Cities in Motion Review

I originally wasn’t going to review Cities in Motion. I had enough retro reviews already and I still had quite a few 2011 games to play and review. However, I then realised that Cities in Motion is a 2011 game. This came as quite a surprise since I actually bought it on the last Steam sale for an insanely cheap price (probably $10 or something like that). Anyway what attracted me to this game was the fact it sounded a bit like Transport Tycoon, a classic transport management game which hasn’t really been beaten since. Does this game by Colossal Order have what it takes to be a Transport Tycoon beater?

Sound (2/5)
The sounds in the game are okay – you can hear the typical background noises of a bustling city (or rustic farming village) and different buildings emit different sounds (e.g. a church will have bells ringing, an amusement park will have the sounds of the rides). The only downside is that you may notice occasional audio glitches: For some reason, sometimes the volume or horns blaring becomes intolerably loud when you’re running the game on fastest speed.

Music (4/5)
The game has different styles of music playing depending on which era your game is currently in. This is a nod to Chris Sawyer games which employed a similar system (especially in Chris Sawyer’s Locomotion), however the older pieces are closer to fusion than actual jazz. The music isn’t for everyone though as there is a particular track that can get grating if you don’t enjoy a xylophone being hammered repetitively.

Graphics (4/5)
Cities in Motion is probably one of the better games out there in terms of Transport Tycoon clones when it comes to graphics. There is a lot of detail and you can even see the hundreds of passengers and cars heading to and fro throughout the city. The only reason it doesn’t get a full score is that I think there may be some issues with AMD/ATI drivers when you use the Rage Performance Driver (another game that I’m playing at the moment). It seems that when the Rage Performance Driver is installed, the game simply doesn’t work! However, uninstalling it and re-installing just the basic drivers seems to have fixed the problem!

Plot (3/5)
Unlike Transport Tycoon, there is a bit more plot in this game if you play the scenarios through the missions you play. In every scenario you’re in charge of implementing a public transport system but you’ll be advised by a variety of people.

However, there is one similarity that Cities in Motion shares with Transport Tycoon (or at least Transport Tycoon Deluxe) and that’s the lack of real-life vehicle names. It’s only a minor authenticity issue however, and to be expected unless you have wads of cash to spare on licensing fees.

Gameplay (3/5)
In Cities in Motion, you play the role of managing a city’s public transport system. You can create bus lines, tram lines, ferry lines, helicopter lines and metro lines. Provided you earn enough money from ticket fares to offset your expenses such as employee wages and maintenance, you will make a profit. The challenge is trying to find a combination of the most profitable routes and most suitable vehicles to service these routes. If you’re playing scenarios, you’ll also have other competing demands which may make your game more challenging (like eliminating routes because greenies don’t like buses as public transport). At the same time you’ll have to manage your reputation by ensuring you provide timely services and you can also invest money in advertising campaigns.

This mechanic of building a bigger, better and more profitable public transport network means the game has some of the same addictive qualities as Transport Tycoon. However, before you go thinking this is a worthy successor, let me just go through a few points that may make you change your mind.

The main drawback when compared to Transport Tycoon is that you’re running intra-city networks not inter-city. This means you don’t feel you’re having as much of an impact on a city’s development as you do in games like Transport Tycoon or even A-Train. To further emphasise the game’s limited nature and smaller scale, you’re limited in the modes of transport you can provide. There’s only inner city passenger transport in this game, no freighters, trucks, Jumbo jets or freight trains to be seen.

The game also seems to be targeted towards a more casual audience (or at least dumbed down when compared to Transport Tycoon). There is no competition in this game meaning the game is like SimCity in that it’s a sandbox game, unless you play the scenarios. Oh and the scenario missions don’t seem to progress in a linear fashion, i.e. sometimes you can finish a scenario without completing missions leading up to the final one (the one that triggers scenario completion). There is a chance of going deep into debt but considering some mission conditions don’t even check whether the money you have is borrowed or not can have hilarious consequences. For example you can complete a mission that wants you to have $20,000 in your bank account – The fact you may have to go $200,000 into debt in order to satisfy the condition doesn’t seem to bother the game in the slightest!

Another reason I think this game is tailored towards a more casual audience is that there is a lack of information on how profitable your vehicles are. Sure, each month it will tell you how much it generates compared to how much they cost to maintain, but over the long term, there’s no way to tell which are the most profitable lines.

Replayability (3/5)
The game has 12 scenarios which you play over five European cities (Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, Vienna and Helsinki) so the scenarios do get somewhat repetitive since you’re only playing the five same maps each time. There is the ability to purchase more maps and vehicles to increase the life of the game, but the cynic in me says they’ve only released half the game so they can make the rest of their money through DLC.

You are able to play the maps in a sandbox mode and there is also a map editor so you can make your own maps – however there doesn’t appear to be any way to build proper scenarios with scripted events as they do in the actual campaign, which is a shame. Playing your map will still generate generic mini-missions though (e.g. reduce your ticket prices).

The process of creating maps using the map editor is a bit cumbersome though especially if you want to have as much detail as there are in the campaign maps. For example, props such as fences need to be placed like bricks, one at a time. You cannot simply drag and drop them as a line, as you do with roads. There also doesn’t appear to be an official means of sharing your maps, although thankfully there are fan sites where you can share your creations and download maps (and mods) made by others.

Polish (4/5)
Besides the Rage Performance Driver issue I’ve mentioned before and some sound bugs, the game is pretty well polished.

Score - 7/10

Not a bad 20 hour distraction if you like transport management games – doesn’t have as grand a scale though as the classics.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.