A Fresh Look at Becoming the Mayor of a Metropolis

I love the city building genre just like almost every other man in his thirties. Maybe it’s my social anxiety, the fact I am garbage at shooting games, or the fact I just like creating something from nothing, but I really enjoy city builders. For some reason, this has become my version of that odd hobby that old men used to pursue like model trains or learning about ancient Roman history. Recently, I was thinking about the different versions of these games and how they all scratch a different itch.

I wanted to use this column to talk about some of the best city builders that I have recently played because what is more fun than playing these titles? It’s writing about them, or simply reminiscing about all the great cities and towns that you have built in your time as a virtual mayor, construction boss, engineer, dictator, survivor, city planner, or whatever other role these games put you in so that you can construct those cities of the future.

Cities: Skylines (PlayStation 4 Edition)

Cities: Skylines was the first city builder I broke ground on since SimCity 2000. It was offered for free as a game of the month for PlayStation Plus. And if it says free, I’m getting it. It is very much in the SimCity vein as you develop the roads and infrastructure, but the city also develops itself. I say develops itself, but you still zone locations as industrial, residential, or commercial. I love these types of city builders because I get to use a lot of land and watch this mega city develop.

I even found myself making a story for my city. The people who lived across the toll bridge in Chester Falls were snotty and did not want any high-density housing. They also wanted a toll-free bridge to the other nice neighborhood, especially after the new soccer stadium was built off of the main highway.

My problem with city builders is that they eventually get so large it causes anxiety. Maybe if I tried Cities: Skylines on my gaming laptop instead it might be different. But there was a turning point where the calm switched to stress, and it became harder to play. That and I struggle with city builders that require me to build power lines. That said, Cities: Skylines was pretty forgiving with that.


I recently did a review on Timberborn (it is being published by GiN next week). As a sneak peek, I absolutely loved it. It had an interesting gameplay loop involving gathering resources and building various structures for your beaver populace to use in a post-human world. Timberborn itself is a lot of fun, but where it got me was one of my key weaknesses, design. I’m glad I did not go into engineering as I do not have the artistic mind to plan cities with clean lines ahead of time.

Seeing some of the towns I developed in Timberborn amazed me as all of them looked haphazard at best. With Timberborn, I got the buildings constructed as I needed them, but then my old nemesis, power lines, came into play. For example, I realized that my village looked great, other than the fact that there were buildings that needed power yet were blocked by other buildings and tree replanting zones. Read my upcoming review for more about the title itself, but even I was able to overcome my issues and build a paradise or two for my gang of busy beavers.

Against the Storm

I ended up liking Against the Storm more than I thought I would to be honest. It’s similar to Timberborn in that you start with a small village, but it is quickly built up as you complete objectives. Afterwards, you go to the world map and set up a new village and after so many turns a storm wipes out all of your work and you start over again. At first that annoyed me, but then I actually started enjoying the short run at villages because it prevented the Cities: Skylines problem of things getting too large and unwieldy. Plus, if you make a mistake, there is no need to sweat. It’s all gonna get wiped anyway.

That said, Against the Storm didn’t quite provide the satisfaction of watching what was once just empty land develop into a large metropolis. Sometimes, that feeling of putting in the work and watching something come to life is what you need. These titles have all achieved their main goal of helping me procrastinate from doing my accounting homework, which instead of bringing me joy simply makes me want to scream. If you are trying to avoid something that makes you scream in frustration, might I suggest a good city builder to take your mind off of everything other than constructing the next great metropolis?

I still have not beaten Final Fantasy XIII.

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