If you’re a fan of strategy games, then you’ll find out that the decline of the RTS (Real Time Strategy) generation of games has led to the growth of a more casual variety of games with strategy elements. One of the few generations of games that struck a better chord with casual players are the city building games, where players have to design a city, while managing resources and dealing with issues constantly. If you’re new to the generation, or are an old strategy veteran looking forward to trying something new, city builders are always awesome (unless you hate the strategy generation entirely, that is!)
Here goes our list of the top 5 city builders one should explore if one really wants to know the franchise. (The list is not made in any particular order, all games are equally good!)
1) Cities Skylines :
If you’re a fan of designing modern cities from scratch, then Cities Skylines is the first title that should attract you, as well as the first title that you should buy if you want to dive into the generation truly. Set different areas as residential, commercial, and industrial zones. Industries are the most polluting, but pay the most taxes, while residences are required as the base of the city, with few commercial zones for the populace to shop in! Connect different regions of the cities with various types of roads, ranging from basic one-way lanes to the biggest 8-lane highways. Assign names to districts, specialize them in any manner possible! Generate revenue through taxes, and allocate a budget for the expenditure on the city! Deal with practical problems, like pollution, inadequate water supply or drainage systems, power cuts, and even traffic jams that need to solved in the most cost-effective manner possible, and yet help the folk living in your city. Micro management is quite important, as well-placed roads and zones can help tackle more than half the issues which you might face, which is exactly the strategy element of the game. Whatever it is you do, Mayor, it is your city, and you can look at that new mansion of yours while the rest of the city are flooding your mail with complaints.
2) Tropico 5 :
If you find yourself in need of some humor, and a decent city builder and planner, Tropico 5 is your best bet. Become the ruler of your fictional banana republic, which is a desolate island, with frequent in-game references to the Caribbeans as its geographical location. Despite being desolate, the island of Tropico has deep connections to the European Union since the beginning of the industrial age, when Tropico was an European colony. Gradually, it becomes independent and becomes a developing world power. How you pave the way for the escalation of Tropico to global recognition, is entirely your choice. What is new and entirely unique in Tropico 5 is the era system, where you are given a measure of time, where you advance through the eras, from the Colonial Era, to the World War era, to the Cold War era, and ultimately to the Modern Era. This is exactly what differentiates Tropico 5 from the other games in the series, though Tropico 4 does come close to adding the sarcastic element in the story. And if you want a laugh, and probably an insight into how a dictator rules his land, Tropico 5 portrays it beautifully through well-placed sarcasm that make fun of actual characters from history. Throw in lots of micro management, with managing production lines, to managing budgets for several buildings, to appointing managers, and whatnot for managing your treasury amount, which is the most important resource in the game. Whatever be it, you are El Presidente, the supreme ruler of the Caribbeans, and you should oppress the people as you see fit. Period.
3) The Settlers : Rise of an Empire :
While technically quite an old title in the city builder series, Settlers : Rise of an Empire defines the Settlers series as a whole, since it is technically the best game in the series. Settlers is one of the series which specializes in city building laced with strategy throughout. This is probably one of the games where you will need to think the most about the placement of buildings, about the management of various resources as well as focusing on keeping your people happy. In the world, you are not the only one trying to forge an empire, others are there too. Strike up a profitable trade relationship, or even help them out with their problems, or strike at them militarily, taking over their territory. Settlers : Rise of an Empire is the most decent entry in a series which continuously became better, until Settlers 7 : Paths to a Kingdom came along, with the new Ubisoft DRM, which caused a myriad of problems, and led to the downfall of the series. Here’s to hoping that Ubisoft revives the series soon enough, and restore ‘The Settlers’ franchise to its former glory!
4) SimCity 4 :
No list talking about city-building is complete without the roots of the generation, which kickstarted the concept of city building and micro management in a more casual form. Yes, it’s the one and only SimCity 4! If we’re talking city building games, SimCity deserves a mention, and among them, SimCity 4 is the best! Take a trip back to the times when computers were really not much of a common thing among the people, and when kids used to flock together at their rich buddy’s home, down in the basement, and have a blast. SimCity 4 keeps the strategy generation of retro gaming alive (because there were few “SimCity” clones back then, and city builders were often called “SimCity clones” because SimCity is what kickstarted the franchise).SimCity, the game which launched after 4, promising modern graphics with better features, ultimately led to a game with numerous bugs as well as connection issues resulting from the constant online DRM implemented as an anti-piracy measure, resulted in the fall of SimCity franchise from the heights SimCity 4 had reached. SimCity 4, the 8-bit city builder, where you can design cities at will, provide services for your citizens, and wreak havoc in various manners possible, while trying to design the most efficient, revenue generating city possible in the minimum investment. Yes, city building’s a business, and you’re the planner, the grand Mayor of SimCity! (On this note, let us hope Electronic Arts acts a little more sensibly in days to come and resurrects SimCity with better mechanics than before)
5) Anno 1404 :
One of the iconic city-builders ever to approach the generation is of course, Anno 1404. Set in the iconic era of the Holy Crusades, with the Christians trying to take back their land from the Muslims, the land where Christ was born. Complete with a story based in the medieval ages in Europe, with hidden twist that uncover as the player progresses through the story, the game is nowhere imperfect. Design a city on an island, starting small, from a small village, and satisfying the basic needs of the citizens, moving on to become one of the jewels of the European continent! Trade your way into richness, and conquer other’s lands as you wage naval warfare on an epic scale! All while maintaining a solid balance of the resource stashes back at home. Strategy is seen at every point in the game, from the placement of buildings to the optimization of resource flows between buildings, and engaging a wide area with buildings designed to keep the populace happy. The best part is, you get to play both as the Occident or the Orient, as either of them have resources the other needs to progress through the ages and into a proper civilization. Since Anno 1404, Anno 2070 came, which had its share of bugs, glitches and connection as well as other issues arising from the online DRM implemented, which shadowed the new features implemented in the game. Then came Anno 2205, virtually killing the multiplayer mode, and indirectly, the Anno franchise itself. Anno 1800 is set in an era where Ubisoft can engage a vast audience through the implementation of a lot of features, and is one of the games I am looking forward to in 2018. (Here’s to hoping Anno 1800 revives the Anno franchise!)
That’s all folks. Those are the games one needs to play in order to get started into the city building franchise, and learn what the strategy generation of games truly means (in a more casual sort of way).