If I had to list my favorite genres of games, strategy and tactics would probably hover somewhere by the bottom. But there’s always an exception to the rule, and city building games are mine. Having dumped endless hours of my life into games like Sim City 4 and Cities Skylines, it was a no-brainer backing the New Cities Indiegogo campaign.
The first few days of receiving a key for, and downloading New Cities, I would try to launch the game from Steam only to have it immediately crash. Considering New Cities is only available to backers of the campaign, I wasn’t surprised to find that there were no answers to my dilemma. So I reached out to the developers behind the game, Lone Pine, and over the course of a handful of emails and a few days, I finally got the game up and running.
Finally able to actually play New Cities, I loaded up a new world only to be a little intimidated by the sheer scope of the city I could make. In games like Cities Skylines, you’re given a large map with several plots of land to pick from to start your city in. New Cities goes hog-wild with this idea, and just allows you to start anywhere on the map. You can zoom in and out till your heart’s content and just kind of build whatever you want anywhere, which is a little overwhelming.
Unlike its modern counterparts, New Cities is going for the Sim City 4 approach of having things be more grid-based, and not allowing for curved roads or anything like that. Which is fine for now honestly considering I start all of my cities on a grid anyway, but I’m sure people would like that option in the future. This throwback style not only exists in its mechanics, but in its visual presentation. Everything has a low-poly look too it, with buildings and scenery drenched in these shifting pastel hues. Sometimes everything is covered in a cool purple light, and it feels like I’m building a vapor-wave city which is something I’m very into.
Keeping in mind how early of a build of New Cities I’m currently playing, it doesn’t feel right to harp on the things it’s missing or aren’t surfaced well just yet. I’m sure everything is subject to change, but it’s worth highlighting some areas of improvement.
Navigating the UI is a little more cumbersome than I would like. The menus aren’t overly complicated or complex, but there aren’t any tool-tips that can explain what I’m clicking on. Opening up the statistics on your city give you various graphs and numbers that I’m sure would help me if I could understand what I’m looking at. Like I said, it’s still in development, so I’m not upset these things aren’t super well explained, but these things are definitely issues I’d like to see fixed.
Along with UI issues, just like a lot of city-builders, not a lot is explained to you in terms of progression. When you start, you do the standard thing of building roads and zoning for residential, retail and agricultural and that’s it. There’s nothing else you can build in the early goings until you get upwards of 1000 – 5000 residents in your town. Without things to build, terraforming, or unique infrastructure, it makes your city feel very empty and extremely generic.
There aren’t any power, water, or sewage requirements, which takes away the resource management of traditional city-builders, making the early game even less engaging, making the only thing you need to pay attention to be your cash flow. There are some icons that’ll pop up over buildings that indicate joblessness, lack of customers and something that just says, “no freight,” but there’s nothing that I’ve found that really instructs you as to how to deal with any of that.
One interesting thing about New Cities is how expensive everything is. I understand that in the real world, things are expensive and buildings and infrastructure are pricey, but it’s a little weird when a police station costs more than half of your starting budget. That isn’t a complaint, that’s just me being caught off guard by the sheer price of everything. I kind of screwed myself in one city by starting on an island. Once I ran out of space, I decided to expand onto the mainland. Or at least I would have done that if bridges didn’t cost 300 million dollars to build. So now I just have like 9000 people stranded on an island forever.
But I can’t be too hard on New Cities considering it’s still in active development, with plans of hitting early access later this year. The experience is thin and in places obtuse, but this feels like a really good proof of concept to, pardon the pun, build off of. The core of New Cities is solid, but needs an injection of things to build and manage especially in the early game, as well as a general pass at improving the little quality of life stuff like tool-tips. I think New Cities can be something special with enough time, and I look forward to following it as it progresses.