Back at Gamescom in August, hidden away from the big show floor booths in a back room, a Switch port of Cities Skylines was playable. Kotaku UK spent a decent amount of time playing the port, watched a trailer, and now that it has been revealed we can let you know that it honestly seems... a bit rough.
I got to mess around with the earliest sections of the game, and there is a new tutorial (a lot more extensive than that on other platforms) which seems to assume complete unfamiliarity with the genre. It holds your hand beyond the point most players might need, in my opinion, but if you're a total neophyte this may be the one.
This is a strategy game, on a controller, and to its credit Cities: Skylines has customisable button layouts, alongside a huge number of differing control schemes. Notably absent were options for any kind of touch screen support. The touch screen does not do anything, whether in menus or when constructing cities, which seems like a wasted opportunity.
Going on the Gamescom build, Cities Skylines on Switch does support video capture via the capture button, nice in theory but unlikely to be worth much in practice - the game doesn't look good in motion, even when you've built things impressive enough to want to show off.
That's the big problem with this port: performance. My hands-on experience began with dropping into an empty map with some basic roads, and the game was smooth. However, we then jumped forward to a save file with a completed and complex city built, at which point things went south fast.
Textures and visual effects, even when viewed from a distance, were of poor quality. Water in particular looked poorly handled, and stuck out whenever it was part of a shot. The real issue however was when trying to rotate around the city, zoom in or out, or basically interact in any way with a large completed city. This invariably caused severe slowdown and framerate chugging. The Switch seemingly couldn't handle the game it was playing, and it did not feel good to interact with.
I would not want to show off a complex completed city using the share button, because it just doesn't look good. I tried this both in handheld and when docked, and the performance issues were equally poor. Cities Skylines on Switch runs fine in the early game, but it seems like it can't handle the big stuff without seriously suffering. Perhaps it's just a question of fine-tuning, but what I've seen makes me very wary indeed.