Cities Skylines 2 overview: a strong basis for a spec-hungry future traditional

Kath Santarin
11 Min Read

After years of expansions and DLCs, Colossal Order and Paradox are lastly urgent reset on Cities Skylines. For this type of simulation sport, this can be a large second. These titles aren’t a lot video games as they're platforms for years of content material and enlargement – and so beginning recent is a really large deal certainly.

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Fortunately, Cities Skylines 2 is a smartly-designed and clearly very rigorously thought-about reimagining and retooling of a lot of what made the primary sport a beloved inheritor to the city-building style. With that stated, it’s additionally a sport that's clearly the muse for a platform that’ll run for the subsequent decade – with struggles and slight cut-backs that relate to that.

In the event you’re new to the entire shebang, the Skylines sequence is a descendent of the likes of Cities in Movement and (in fact) SimCity; the place you’re put into the function of a benevolent eye-in-the-sky mayor and let free to dictate every little thing about how town is designed and functioned.

Curiously, this time round there’s no main ‘eventualities’ or story mode – although there’s a ability tree the place new buildings and options have to be unlocked as your metropolis grows, which creates a campaign-like development. In addition to contending with the wants of town, you’ll additionally have to battle issues like pure disasters, excessive climate, and even points like homelessness. This time across the simulation is deeper and extra intricate – although a lot thought has additionally been put into ensuring that these intricacies don’t develop into irritating distractions.

Each cloud. | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

This type of sport is troublesome to sum up, but when I had been to achieve for a single phrase to outline Cities Skylines 2 when in comparison with its predecessor, I’d go for ‘scale’. It is a bigger scale, broader, and plainly extra bold sport at each degree. It’s maybe most blatant, nevertheless, within the sport’s featured buildings.

By featured buildings, I imply the particular, essential buildings you place all through your metropolis – issues that present a particular utility like faculties and faculties, police and fireplace stations, energy vegetation, and so forth. Subsequent to none of this stuff are new (although how Skylines 2 breaks up and transfers utilities has been tweaked, and there are a number of new components that aren’t within the first sport) – however all of them are bigger.

I imply this actually. Whenever you place an oil-fired energy plant or a medical college on the map, it’s huge. It dwarfs every little thing. Within the earlier sport, it felt like even the most important and most important landmarks had a reasonably agency higher restrict when it comes to their potential measurement. In Skylines 2, inserting these buildings appears like extra of a real occasion, and helps to outline your metropolis extra, due to how a lot they stand out. Many of those buildings could be expanded, too – made bigger so as to add new performance or to bolster their present setup.

The size feels prefer it’s come from a want for visible spectacle, for the flexibility to create cities that extra carefully resemble the actual factor. This results in new instruments for ease of crafting the form of roads and a practical metropolis format, in fact. But it surely additionally means there’s extra artwork for a assorted variety of buildings. There is a tighter simulation, the place you may zoom proper in and watch one particular NPC go about their day for those who like. Even issues like branding has been rigorously thought-about, with a whole bunch of pastiche model names and logos featured within the sport to pack your cities out with realistic-feeling companies.

Aerial shot of a city in Cities Skylines 2
All roads result in biome(s). | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

All of this creates a curious paradigm: a sport that feels a lot bigger, but in addition extra granular. That is additionally expressed within the metropolis boundaries themselves. Particular person tiles that you just purchase to broaden your metropolis’s footprint are a lot smaller, that means you unlock much less floor early on. However as your financial institution steadiness balloons, you may aggressively purchase tiles en masse and find yourself with an total map a number of instances bigger than the earlier sport.

In an identical vein, many techniques are extra detailed than something that has come earlier than – whereas additionally leaving apparent gaps of their design that’ll inevitably be crammed by expansions and DLC. It’s larger and smaller, abruptly; a TARDIS of a sport.

All of it feels wildly bold, if iterative. However this comes at a price. Some followers had been upset on the sport’s minimal specs, after which doubly upset after they had been bumped a little bit increased. The console model has been delayed – presumably as a result of it wants sprucing. For higher or worse, this can be a sport that’s been constructed as a platform for the subsequent decade or extra. And it’s power-hungry because of this.

A top-down shot of a turnpike, a residential distrcit and some skyscrapes in Cities Skylines 2.
Larger scale. | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

I performed Cities Skylines 2 on one thing fairly rattling near top-of-the-line doable PCs you may have. An RTX 4090, an i9-13900k, 64GB of reminiscence. It’s a beast. It crushes just about every little thing I throw at it. However this pre-release construct of Cities Skylines 2, which the builders frantically patched a few instances in the course of the overview interval, gave it a critical run for its cash. As we transfer into late October, it’s getting chilly right here – however I didn’t want the radiators turned on in my workplace with this sport working; the PC stored me heat.

Now, I might’ve turned the settings down for a smoother expertise. However what’s the purpose in a rig like this if to not max every little thing out? Particularly on a sport like this, the place twitch reactions should not required. So I soldiered by means of with a sub-optimal body price and lots of slowdown (and the odd crash right here and there). These things is irritating, clearly – however I additionally don’t view it as the top of the world, as a result of I do know I’m in a sport like this for the lengthy haul.

Like a brand new entry in one thing like The Sims, or like a brand new Avenue Fighter, I’m at all times keen to offer a little bit of a move on the opening as a result of I do know this can be a rising expertise. Such is the case right here. The plethora of recent instruments all make an enormous distinction; constructing roads and different transit, zoning, and understanding the wants of your metropolis’s folks in an effort to fulfill them are all extra easy and but provide extra granular management than ever earlier than. There’s a number of instruments that I feel want some work, (landscaping is complicated and naff) however on the entire, this can be a drastically extra easy expertise than the unique sport.

Key art featuring a gorgeous city scape built around a huge river in City Skylines 2
Lake to the social gathering. | Picture credit score: Paradox Interactive

That, I suppose, is the headline. I've a whole bunch of hours logged on Cities Skylines, and it was one in every of my ‘consolation’ video games that I at all times left put in on my PC to often play; a fantastic de-stresser or hangover day sport. The day earlier than penning this overview, nevertheless, I uninstalled it. It has been outmoded and changed. With a number of the new options, the brand new visible look, the sense of scale, and the quality-of-life enhancements – I couldn’t return. It’s Skylines 2 from right here on out.

The truth that I’m keen to half methods with the unique sport even within the face of early efficiency woes and the truth that finally Cities Skylines 2 has a good bit much less content material than the unique, with its oodles of enlargement packs and DLCs, says lots. This is a superb sequel, and an thrilling basis for what I’m certain shall be a vivid, addition-packed future. For these with weaker machines or a deal with efficiency, you could very nicely wish to wait. However on this preliminary launch we are able to see the foundations of a generational traditional. It simply may take a number of extra years to achieve that full potential – similar to its predecessor.

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