Since its release in 2015, I have spent hours on Cities: Skylines. I brew an herbal tea, load up the game, and put on a true crime podcast in the background for a real self-care relaxation session. Whatever works, right?! It is a game I love and come back to time and time again. So, of course, I was super excited when the sequel was announced in March this year. The announcement trailer that dropped held a lot of promise: stunning cityscapes, realistic gameplay, and space for customization and creation.
I was hoping for a slicker and better-looking city-building game that builds onto the brilliance of the original. However, I was slightly disappointed by Cities: Skylines 2 when considering it against the original release. Yes, it is an enjoyable city-building game with some exciting additions to the franchise. However, I felt that the issues that come with it are too big to ignore.
But do the pros of the game outweigh the cons? Let’s dive into my Cities: Skylines 2 review, conducted on PC. I have clocked up 15 hours in the game so far, but will I be clocking up more?
Say Hello to Square Trees
Let’s begin this review by exploring the drama surrounding the release of this game. Yup – I said drama. Move over, KUWTK; the Steam community has outdone you. Since its release, Cities: Skylines 2 has received a lot of flack over its performance issues. I saw a few comments on the internet before downloading the game, mainly people describing it as an ‘unplayable mess.’ But I decided to buy it and see for myself. And… I was disappointed.
I have a decent PC and never have to sacrifice graphics in games. The majority of games I play run smoothly with all the settings on high, and as my PC was in the recommended specs for the game, I assumed Cities: Skylines 2 would be okay. I was wrong. I began playing with all settings on high. I am a detail-oriented player on Cities Skylines, and I love watching all the Cims having a great time in my city. I also love making everything look nice. Trees, parks, props – I want a cute city, alright!
Well, Cities: Skylines 2 was too laggy for me without drastically reducing the settings. I followed the orders from Colossal Order and edited the settings so the game would work. But, of course, this meant square trees, weird-looking rivers, and blurry mountains. Now, the game works, but it looks much worse than the original, so I am confused about what is going on to make the performance issues so bad.
Colossal Order released a statement regarding the performance, claiming that they will be attempting to improve these issues soon. They said they wanted to release the game as it is for players and then work on updating it post-release in a series of patches. So, I guess we just deal with lower settings until it is fixed.
But what is this trend of releasing games and gaming content with bugs and issues, only to have to deal with the backlash and patch them? I am a Sims 4 player, and the majority of expansion packs are riddled with bugs upon release. This means that I, and many other players, rarely actually buy these expansions on release and wait until we know that they actually do what they claim to do. I know companies want to stand by the release dates, but surely there is a better way of doing this.
Life on the Road
Now we have discussed the whole performance thing, we can dive into the gameplay. One thing that sets Cities: Skylines 2 apart from the original is the roads and traffic systems. I remember my housemate saying, ‘This city building game you play isn’t really city building but traffic management‘ one evening when catching me watching an hour-long YouTube video about road hierarchy. I hate to admit it, but she has got a point. Roads and traffic are a huge aspect of Cities: Skylines, and I was happy to see the improvement in these areas in Cities: Skylines 2.
The road placing tool is really nice to work with and allows you to be precise when designing your city. It is a massive improvement from the original and includes new additions that really change the game. The new parallel tool allows you to build two parallel roads, which is amazing for highways and one-way road systems. In the original, I would spend ages trying to line up my highways, and it would never look good. Now, I can just whack my highways down and keep them all in line! Talking about highways, I am pretty grateful for the amount of intersections in the game. I was always so bad at creating intersections in the original game, so I am pleased with how easy these ones are to add to my city!
I am also a huge fan of the grid mode that has been added in. With this mode, you can quickly make road grids within your city, saving loads of time. Furthermore, the new roundabout system allows you to plop the roundabouts down at road intersections without any drama. Gone are the days of deleting roads, attempting to create a roundabout, destroying everything surrounding it, etc…
Now – traffic. If you are a City: Skylines player, you will know how stressful the traffic was in the original game. How many times have I built new roads for access for my Cims only to decide to sit in a traffic jam for ages on one particular road? Too many to count. Why do Cims hate themselves so much?
Thankfully, the traffic AI in the City: Skylines 2 is much smoother and more realistic. Instead of going down the route closest to their destination, other factors affect how your Cims drive around the city. The road networks, travel costs, and travel times are all considered by your driving Cims, making traffic less of a nightmare. Honestly, this was one of the main things I was hoping for in City: Skylines 2, so seeing it work makes me a very happy city planner!
Updated Services for a Happy City
Another huge change in Cities: Skylines 2 is the services and how we work with them to make our Cims happy. In the original game, you would unlock services as your population grew, and your Cims would immediately start complaining regarding the lack of service you have just unlocked. This was kind of annoying if you didn’t have enough money. Thankfully, in Cities: Skylines 2, this isn’t the case. Services can be outsourced, which is fine for a while. However, having services dotted throughout your city boosts happiness.
Cities: Skylines 2 also has the option of upgrading buildings, which is an excellent addition to the game. Instead of having to add another health clinic as your city expands, you are able to upgrade your current health clinic to boost its availability. This works for all services and makes the game much more realistic.
I am also a big fan of how electricity, water, and sewage works in Cities: Skylines 2. All roads placed (apart from highways and bridges) have pipes and cables built in, so you don’t need to link everything up. This makes city expansion much easier and quicker – no more forgetting the pipes and having angry Cims!
