Cities: Skylines II (PC) Review

Living Out My City-Planning Dreams

Cities: Skylines II (PC) Review
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Cities: Skylines II

Brutalist Review Style (Version 2)

I’ve always been intrigued by city-building games, going back to SimCity 2000. The idea of building something from scratch and seeing it grow and grow to unfathomable size while maintaining it beyond that is both a challenge and an achievement. The upcoming Cities: Skylines II came across my desk, and I got set on building my own personal village/town/city/megalopolis right away. 

Starting off, you’re asked to name your new town and choose from one of 10 different starting terrains. Each starting map will have a variety of natural resources sprinkled around and allow you to choose from either European or North American architecture. Once all that is done, you’re dropped into the map with nought but a section of highway to branch off from and start your modest little village with one road in and one road out.  

Cities: Skylines Ii (Pc) Review

Cities: Skylines II provides you with a modest tutorial, telling you what to build first, and that continues for a while until you have your humble beginnings started. From there, things start to grow, population increases, and you’ll quickly learn that you need to stay on top of things like housing, industry, etc.  

I found out very early on that building my coal-powered electrical plant on top of a freshwater reserve (that I didn’t even know was there) and then pumping water from that reserve to my citizens was a great way to have a ton of sick people in my city. A quick relocation of the powerplant was enough to resolve the issue, and I made sure to place it at the edge of the city, downwind from the rest of the housing, so the pollution wouldn’t blow into the city.  

That’s one of the best things about Cities: Skylines II: it is merciless in its execution of “this is bad. Hopefully, I can hold out for a bit before it gets really bad” mechanics. I ran into the problem of spending too much too quickly when it came to expanding my city. I was running my town at a significant deficit for a very long time and only managed to stay afloat due to the influx of cash that you get whenever you level up. I finally figured out that just building housing and commercial areas was not enough, and we needed farming to supplement the tax income from houses and other businesses.  

Cities: Skylines Ii (Pc) Review

Now that I was in the budget surplus camp, I could realistically look at expansion beyond the starter town size. Cities: Skylines II has a default size of the map that you begin on, and you can unlock up to 441 additional tiles to give your city the opportunity to grow into a major metropolitan development. Interestingly, the actual tile size is down from Cities: Skylines, as the new tile size is about 1/3 of the size of a tile in the previous game. Unlocking all of the tiles will afford you a staggering 159km2, which is approximately 5x the size of the unlockable map from Cities: Skylines

I ran into another issue as I continued to build my village up to a town, and that was my industrial area had a water/sewage drainage issue, and I always saw the symbol for it above the affected areas. With no real instruction on how to sort out the issue, as I thought I had enough pipelines to resolve it, it took an in-depth look at the actual flow of incoming water and outgoing sewage to discover that I needed to build another sewage drainage system in the nearby river.  

It was here that I figured out that Cities: Skylines II doesn’t really hold your hand for much. Sure, they give you a quick pop-up system for when you select a new item or service for the first time, but beyond that, you’re on your own for the most part. It’s completely understandable that the developers don’t want to influence your decisions when it comes to building your city, but a little indication or hint that an issue could be resolved by doing Task A wouldn’t go amiss. 

Cities: Skylines Ii (Pc) Review

As for new features, there are a fair few in Cities: Skylines II. First, and probably the most world-affecting, is Climates. When selecting the map you want to begin on, you’ll notice a number of different stats about the region, and the one that is most important is going to be Climate Type. There are three different Climate Types to choose from: Temperate, Continental, and Polar. Temperate is defined by having distinct seasons, a moderate amount of precipitation and a wider range in temperature. Continental is defined by having significant temperature fluctuations, and Polar is exactly what it sounds like: short summers, long winters and colder temperatures year-round.  

“The economy system in Cities: Skylines II has been rebuilt from the ground up for this game.”

These different climates can have a significant impact on the people who live in your town. For example, during colder weather, your citizens may generally prefer to do indoor activities rather than outdoors. This can also affect your energy consumption, resulting in the need for another source of power to make sure your citizenry stays warm or the lights can stay on at the local gym.  

The economy system in Cities: Skylines II has been rebuilt from the ground up for this game. The system is easy enough to manage if you are completely new to city-building, like me, and is in-depth enough that you can manage almost every single category of industry. Players are given a substantial influx of cash each time they level up the city, but as the city grows more and more, that subsidy lessens and lessens as you become less reliant upon it.  

Cities: Skylines Ii (Pc) Review

Like the real-life economies that Cities: Skylines II models their system after, your city’s economy can be affected considerably by industry, taxes, resources, and more. Raise taxes too much, and people won’t want to live or work in your town. Conversely, high taxes when there is an excess of production in resources can help lower the surplus and still provide a sizeable tax-based income for the city. All of this is there to be managed by the player as simplistically or in-depth as they want.  

I have a couple of gripes about Cities: Skylines II and how building the actual city operates. First, I am crying out desperately for an “undo last action” button. The number of times I placed a section of road incorrectly, or gave an area the wrong zoning designation, or bulldozed something I didn’t mean to is staggering. It would make the whole experience a lot more functional and free-flowing to be able to simply undo the last thing I did and either move on to the next task or do this one properly.  

“At its core, Cities: Skylines II is a spectacular city-building simulation.”

I feel like I need some hand-holding in this game, especially when something disastrous happens, and I have no idea how to fix it (like the sewage issue I mentioned earlier). The tutorials that you get at the beginning explain each mechanic well, but once they’re gone, it’s like the Wild West and you’re, more or less, left to your own devices. I will say that every time you open a new screen for the first time, you get a brief explanation of its use and what it can do, so that’s something at least.

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Cities: Skylines II is a gorgeous game. The landscapes are stunning, and the weather changes are a marvel to behold. Even on my slightly older gaming laptop, I still was able to run the game with most of the settings on high with minimal framerate drops. As my city grows and grows, I expect the framerate to drop at times, especially when I am zoomed out far enough to see everything. This is a small price to pay when the game looks this good.  

At its core, Cities: Skylines II is a spectacular city-building simulation. There is enough to do and oversee to keep one occupied for hours on end. I’ll be playing this game for a very long time, especially since there are options to begin a new map with everything unlocked or to have infinite money if I just want to fool around and do something interesting. Cities: Skylines II is a massive undertaking, and I cannot wait to see what add-ons and mods become available.

Final Thoughts


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