Cities Skylines: Campus Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and PC
Cities Skylines isn't so much a game, but instead is a constantly evolving city simulation platform that is being updated with new and exciting features. We've had a full industrial simulation, the addition of theme and animal parks and now university life is set to get a polish and expansion.
If you've played either of the other expansions you'll have a good idea about how this works - you designate University / Campus districts within your city and within these you can place the district specific buildings to create your place of learning. Universities remain in the game as they did before and can satisfy your citizens core education needs, but the new campuses bring with them a whole ecosystem of buildings - dormitories, learning centres, sports specialisms, tech-focused learning opportunities - and it's up to you to craft you campus in such a way that it attracts students to your city and becomes self sustaining through the income generated by the sporting events on campus.
As you build up your campus you'll find you will be required to do a fair amount of micromanagement - you'll need to employ staff to run your university and look at ways of making your university attractive to students - grants are an option and there are various policies that could both attractive and unattractive to potential students, but making the campus look good is also important. You'll need to keep a close eye on your student population to ensure there are new students coming in to replace those that graduate.
In terms of the sports-related additions - you get five new stadiums/arenas that can be placed either within the bounds of your campus district or anywhere else in the city - in the latter case they behave exactly as the existing stadium options do, but place them within the campus and they become 'Varsity' managed and this introduces the micromanagement that the rest of the campus brings with it - you'll need to hire cheerleaders and coaches in order to help your local teams do well.
The entire campus district needs to be well managed in terms of infrastructure too - public transport links are essential, especially around your sports arenas due to the disruption caused as people leave events. Proper management of a metro network and other public transport options is essential.
As your University grows in recognition and stature you can unlock further buildings and there are five tiers to rise through. It's all very familiar stuff and implemented in the thoughtful and exhaustive way we've come to expect. There is no requirement for every city you build to feature a campus district and there's no long-lasting impact to your overall city but it provides an interesting additional challenge that complements the metropolis you're aiming to build.
The one concern we have is that, as with Civilization, when time comes for Cities Skylines to get a sequel the base game will feel far lighter than fans have come to expect. The Civilization base games always go back to basics on each release with future DLC restoring a number of the features that were added to previous iterations and this could become an issue with the Skylines series in the future.
Cities Skylines: Campus has been available on PC for a while and that version plays exactly as you'd expect. Similarly the Xbox One and Playstation 4 releases throw in no surprises if you're already a Skylines player - the obvious caveat that a city building game feels more natural on a mouse and keyboard than it does on a controller; Paradox, however, have made the controller based version of the game as intuitive as they possibly can.