Make Money (Or Not) With Specialized Industries
When a sequel to a game gets released, it is always interesting to see what DLC themes are added to the new base game or not. The original Cities: Skylines had a range of DLC that added unique aspects to the game, and it was nice to see one particular DLC appearing in a simpler form in Cities: Skylines 2. Cities: Skylines Industries provided us with farming, forestry, oil, and ore industries into the game, but in the base game of Cities: Skylines 2, we have these industries (and more) included. It isn’t as in-depth as the Industries expansion pack, but I actually prefer it this way (I found that expansion pack a little confusing to work with).
Once unlocked, you get to see what land is suitable for the different specialized industries and then add them to your game. This means that if you have a forestry industry set up, you don’t need to outsource timber. I like this, as I really like setting up farms and other industries in my game for added realism and variation. However, I do think that specialized industries should be unlocked straight away – it is so annoying to discover you have built on prime ore mining space!
Sadly, we currently face a bug here. Right now, we can’t actually export the surplus of goods created in the city, which is kind of annoying! Hopefully, this will be fixed ASAP.
Getting to Know Your Cims
Another enjoyable factor in Cities: Skylines 2 is the information panel that tells us all about our Cims, what they want, and what they are happy with. Instead of guessing why everyone in our city is so sad, we can click on each household to see what they like about where they live and what they don’t like. This allows us to know if areas need more services or entertainment.
This really adds to the realism of the game. I have found that Cims who live in small homes need more entertainment, which totally makes sense. Plus, it also means that your Cims don’t immediately move out once taxes go up. You are able to put up taxes if other factors, such as police and healthcare, are high enough.
Progress Your Own Way
A big change between Cites: Skylines and Cities: Skylines 2 is how you progress in the game. In the original, progression was based solely on population. Now, there are other factors that give you XP, such as building roads and placing service buildings.
We also have a new unlocking system, which I really like. When you progress, you unlock milestones and gain progression points. You spend these progression points in progression trees that allow you to unlock advanced services and new additions to your city. This addition in the game makes each city different, as the different nodes you pick to unlock change the way your city grows. For example, you may wish to unlock greener energy and recycling plants if you want a more eco-friendly city. Or, you can focus on education and unlock universities.
But, talking about progression… I found the progression to be extremely slow, and it began to make the game a little boring. It really takes time to build up your city, which put me off a little. For a very long time, all you are really doing is adding low-density zoning to your city and waiting for it to expand. Thankfully, my podcasts keep me entertained as I wait for my city to grow.
Where Are the Props?
As I have said before, I am a detail-oriented player and love to add props and decorations to my city. However, Cities: Skylines 2 really falls short in this area. We simply do not have any props, and the greenery is a little rubbish. Furthermore, the parks do not have nodes that allow us to bring walkways off the parks and throughout the surrounding area. I loved this detail in the original game, as it allowed me to beautify my city in dead space that couldn’t be zoned.
Furthermore, there are no landmarks or unique buildings in the game. Yes, we have signature buildings, but they don’t really add much to the game. I loved the unique buildings in the original game and how we had to hit certain things to achieve them (for example, to unlock the observatory, you needed 1000 abandoned buildings). The lack of these additions in Cities: Skylines 2 is a big turn-off for me, who likes adding unique and interesting buildings for story-telling and city creation.
If you like Cities: Skylines 2, here are some games with similar vibes to check out:
- Anno 2205
- Surviving Mars
- Planet Zoo
- The Sims 4
- Stardew Valley
The Verdict – 6/10
If we judge Cities: Skylines 2 as a standalone game, it is a decent and reasonably enjoyable city-building simulator. But, if we compare it to the original, Cities: Skylines 2 is a letdown. Cities: Skylines 2 is not a step up from Cities: Skylines, but a step sideways. And sometimes, a step back. For now, I will stick with the original game until the glaring issues and bugs are resolved.
It has some excellent additions, such as updated roads, traffic systems, and services. But a lack of props and personalization and the issues with performance means that it is not as good as the original Cities: Skylines game. Until the issues regarding performance are fixed, and more building assets are added, I don’t recommend buying it.
Cities: Skylines 2 does have a lot of potential, so I hope the issues will be resolved soon. Once the modding system is open and more assets are available, I will return to the game and see how it works.
- Easy to use road building system
- Realistic traffic AI
- Specialized industries in the base game
- Detailed information on how your Cims are doing
- The progression tree allows you to unlock what you want when you want them
- More residential zoning options
- Performance issues
- Lack of props and personalization
- Bugs regarding exporting resources
- Progress is slow
Lou played 14 hours of Cities: Skylines 2, trying out different maps and development trees. She achieved the Big Town milestone for one city with a population of 9000. She is planning to work on this city to expand it and achieve all the milestones.
Question: What Is the Difference Between Cities: Skylines 1 and 2?
Answer: There are a few key differences between Cities: Skylines 1 and 2. Cities: Skylines 2 includes weather and climate in the base game and has an updated road and traffic system. It also allows you to upgrade buildings to improve services.
Question: Will Cities Skylines 2 Have Mods?
Answer: Yes, Cities: Skylines 2 will have mods at some point on the official Paradox Mods platform.
Question: Will Cities: Skylines 2 Have DLCs?
Answer: Yes, Cities: Skylines 2 will have DLCs, with an asset pack called Beach Properties to be released later this year and more DLCs on the way, according to their roadmap.