Cities in Motion review
Cities in Motion is currently only available on the PC.
Whilst the majority of genres now exist on the console, there are still a number that we PC-snobs are still able to call our own (for the most part). The tycoon genre has been incredibility popular throughout the history of PC gaming, spawning over 180 titles, at least by Metacritic's count. A few games have taken the leap from PC to console, but they've been met with limited success. The next company to put their hat into the ring is Paradox Interactive with their latest title Cities in Motion. Will this offer a fresh experience on the genre?
Cities of Motion could arguably be filed under "yet another management game" but a closer look reveals that it offers quite a bit of flexibility. The best game to compare this to is Traffic Giant. Both games task you with the heavy burden of managing a city's transportation infrastructure. All manners of transport are at your disposal from the lightweight bus system to more complex networks such as an underground metro system or helicopters. Each adds their own bunch of quirks and complexities to the game.
That's a lot of people waiting for a bus. Must be London.
Cities in Motion looks fantastic; the initial isometric view is reminiscent of tycoon games of the past, but the game is rendered in 3D allowing you to adjust the camera as you see fit, with the expected zoom and rotation options. Zooming right in lets you see pedestrians wandering the streets including the odd pensioner plodding along on a zimmer-frame.
There are two ways to play Cities in Motion. The first, campaign mode, takes you from city to city, taking over transportation duties from whatever lackey they had beforehand. The game's first city, Berlin, sees you taking over from the dithering old transport minster, who frankly has no idea how to run a bus service, let alone manage an entire city. Your first order of business is to manage the city's ageing fleet of sparsely separated routes and combine them together. From there, the game's campaign sends a large mix of various objectives to you over the course of a level, most of which centre around two types; connecting strategic locations together via lines or transporting specific numbers of people through your network. This is not the limit of the objectives as others show up from time to time, but they mostly boil down to those two types already mentioned. Other random events come into play occasionally affecting your routes, such as a military parade that blocks up some of the city streets. Once you've had your fill of the missions, you can then work with sandbox mode. This grants you free reign over any of the campaign's four cities or those that you've created (more on that later), with your only limit being the funds in your bank account (although a bank loan can let you bend those limits!).
The overlays let you keep track of your city
In case you ever get bored of the maps and campaigns provided, Cities in Motion has you covered. The game provides you with a fully fledged level editor, very reminiscent of the SimCity games. From within Cities in Motion you can quickly create a busy metropolis or a chilled out suburb, with a wide range of buildings and terrain types from all of the main campaign's cities. There is also terrain sculpting and painting facilities so you can shape the land as you see fit. Unfortunately, with all this functionality, it;s a shame that there's no way to share your creations or to see the creations of others. Additionally, it would have been nice to create your own objectives but sadly your only choice is to play it in the sandbox mode.
The interface does rather well at creating tiers of complexity. The more basic options, (building tracks, etc) are at the forefront at the top of the screen. Once you have the basic layout built, more advanced options are then a click away in another menu, allowing you to assign vehicles to routes, etc. Finally, the Headquarters menu allows you micro-management your transport routes, creating marketing campaigns or adjusting the price of tickets for individuals transport groups or tiers of people (workers and tourists, for example). The game also allows you to customise your view, highlighting important routes and hiding others, which helps you keep track of which routes you need to keep an eye on. There is also an information view that overlaps a heatmap over the top of the cities. Want to see what areas tourists frequent? You got it. Want to see traffic? Just see which areas are green on the heatmap.
You can take famous landmarks and place them in your own city
Whilst on the topic of the interface, only two problems cropped up over the course of the playing Cities in Motion, both of them related to the interface. The most frustrating of the two is a performance issue which caused my PC to drop framerate to almost single digits, which was surprising when I considered it to be of above average specification. The game allows you to tag an object or location; this will create a pop-up in the lower right corner of the screen, which not only provides you with useful statistics but also attaches a camera to that item, creating a mini-viewport for you to keep tabs on that item. It is the latter feature that caused the aforementioned performance issues. So much so that I had to reload an older save and avoid clicking on anything. This issue also highlighted another interface problem; the lack of a deselect button. There were a number of times when I had finished with a tool but I could not hide the action to use it. The way around this is to select the information tool, but I would have preferred an option that wouldn't trigger an action from a inadvertent mis-click or would allow me to hide the second viewport that caused the performance issue. Both issues are annoyances rather than show stoppers, but it would be nice to see these addressed in a patch.
That's a lot of transport infrastructure for one house!
This genre may not be everyone's cup of tea, but fans of tycoon and management games will find plenty to love here, whilst still keeping the interface simple enough for those who want to dip their toes in the water. This is also a game that lacks in innovation; everything we see in this game has been done before in games past, but whilst it doesn’t add anything new to the table, the execution of what it does do is to a high level of quality. It does have a few niggling interface and performance issues but they never truly get in the way of what is a all-rounded and interesting management game.
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