By putting players in control of city-planning without annoying barriers or online connectivity requirements, Cities: Skylines has established a reputation for being the best modern city-builder when it originally released two years ago. Though the PC release relies on mouse and keyboard controls, the game has leapt to Xbox One with full gamepad support and a new streamlined menu system. The result is the premier city simulation game on consoles.
Disregarding the new controls and revamped menu system, this is largely the game that garnered so much acclaim in 2015. Starting with a small, single-road town and building up to a bustling metropolis is just as addictive as ever. I love selecting the perfect plot of land and trying to plan my roads, electrical infrastructure, and sewage systems efficiently from the start. Watching your city steadily grow as you stave off bankruptcy and other unexpected hardships is still as satisfying as gaming accomplishments come.
The big question with regards to the transition to Xbox One was with how the controls would work on a gamepad. The ease with which I built a huge, sprawling city is impressive, and a testament to how much thought the developers put into the controls. On Xbox One, each individual build menu is placed on a hotbar at the bottom of the screen, which is accessible using the d-pad. Once you select something you want to build like a road or firehouse, you easily use the left analog stick to place it.
Thanks to the snap-on mechanics that already existed with Cities: Skylines, using the analog stick to connect roads, electric lines, and water pipes is simple. Of course, as with any snap-on system, the game can sometimes estimate where you are trying to place a piece incorrectly, but with the zoom functionality placed on the gamepad's triggers, it's simple and intuitive to zoom in to get extra detailed with your placement of buildings, zones, and other structures.
If you want to dig deeper into the more detailed menus like economy and policies, as well as purchase new plots of land, you just hold the Y button and it brings up a wheel menu that allows you to easily select one of those options. Once in there, you use the bumpers to navigate to the different screens within that menu. Because of this, it's simple to bounce between the taxes, budget, loads, and income/expenses screens within the economy menu.
Unfortunately, this version is missing a key feature from the original game. You're able to click the analog stick to pause time, but you cannot speed up the simulation. On several occasions, I stepped away while the game was running to let my population and money accumulate, where in the PC version I could simply speed up time.
This edition includes the After Dark expansion, which adds new specializations, transportation options, a day/night cycle, and more to the base game. Unfortunately, this package does not include the other expansions that have come to PC, like Snowfall and Natural Disasters, which is a major missed opportunity for this to be considered the definitive version.
Some annoying performance-based bugs hindered the base game, but those have been largely squashed in the two years leading up to this version's release. Outside of a few minor hiccups in the framerate, my city's rise to prominence and inevitable out-of-control death-spiral played out without any major technical problems.
Outside of the lack of the more recent PC expansions and the simulation speed options, Cities: Skylines - Xbox One Edition is every bit as good as its PC counterpart. The mayoral planning fantasy is still intact with this version, and now easier than ever to get into. Simply put, if you're an Xbox One owner who is a fan of city-building simulation games, you need to check out Cities: Skylines.
True to its PC reputation, Cities: Skylines is the best city-builder out there today.