Silicon City review

Polycorne’s new city builder puts a strong emphasis on listening to the voices of each citizen. Your urban design skills will determine whether you become the revered Mayor of all Mayors or an ineffective bureaucrat. The key to success lies in creating a pleasant living environment and winning re-election year after year by running a thriving economy.

Players familiar with games like SimCity, Cities: Skylines, and Tropico will find Silicon City to be similar in style and gameplay. As in these examples, we plan and construct our city, carefully managing income and expenses. However, Silicon City tries to set itself apart by focusing more on the well-being and desires of our citizens, known as “Silizens.”

The Silizens are generally likeable, each with their own personalities and needs. Fulfilling their requests can be as simple as placing civic services or increasing the levels of their homes.

However, there are a few issues that detract from the overall experience. First, the game’s full release feels premature, particularly for Mac OS. The Mac version suffers from numerous bugs and problems, rendering it nearly unplayable even on well-equipped machines. It’s evident that Windows support has been prioritised. Consequently, this review primarily focuses on the Windows version.

The frequent crashes and problems on Mac made my experience with Silicon City unpleasant and frustrating. The only saving grace was the music, which offers a chilled and electronic soundtrack that creates a relaxing backdrop for mayoral duties. It’s also worth mentioning that there are some spelling errors and other localisation issues present either way. While these issues don’t significantly impact gameplay, they can be noticeable and occasionally detract overall. However, the intention behind the messages and content is still understandable, and it’s hoped that these issues will be rectified in future updates. It’s a minor drawback that slightly lets the game down but doesn’t overshadow its enjoyable aspects.

Another issue lies with the tutorial stage, where some of the objectives have purposefully been locked before launch, for reasons I don’t fully understand. This mislead me into misunderstanding that certain elements of the game such as banking and loans may have been held back entirely, only to discover later that they become available deeper into the Classic mode. These small details shouldn’t have been cut from the tutorial, as the ambiguity was creating uncertainty which was affecting how I felt about the game.

Entering Classic mode felt daunting due to the rudimentary tutorial elements and the unexplained absence of bank policies, which felt like a glaring oversight. However, the experience wasn’t as painful as anticipated. Classic mode oversees the growth of your small hamlet into a bustling metropolis through a series of tasks and goals. This is where the magic starts to unfold. Depending on the chosen terrain, you can build and shape your world according to your vision. In my case, starting with a town featuring a beautiful beach area, I selected it as the central hub for early development. This became my “Venice Beach,” complete with palm tree-lined promenades perfect for skaters and shopping for unique hats. Loans ended up not being a problem, as when you’ve completely decimated your available funds and your balance drops towards zero, you’re gifted a bank and you access the financial aids by entering into the building screen.

Silicon City offers a refreshing take on urban planning. It keeps things simple by delivering power through roads, eliminating the need for unsightly power lines in your meticulously crafted landscape. Even dirt roads can carry the power! It’s these small details that make Silicon City a breeze to play, allowing you to focus on the grand task of creating a thriving metropolis.

Being a benevolent Mayor comes with its downsides too. Focusing too much on creating a pleasant environment with abundant civic amenities drives up land values. Trying to rectify it later with unsightly billboards can lead to unhappy Silizens who have lost their beloved parks to advertising hemorrhoid cream (probably). It’s a delicate dance between aesthetics and practicality.

After a couple of hours, you might find yourself wanting to start fresh with a better grasp of the game mechanics. It’s a learning process that allows you to refine your city-building skills and implement a more successful strategy. There is also replayability through the chosen terrains and difficulties to experiment with.

Not being particularly financially savvy, I must admit that making money in city-building games has always been a challenge for me. However, Silicon City offers a helpful solution by providing clear and understandable financial information through graphs and breakdowns. These visual aids give you a comprehensive view of your income sources and expenditures, making it easier to track your financial flow.

What’s even better is the ability to adjust taxes on the fly and instantly see the forecasted impact of those changes. It’s like having a financial crystal ball! I appreciated how Polycorne simplified the financial aspect while still providing enough depth for those who are more financially inclined. Personally, I struggled with some of the finer points, but with some trial and error, I slowly but eventually mastered the delicate art of balancing the books.

