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Oct 19, 2023

Cities: Skylines II Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $49.99
We Recommend: $49.99
  • Developer: Colossal Order Ltd.
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Released: Oct 24, 2023
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

It’s somewhat odd sitting down to play a game for the first time that you already know how to play. Cities: Skylines II is one of those games, mainly because I never stopped playing Cities: Skylines as it has received constant support and DLCs for eight years running. Colossal Order has come a long way since Cities in Motion , and this is a complex and rewarding game that showcases lessons learned. Cities: Skylines II is a great monument to city builders by overshadowing its predecessor through improving upon it in significant ways to be one of the best city builders ever made.

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Getting started in Cities: Skylines II requires a few more steps, as you’ll have to decide on location that will dictate its weather and climate, while also applying a theme such as European or American styling to buildings and traffic design. The entire play area of the game is once again tile-based, but now the first tile is smaller than how things start in Cities: Skylines. The playable area of any given map is now a staggering 159km², which is five times bigger. Before you can expand your city into new territory, you must use expansion permits. This level of gating is not problematic, but is a great way to keep you from overextending. Being able to take your newly formed city from a “Tiny Village” across twenty levels of improvement to a “Megalopolis” is as rewarding as ever, as there’s room to really stretch your legs on this journey.

Gradually you’ll be introduced to tools to build-up your city, from the basics like roads, electricity, and water to intermediate things like healthcare, garbage, and education to finally fire & rescue, police, transportation, parks, and communications. Each group has a specific function and purpose, and the way the game introduces them to you is smartly designed. You’ll even have full control of landscaping to literally shape your city to how you want. It won’t be long before you’re given access to signature buildings, which are landmarks like in other games, which give a buff to your city’s appeal and can even generate tourism interest and revenue.

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Milestones get enhanced in the sequel, offering deeper decision making. In a lot of ways, the city levels feel more like Pocket City 2 on Android, but unfortunately without the free roaming – something I think might get turned into a mod somewhere along the way. Milestones unlock new things to purchase, helping in keeping you from overspending or overreaching in your planning. Progression is broken out into three areas: development, milestones, and achievements. Development is a tree to invest your points into, milestones track how close you are to the next growth area, and achievements are extraneous goals to achieve as you build the next great city.

Road placement is supremely improved, rich in offering, though the placement of roads feels a bit funky at first. Having so many options and tools to make the curviest roads, or the most grid-like structure is all available to you. While curved roads are nice, they reduce the amount of zoning to apply due to gaps that are developed. Even this has gotten enhanced as there are more types of zoning to apply. Along the way you’ll have to be concerned about your income, as well as the inverse. You get a lot in your favor like stipends and the ability to sell off excess electricity. There’s a push and pull of your city’s money, and you don’t have to be too concerned where it’s all going at all times.

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Through milestones you can unlock things like road maintenance to keep roads from collapsing or causing traffic problems. By default, the game makes all local power run underground as most new developments use. As a quality of life improvement, water pipes are placed alongside roads, as they would in their construction in the real-world. The amount of improvements and streamlining going on in Cities: Skylines II is fantastic.

This time, there’s no DLC or extra add-on for climates and seasons. They’re built-in not only the game, but the maps you choose to build your cities on. There’s chances of disasters like tornadoes, hail, and forest fires, based on the season and climate you’re in. Additionally, a given season will change the dynamics around traffic, as people will use electricity and resources differently if it’s snowing or not. There’s a lot more to think about, but conversely a lot more control for the player in design.

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Once again, there’s plenty of heat-map style views that give you a tangible understanding in demand, under-utilization, and over-consumption of any given thing. I never felt like I had to guess at how I was doing, or what I needed to fix. This is bolstered by the return of Chirper (the in-game Twitter clone, which feels weirdly outdated now). It’s a great way to get insight in things that people want or need, and be able to act on that quickly. If there’s ever a feature you need to know more about, there’s an adviser button to take a deep dive in anything. Unfortunately there’s no nested tooltips feature that’s been in Paradox strategy games.

While this is a “city” builder, you can build more rural areas. And as you expand into new tiles, the land there might be more fertile to support this kind of develop it. And this can allow you to expand a bit more realistically. It’s a nice touch as crops can be brought to the city, and farmers can live nice lives without needing to be in or around the city itself. In a lot ways, the game feels like a county or state builder.

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Cities: Skylines II takes time to take a hard look and cares about its people. You can now follow citizens to see what they are up to, because each person has their own lives to fulfill, objectives, and tasks to complete. They are autonomous and it’s fascinating to see them go about their lives, and maybe even move or change their lifestyle depending on their happiness or surroundings. You can learn a lot about what might need to change, too.

By default, autosaves are disabled. But they can be enabled in the options, and even set the interval to include how many quicksaves to have on-hand. Once again, radio stations are limited, in that there’s only a couple to choose from. I suspect this will grow in future expansions. That said, the amount of music available from the start while not varied, is plenty and feels like a real radio station at times.

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This is easily one of the most detailed city builders, with great view distances and incredible textures when viewed up close. Performance wise, the game is neither consistent or great. As cities grow in complexity and density, things may take a nosedive. I have a PC that mainly brute forces 60fps in most cases, it’s easy to see that this is a demanding game. I did have some early performance issues during the review period, but they were improved by a recent patch. This is a game that will run incredibly well in a few years, but for now might be a game you can’t run at max settings, and have to dial back a few things to ensure a constant 60fps. It’s unfortunate since the prior game ran so well, this game feels like something built for the future.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Colossal Order offers an intricate deep simulation of a city builder. Aside from the taxing performance, it’s simply amazing to see in motion. For the price, you get a metropolis-sized game full of options. It’s also one of those things where I can’t wait to see what this game is like eight years from now. Cities: Skylines II offers the next-generation of the city builder that constantly impressed and amazed.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes