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City Limits Review

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City-builders are generally considered “pretty chill” games. When the lights came on to signify night-time in Cities: Skylines I felt a massive sense of relaxation. Heck, even in more intensive games like Surviving Mars it was still therapeutic seeing the little cubes of resources being transported places.

Which is why City Limits leaves me at a bit of a crossroads. Is it a chill city-builder thanks to its minimalist – bordering on poorly explained at times – gameplay, or does the inclusion of a persistent threat lull me into realising this is more intense than I was previously led to believe.

Read on as this review becomes as much about me trying to decide whether or not I like City Limits, attempting to inform the reader at the same time.

city limits review 1
Kicking off with City Limits

As you may well have gathered, City Limits is a lo-fi city builder, emphasis on the lo-fi. In it, you are given a pixel art style grid with which to construct your metropolis, using various types of buildings that appear on the right hand side of the screen. You generally have four to choose from, with one being randomly replaced each time you use one.

City Limits has another trick up its sleeve though. On the opposite side of the screen are these icons that, at first, look very confusing. They are trying to tell you that setting up buildings in a certain configuration can create a combo, that will cause them to upgrade and sprout new buildings and green areas beside them.

There is a brief tutorial of sorts – right after an achievement for literally starting the game – that goes into details about how City Limits works with combos and building types. But being as lo-fi as it is, the descriptions of what each building does can be a little obtuse.

The same goes for the options as well. These are just little diagrams without any description at all as to what they do. With them, you can change the background colour, amend the viewpoint of the grid and even redo a mistake. But they’re trial and error really; not what you want from an options menu.

I never thought I would bemoan a game for being too laidback in its approach, but here we are.

city limits review 2
It may look confusing, but this is pretty laidback

As well as creating new areas, comboing also offers those buildings protection from an encroaching entity. You will see this large spike randomly placed as you start a new map and whilst it looks fairly tame when you start, after each time you place a building, a new spike pops up in an adjacent tile. It can quickly take over multiple tiles, and once claimed, there is only one building that can remove it. However, if your buildings have been comboed, their tiles cannot be claimed by the spikes. If they haven’t been comboed and a spike is going to appear there, that building will be lost.

As well as the pre-established combos, one randomly generated configuration can be created at a time. Completing these will award you with unique buildings that offer new gameplay elements. The docks for example, allow a fifth building to be selected, but only for a few times. The modern flat building is perhaps the most useful as this allows you to remove spikes, and itself can even be used in combos.

The chill comes from the fact there is no fail state in City Limits. Yes, the spikes can destroy your hard work, but the only punishment is to your score after you have completed a grid. That, and the relaxing music and general lo-fi aesthetic.

If you want to make City Limits even more chill, there is a mode that allows you to build any sort of city you want. Firstly, choose the size of your grid and then select from any of the building options to create your own urban delight.

city limits review 3
Just don’t expect too much from City Limits on Xbox

It’s in using this mode with which you will quickly learn the limitations of City Limits. Even the main mode runs out of steam quickly, with the only real goal being to improve upon your highscore. The endless mode will highlight that there aren’t that many different building types. There are only four major ones, with the remaining ones being awarded for completing set patterns.

But maybe we shouldn’t expect too much of a game that costs £4.19.

City Limits is very chill, and whilst that shouldn’t be a substitute for the word ‘boring’, it isn’t very good either. With limited scope and limited gameplay, the only thing elongating it are laborious achievements. Within a matter of moments you will have made all available combos and seen everything there is to see. Yes, it is open-ended, but there should be more on offer to stop the fun drying up so quickly.

But, for an evening or two, and at that price, perhaps you shouldn’t expect much else from City Limits.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Lo-fi chill city builder
  • Lo-fi chill aesthetic
Cons:
  • Poorly designed menus
  • Lack of building variation
  • Lack of content
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - JanduSoft
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 6 July 2023 | £4.19
Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Lo-fi chill city builder</li> <li>Lo-fi chill aesthetic</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Poorly designed menus</li> <li>Lack of building variation</li> <li>Lack of content</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - JanduSoft</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 6 July 2023 | £4.19</li> </ul>City Limits Review
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