. Avoid Intersections
Intersections are the devil. You will learn this very quickly. While most city planners and traffic analysts (yes, I’ve read up on this to help design my cities, don’t judge me) have a three-tier road system composed of highways (your six lanes) connecting streets (four lane each-ways) and local streets (two-way smaller roads) it doesn’t work that way in the game. Every connection between roads that have two-way traffic will result in an intersection (not the UK’s spiffing roundabouts) and a set of traffic lights. Traffic lights slow down traffic dramatically as your Cims try to go four ways at once. This leads onto the next point…
5. One Way or the Highway
One-way streets can be a lifesaver. Use them to push traffic away from heavily congested areas or to force drivers off of busy roads earlier. For example, if a car is going around your town in a circle pattern, it will have to drive all the way around to get to its destination. Adding a one-way road through the middle will ensure traffic that needs to get to that one side will take that option earlier, clearing up room for other road users.
6. Clean Industry = Clean City
Trying to find a way to connect your commercial and industrial zones together? Designate your industry sector (using the handy district tool) as one devoted to forestry or farming. These industry types do not produce natural pollution, so can be a great buffer zone between your other districts and your smelly industry sector.
7. Bring Out Your Dead
Cities: Skylines has a rather macabre way of dealing with death and body disposal. When your Cims die they’ll need to be taken to a graveyard. If not, bodies will start piling up at your clinics and hospitals, which, I’m sure you can imagine, isn’t a very pleasant thing for your citizens to encounter. Graveyards should be placed on roads where the hearses (which will be in constant use once your city grows past 10,000 people) can travel in and out freely (this is where one-way roads come in handy).
8. The Magic Bus
Public transport can be a life saver for a city on the up. Every bus can hold around 20-30 Cims, and with a fleet of up to 30 buses per depot, that means that a lot of cars will be off the road. Build bus depots as soon as you can and begin to plot journeys. Don’t just do it willy-nilly, though; Cims appreciate routes that have multiple stops near their homes and take them to shops, amenities and work. Circular routes should be as simple as possible to ease the burden on traffic. Similarly, since your busses will stop to let people on and off, make sure they won’t clog up the roads behind them by placing your stops in places where they won’t interfere with traffic.
The most important thing to remember when playing Cities: Skylines is that there is no shame in starting again if you mess up. Experimentation has led to some of my wackiest and most enjoyable cities, and each has helped me create a better city on the next play through. If you’re looking for more hints and tips, we have another article here. Not convinced about getting the game? Our review can also be found right here.