In Silicon City, your mayoral journey consists of striving to reach a total of five ranks before the election. To keep tabs on your popularity, you can view your mandate and see how you’re faring in the polls. If you’ve taken good care of your Silizens and met expectations, they’ll be eager to cast their votes in your favour, ensuring that your reign as Mayor continues for another four years. It’s a gratifying feeling to know that your efforts in creating a thriving and happy city are being recognised and appreciated by the residents. Another standout feature of Silicon City is the depth at which we can delve into the lives and needs of the Silizens. Despite their simple representation as black rectangles with career-themed clothing, there’s more to them than meets the eye. You can explore their individual personalities and even identify their strengths and desires. This added layer of detail made me genuinely invested in their well-being and made me yearn for more specialised zones and areas tailored to their specific interests. I longed for more art galleries to cater to the creative-minded Silizens, allowing them to pursue their dreams and passions. Although I couldn’t single out any particular Silizen to care about, I genuinely wanted all of them to be happy and prosperous.

It was disheartening to witness many of them struggling to pay rent and facing financial difficulties. As a Mayor, I felt a sense of responsibility to alleviate their burdens and improve their quality of life. However, I had to confront the reality of our own financial limitations, which added a bittersweet aspect to the gameplay experience. Nonetheless, this challenge motivated me to become a better Mayor and find ways to address their struggles within the constraints of our budget.

Silicon City’s ability to evoke such a strong sense of empathy and attachment to the Silizens, despite their minimalist representation, is a testament to the game’s immersive nature. It underscores the importance of considering the human element when crafting a successful city and emphasises the need to strike a delicate balance between economic prosperity and the well-being of its inhabitants.

Overall, Silicon City provides accessible financial management tools and an engaging public feedback system that keeps you motivated to excel as a mayor. So, even if you’re not a financial whiz, don’t worry—Silicon City has your back and offers enough guidance to help you navigate the intricacies of economic prosperity and political success.

Despite its issues, I genuinely enjoy playing Silicon City. One of its major strengths lies in its simplicity, which helps alleviate the overwhelming feeling of being in over your head that can often plague other games of this genre. Silicon City strikes a fine balance between providing depth and complexity while ensuring that players don’t feel overwhelmed or uncertain about their decisions.

This simplicity doesn’t detract from the overall experience; rather, it enhances it by bringing a sense of clarity and control. It’s refreshing to play a city builder where you can make progress without getting lost in a maze of intricate mechanics. It provides enough depth and challenges to keep you engaged, while still ensuring that the learning curve is manageable.

In a genre known for its complexity, Silicon City stands out as a welcoming and accessible option. It’s a game that allows you to enjoy the process of city-building without things feeling too chaotic, making it an ideal choice for both seasoned players and newcomers to the genre.

When you’re ready to delve deeper into the inner workings, you can click on each building to see its various statistics such as how many times it has been visited, what income it generates, how much it costs to run, who might live or work there and how many ‘Barkr’ posts have been made about it. All of these things are easy to read and understand.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially considering the early release issues and tutorial shortcomings. But as I started to explore the mechanics, interact with the Silizens, and witness the growth of my city, I found myself increasingly captivated by the experience. And yes, I noticed one of my Silizen’s being employed as the Assistant to the Regional Manager. These little touches add humour and surprise and made me keep a sharper eye out when looking into their lives. My only other complaint throughout the game was that I thought the colour palette was a bit dark, and generally could do with being made brighter to contrast and differentiate better between the zones, particularly in greener terrains.

The game’s ability to strike a balance between simplicity and depth played a significant role in winning me over. This balanced approach allowed me to gradually immerse myself in my now beloved Potatotown without feeling too confused or bored.

Moreover, the game’s emphasis on the well-being and desires of the Silizens added an emotional connection that drew me in. Despite their simple representations, I found myself genuinely invested in their happiness and success. Witnessing their struggles and striving to address their needs added a layer of depth and purpose to my gameplay.

While Silicon City doesn’t break the mould in terms of city builder games, the compelling aspects it brings to the table are enough to make it worth playing. Polycorne Games may not revolutionise the genre with this title, but they have crafted an experience that manages to captivate players with its emphasis on the lives and desires of the Silizens. Despite the initial release issues, bugs, and tutorial shortcomings, there is an undeniable charm to be found within the game. With future updates and improvements, Silicon City has the potential to carve its own niche and become a standout entry in the city builder genre. For now, it offers a short and sweet, enjoyable, and engaging experience that city builder enthusiasts will find worth their time. It has room to grow, just like a little town.

Polycorne’s Silicon City leaves early access on June 22nd. Available on Steam.