City-builder games have long enjoyed success as one of the more popular niches in gaming. You could even argue it’s not a niche at all with classics such as SimCity and modern favorites like Cities: Skylines dominating YouTube. Now Citystate is here, with its retro graphics and new ideas to spice the genre up.

Keep Politics Outta Ma Gaims!

Developed by the creatively named Citystate Dev, Citystate is a part city-builder and part political and economic simulation. You can build your own city and even customize maps in the game, as you’d expect, and even create your own flag using the in-game editor. What sets Citystate apart from other games in the genre is the higher focus on politics and the economic maneuvering.

Most city-builders relegate the economy and politics to the background. In Citystate, they take center stage, as you play the permanent leader of your city. You’ll have to deal with specific policies like drugs, immigration, economy types, and hundreds of unforeseen problems that’ll inevitably rise. The economy is also tied into the politics, as you’ll have to monitor the stock market, supply and demand, and manage different social classes.

There are a few examples of how this all ties together on the Steam page and the game’s trailer. You may be asked to create a policy on retail regulation – do you let stores sell whatever they want, whenever they want to, or can they only sell government approved items at locations under your control? There are of course middle ground options for all of these questions, but something tells me in today’s political climate, those won’t see much action.

An Old School Package

Another big selling point of Citystate would be its nice shiny coat of nostalgia. The graphics are evocative of SimCity 4 from 2003 with its 2D sprites and isometric camera. I’m also getting shades of Age of Empires and RollerCoaster Tycoon, for some reason.

There’s no doubt that Citystate takes inspiration from a nostalgic wave of what city-builders used to be, but also a vision of what they could one day become. Games that take old ideas and give them a new spin is exactly why I roll my eyes whenever I see the umpteenth million 2D, pixel art platformer without a single original idea in its head. More developers should take inspiration from classic games, not try to copy them wholesale.

Citystate releases on February 22. Check out our YouTube channel that week to see our review.

Josh Griffiths

Josh Griffiths

Executive Editor
Josh Griffiths is a writer and amateur historian. He has a passion for 3D platformers, narrative-driven games, and books. Josh is also Cliqist’s video producer. He’s currently working on his first novel, and will be doing so on and off for the next decade.
Josh Griffiths