Silicon City looks in the face of modern city builders and says, “Not for me”. Instead of going for depth, like Cities: Skylines, or honing in on a theme, like Frostpunk or Surviving Mars, Silicon City decides to embrace the 90s city builder esthetic. Gone are the extensive highway systems and deep resource management, and in their place is the classic grid-based mechanic of your parents’ city builders of yesteryear. It’s a decision that will welcome new players to the genre, while turning grizzled vets away to look for something else.
Players new to city builders can plop on the training wheels and learn a thing or two in the story mode. Played out through four different scenarios, players learn how to properly zone their cities, how to run power through their populous, and how to make your city more attractive to new Silizens (you read that right, silizens not citizens). These scenarios are a great jumping-off point and only take about thirty-minutes to complete. In addition, Polycorne has included weekly challenge scenarios for players to compete in for the top spot on leaderboards. In this prerelease build of the game, there was only one additional scenario, but hopefully more can find their way into the game after release.
The fun in Silicon City comes in planning and building your city. Players who have been to the party before can jump in with classic mode (or sandbox mode) and get started. Depending on your PC, your city’s starting land mass can go up to a 256×256 grid. Players can also raise the difficulty, giving them less cash starting out and lessening the immigration rate into their city. Playing through on easy and normal
Starting from scratch, you’ll zone for residential areas, build roads, and create a power source. Once you’ve attracted silizens, you’ll need to zone grids for companies so they can find work. Silizens, just like many regular citizens, tie their happiness to their work. The happier your population, the more likely you are to grow. Objectives will give you things to build towards and give you an idea of what your city may be lacking. One such objective had silizens approach me with a petition for a decrease in the residential tax. Another challenge had me lowering taxes for farmers (These silizens really hate taxes).
As you attract more silizens, you’ll level up and gain access to more buildings, but aside from the public service structures, I found it hard to tell how later buildings were affecting my city, outside of giving my silizens jobs. The different park buildings offer some visual variety, but I could not readily tell you how a skatepark across from a residential area was making a difference in my city. A highlight of Silicon City’s buildings is the News Center, which offer breaking news live. The only breaking news I received in my time with the game were building fires, but it was nice to see how this one building was making a difference in my city.
In my time with Silicon City, I did not have many issues with traffic. My biggest population peaked at two-thousand and even trying for traffic jams, through building numerous crosswalks and destroying other routes, I failed to yield any. Quick side note; the bulldozer, which is hot keyed to F, doesn’t always properly shutoff after destroying a structure. I found myself accidently destroying buildings and losing process at a financially trying time for Beef City.
Your population is fickle, and you will lose silizens. There’s a Twitter stand-in where you can communicate directly with silizens, but it’s delivery of information is limited. You can look through happiness and work data, and the numerous informational maps Silicon City offers, but even with that information, I spent a lot of time wondering why I was losing silizens, when overall happiness was in the upper-90%. Using the maps to narrow down trouble areas, I would try to increase work in an area or add a park, but that addition offered no resolution. Most times the answer is to just expand out and hope the silizens show up and stay.
About Silizens, players can zoom in and watch these cute little monolith characters going through their day. As soon as you click on one, a human avatar for that silizen appears on their social media page. Marketing for the game leans heavy on the silizens, why not continue to do so in the game? You can track everything about every single silizen. Their work, where they live, and even the path they take on any given day. This information is a welcome addition, but once the ball gets rolling, it’s hard to keep track of any given silizen.
Polycorne recently put out a roadmap for additional features coming to the game over the next year. By the end of 2021 they promise a political career feature, silizen micromanagement, and more buildings. Building up to the end of early access in 2022, Polcorne hopes to have added a statistic system, mod support, and a multiplayer component. For those looking for a deep experience, look elsewhere. For those looking to get their feet wet with a city builder and find the likes of Cities: Skyline overwhelming, Silicon City is a great jumping-off point.