Cities: Skylines on Xbox One — Building a city has never been more fun

Cities: Skylines was first released back in 2013, delivering a deep city-building simulator for both Windows and Mac. Offering unmatched scale in its worlds, the game soon gained a notable reputation for the extensive opportunities offered throughout its sandbox. With its success mostly driven by a passionate and creative community, the game garnered a significant player base which still thrives to this day.

Now, two years after the game's initial debut, Cities: Skylines is finally making its way to Xbox One this spring. After an initial announcement in 2015 and the lengthy radio silence that followed, we're finally beginning to see the result of Colossal Order's efforts in bringing the game to the console.

However, being a game built solely for mouse and keyboard, Cities: Skylines underwent some heavy changes during its transition to Xbox One. With the challenge of streamlining the game's precise mechanics to operate with a gamepad, both the game's controls and user interface have seen significant tuning. As a part of the Games Developers Conference (GDC) 2017, we managed to get out hands on "Cities: Skylines: Xbox One Edition" to see how the game fares when away from the trusty mouse and keyboard.

Build it your way

Cities: Skylines: Xbox One Edition introduces an entirely reworked user interface for the console.

Although I never invested a huge amount of time into the original version of Cities: Skylines, it's easy to appreciate the sheer wonder behind the game's potential. Giving players the ability to build and manage their own cities, the game provides a level of scale and freedom rarely seen to such a degree in gaming. This is arguably the magic behind the title and a huge factor in the game's success on PC.

As you'd expect, construction is a huge aspect of Cities: Skylines, with the tools available to build out your city on the fly. Between tools to mass-produce city blocks and more accurate options on a per-building basis, Cities Skylines offers a range of both challenging and creative opportunities in city conception.

Management is another core component of gameplay, with the need to keep track of dozens of statistics and data to ensure your citizens are as happy as possible. Whether streamlining the efficiency of your city, keeping the inhabitants healthy, or simply expanding alongside the population, Cities: Skylines is an ongoing challenge to monitor and act on the events occurring in your world.

On a surface level, Cities: Skylines core gameplay aims to offer this balanced mix of both building and management. However, by enabling Sandbox Mode, players can also experience unlimited money and let their imaginations run wild.

New console, new heights

The only major difference between the PC and console versions of Cities: Skylines is the control scheme – an aspect of the game which was heavily tuned to suit the change of input method. With mouse and keyboard offering a different level of complexity than a gamepad, porting the game over while still maintaining precision was a huge undertaking.

Cities: Skylines: Xbox One Edition introduces an entirely reworked user interface for the console, built to accommodate for differences in the two inputs. Among these changes is a reworked menu bar situated across the bottom of the screen that provides easy access to various assets for your city. The game also takes advantage of radial menus, to give you quick access to management tools on the fly.

Cities: Skylines looks like an exemplary port on the Xbox One, managing to retain both the complexities and precision of the original game with a controller input. Although this results in a somewhat different style of play, significant attention has been clearly provided in ensuring the console version still delivers the same open-ended gameplay we've come to expect.

Budget cuts

You lose support for mods – a part of Cities Skylines which prospered on PC.

Overall, little has been lost during the move over to the console, with a special effort having been made to preserve the original Cities: Skylines experience. At launch, all of the content available in both the base game and After Dark expansion will be available to players, with more expansions expected to follow in the coming months. Otherwise, all other components of gameplay have supposedly made the transition to Xbox One, with only minor changes to account for controller input.

On console, you'll lose support for mods – a part of the Cities Skylines experience which prospered on PC. Arguably the driving force behind the game's large community, mods played a huge role in bringing an additional level of player creativity to the sandbox. Although this is understandable due to the closed nature of the console, numerous companies have started to introduce methods of modding Xbox One titles. When asked about mods, Paradox Interactive told us they've been considering mod support on console, but didn't have any announcements to make.

Following the move to x86 architecture for the Xbox One, we've seen a fair share of somewhat effortless ports from existing PC versions. With emulated cursors and questionable optimization across far too many titles, it's great to see Paradox Interactive taking the extra steps to deliver an experience that's true to the original vision of Cities: Skylines.

Although some minor shortcomings leave the Xbox One version with less content at launch, this is only a minor gripe in what appears to otherwise be a near-flawless shift onto Microsoft's flagship console.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.